Steven L. Smith, Bellingham, WA Home Inspector (King of the House)


Old Paint and Old Asbestos In Your House -- Maybe?

For many years now, those individuals buying older homes have been informed by inspectors, appraisers and the government that pre-1978 houses might contain lead-based paint and/or asbestos products.

The following general information applies to lead-based products and asbestos.

The manufacture of lead-based paint, applied for decades on both the exterior and the interior of homes, was discontinued in 1978; however existing product was used  through 1982.  In a related matter, up until the late 1980's, copper water supply pipes were "sweated" together with solder that contained some lead. Generally, that is considered to be a minor health risk but, if older copper pipes are present,  it is recommended that water be run for a minute or more prior to collecting drinking or cooking water from a tap.

Asbestos products were commonly used for decades and it can be assumed that they might be present in homes that were built even up into the mid-1980's. Common building materials that sometimes contain asbestos are "popcorn" textured ceilings, acoustic tiles, linoleum or vinyl (which might have another surface over it), siding and vermiculite attic insulation or wrap or tape on heating ducts.

Lead-based paints and asbestos products are not necessarily considered to be problems as long as the surfaces are in sound condition and not disturbed -- not flaking or airborne. 

Additional public attention was drawn to lead-based paint protocol in 2010. At that time, the EPA implemented a law that regulates the manner in which repairs and renovations must be performed, and the procedures that must be adhered to, at any home that was built prior to 1978. The law impacts both contractors and homeowners.


Steven L. Smith

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Comment balloon 7 commentsSteven L. Smith • June 20 2010 04:30PM


Steve, they say the fine is going to be enormous for anyone tinkering with the lead based paint without a license.  Is that what you hear too?

Posted by Barbara S. Duncan, GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR (RE/MAX Advantage) about 10 years ago


I think it can be as high as 30K per day.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) about 10 years ago

Asbestos and Lead based paint are high on the list of issues to pay attention to and I understand the potential issues. I have not figured out why this rule change took effect, it would be interesting to see the health problems that have occurred due to painting or remodeling. Was it a real problem, and people were being adversely effected, or was it a perceived problem and this is a feel good rule that effectively helps no one. This will effect older homes resales, definitely effects me as all my homes fit this bracket, higher costs were just mandated again! I do not have a problem with the rule "if" it was supported with real data.

Posted by Dennis Chamberlain, Eastern WA Home Inspections (Eastern WA Home Inspections, LLC) about 10 years ago


We are on the same page here.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) about 10 years ago

Steve, a close friend of ours died several years ago due to asbestos poisoning. He'd financed his college days working construction jobs which I assume had been the source since he'd been an engineer at a desk for years. He was never a DYI guy so it definitely was not from home repair or remodeling.

Posted by Kate Kate about 10 years ago


I have more of an issue with the timing of the lead paint matter than asbestos. For years now inspectors and appraisers have been telling people about lead paint, painters too. Suddenly the rule goes in, which I guess they just bumped back to October. That rule has the potential to raise havoc with those who own pre-1978 houses at a time when real estate is already under great stress.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) about 10 years ago

Sorry if I missed the point. When I am tired, I tend to ramble. I am opposed to the new gov controls in the name of protecting the consumer, especially the homeowner. It just seems like our gov... oh boy here i go again. I will quit or you will have to answer me again. :)

Posted by Kate Kate about 10 years ago