Testing for Lead Paint

I am interested in learning more about testing for lead in paint, dust, soil etc. My area has a lot of older homes and as of right now I just advise that there is most likely a presence of lead in the older paint and if concerned to have it tested. I would like to start the process of becoming qualified and eventually invest in the appropriate equipment. I find that acquiring knowledge on this level is quite bare. What do other inspectors use- send away to a lab or xrf gun? Is the liability and risk worth the work? Any sources of information beyond basic level would be greatly appreciated.

Begin here…

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And then…

State laws may differ. Lead testing is regulated in Maryland by the Maryland Department of the Environment. Maryland requires a license. Dust test collections go to a lab, XRF gives immediate results for a whole lot of money. Look into your State regulations, the liability may not make it that attractive.

What state are you in?

As Bob says, best to check for local requirements. I’ve seen everything from handheld testers to guys scraping samples and taking them to a lab.

The main thing I’d keep in mind is this is far from what’s done within a home inspection. The biggest problem I see is WHAT to test. As in, are you going to promise within your home inspection that a house is free of lead paint? IMO you open yourself up to liability as a lead paint tester and home inspector (same website, etc.). Even when buyers opt out of lead paint testing they could still claim you should have advised them of the possibility since you’re trained/educated, etc. I really try to stay FAR away from things like this.


Thank you for the links sir. It might be me, but I seem to end up going down an endless rabbit hole on these EPA pages trying to find any relevant information. Mainly looking for information about training to become either a licensed or certified inspector. Seems like there are level 1 and 2. What I was seeing in those articles are links to be lead aware and how to work with the material- which I am trained in as a contractor.

My concerns exactly Matt. I see where it can be a liability that interferes with the SOP of a Home inspector. I guess me wanting to know more and want to provide more than the basics, I am curious at least to learn more about the testing process.
I am wondering if this can be a side gig that maybe it can be separate from the home inspection end. Most agents around here do not want their properties to be tested during the sale. Yet we have a lot of rentals in the area and VT requires landlords to be knowledgeable and to disclose to their tenants any information about lead.
I see a variety of testing processes- XRF, swabs to labs, hardware test kits. Does anyone in the inspection industry partake on this subject?

If you are in Vermont you need to be licensed by the state. START there!

Don’t put the cart before the horse!

I was certified in CO, several years ago when they started cracking down on remodeling and painting contractors. The EPA would charge $10k if you were caught remodeling without testing first.
All they required was certification, and then documented proof of the swab tests.

But as Matt mentioned, where would you test? You can have lead paint on one wall, but not another. Or you could have it on the exterior trim, but not the main walls.

You can’t guarantee a house is free unless you test every single wall. That has to be a huge disclaimer. I just advise people to do their own swab test before any remodeling is done.

If the home has been painted in the last 40 years or so, the only way you’ll get to the lead paint is with destructive testing which is beyond the scope of most home inspections.

I’ve gotten push back from sellers because a little dust fell from the attic access that I missed cleaning up. How do you suppose they would react to coming home to paint removed all over the home.

As others have said, “are you going to guarantee the whole house is lead free” or just the couple of places you tested or …

I think if you wish to be a lead paint inspector, that’s great but I’m not sure it has a place as part of a traditional home inspection other than the mention that due to the age of the home that there is a possibility of lead based paint existing within the home.

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Encapsulation is a suitable alternative to removal. You will definitely need XRF for painted surfaces. The biggest cincern for painted surfaces is paint in poor (chipping, curling) condition. Wouldn’t even test homes with paint in bad condition.

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Thank you everyone for the responses. I too wonder about how the testing process would work, where does one stop? From what I am gathering is that most HI are staying away from mixing lead paint testing into a home inspection- which I agree. I was thinking of more of a “side service” vs an ancillary sevice- meaning that I would not necessary be testing a house I am inspecting but possibly after the sale (after they have been advised that the painted surface may contain lead paint), or for a concerned homeowner/ land lord. I guess I am trying to venture beyond traditional HI, especially during these slow winter months.
I am signed up for the course the state is offering, it appears to be more geared to painters, professionals working with the product, and landlords vs an inspector using a XRF gun etc.
I am not jumping into this, but merely trying to learn more about what is involved-taking my horse for a stroll before I attach a cart to it Bob.
I still would like to hear if there are any folks who do a more higher level lead inspection- if that even exsits amongst this HI crew.

If your state is like mine, we are not allowed to do any work on a property we inspected until one year after the inspection was performed.

Neither are we (Maryland), but providing ancillary services is allowed. What the state doesn’t want done is you to provide REPAIRS for defects found during the home inspection. If your client bought a house and wanted you to build a new deck that would be OK. It would not be OK if you were building a deck to replace an EXISTING deck that was found to be defective during your home inspection.

A contractor or owner either does all cutting/sanding using protective procedures for the life of the home.
Or, gets an XRF gun test report for every type of surface – often 200 or more samples per home, and relies on that to guide future action.

Exterior wood trim, kitchens and baths were the popular place for lead paint. Stucco not so much.

The XRF training, equipment, nuclear supplies and handling are all expensive. If you do it, you have to be ready to commit. Before you do it, call up the people in your area who do the work, and see if you can shadow someone.

You’re literally starting at the ground floor of knowledge, that’s clear. Go ahead and take the State course – it will at least get you oriented. Lead paint testing is a skill, in part because the actual lead is probably several layers deep under modern paint. To do the job well you need a mix of inspector, contractor, painter and specialist skills.