How to Remove Old Windows Safely

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Homeowner uses power drill to safely remove old window

Was your home built before 1978? If so, you may need to consider the possibility of lead-based paint when it’s time to replace your windows. You don’t need to own a historic home to be concerned about lead. Lead paint is still present in millions of homes, sometimes under layers of newer paint. Lead was commonly used in paint that was applied to siding, trim, windows, and walls. According to the Department of Health, many homes built before 1978 have at least some lead-based paint, so it’s safe to assume that a house that old (or older) may contain some lead-based paint.

Exposure to lead can be dangerous for adults and children and may cause permanent health problems. An improperly executed window replacement could potentially stir up lead dust when you attempt to disturb or remove the existing window or trim, making you or others in your home vulnerable to its side effects.

Replacing windows with lead paint

Lead hazard caution tape

Even though lead dust is dangerous, you can utilize the following tips to safely get your windows replaced.

Know the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) Rule

The LRRP Rule requires all renovations (including window replacements) to adhere to strict work practices to help reduce exposure to lead. This rule also states that the work must be done by a renovation team certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and supervised by an EPA-certified renovator.

Protect your home and get the right equipment

Even though you may not end up replacing your windows yourself, you can still take the necessary steps to protect your home from lead dust by completing these safety measures and buying the appropriate equipment.

It’s recommended to keep painted surfaces in good condition and clean them regularly. On top of that, if you do want to prepare and protect your home when starting a project, the EPA recommends:

  • Removing all furniture, area rugs, curtains, food, clothing, and other household items until cleanup is complete. Items that cannot be removed from the work area should be tightly wrapped with plastic sheeting and sealed with tape.
  • Covering floors with plastic sheeting. If working on a larger job, construct an airlock at the entry leading to the work area. The airlock consists of two sheets of thick plastic. One sheet is completely taped along all four edges. The plastic sheet is then cut down the middle. The second sheet is only taped along the top and acts as a flap covering the slit in the first sheet of plastic.
  • Closing all windows in the work area and turning off forced-air heating and air conditioning systems. Cover vents with plastic sheeting and tape the sheeting in place.
  • If disturbing paint, spray water on lead-painted surfaces to keep dust from spreading.

But that’s not all. You also need the right kind of equipment to adequately help protect your home and your family from lead exposure. The EPA also lists the following equipment you’ll need:

  • NIOSH-certified disposable respirator with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter (N-100, R-100, or P-100).
  • HEPA filter-equipped vacuum cleaner. Regular household vacuums may release harmful lead particles into the air.
  • Wet-sanding equipment (e.g., spray mister), wet/dry abrasive paper, and wet sanding sponges for "wet-methods."
  • Two buckets and all-purpose cleaner. Use one bucket for the cleaning solution and the other bucket for rinsing. Change the rinse water frequently and replace rags, sponges, and mops often.
  • Heavy-duty plastic sheeting and heavy-duty plastic bags.
  • Tape to completely seal the plastic sheeting in place.
  • Protective clothing. To keep lead dust from being tracked throughout your home, wear clothes such as coveralls, shoe covers, hats, goggles, face shields, and gloves or clean work clothes and launder separately.

Hire a professional

Pella EPA-certified lead removal specialists hauls away window for safe disposal

As you can see, replacing windows when lead is involved is no easy task. That’s why it’s easier and smarter to hire a professional to do the work for you. A professional can do the job efficiently and safely, while also complying with all the EPA requirements and the LRRP Rule. Make sure you hire someone that is EPA-certified as well.

Pella has installers who are EPA-certified to handle lead and can replace your windows properly, alleviating the stress and unease of being exposed to lead dust. Here’s how our process works:

1. Testing

Upon your authorization, we follow EPA guidelines to test the windows or doors being replaced for lead paint and confirm whether a lead-safe installation is required. Please note that testing will mar a very small part of your window or door.

2. Education

We present you with educational materials about lead paint. Your Pella EPA-certified team will also have documentation of certification and training with them on the job site.

3. Preparations

We hang the proper signage to communicate that a lead-safe renovation is in process. We also seal the work area inside and outside your home to help contain lead dust per EPA specifications.

4. Contained Installation

Within each contained area, measures are taken to help ensure that any dust is isolated within the environment to reduce lead contamination.

5. Cleanup and Disposal

We take the proper precautions to clean up the work area, including disposing of your old windows, doors and lead-contaminated debris in accordance with EPA, state, and local regulations.

In the end, hiring an EPA-certified renovator is a good way to safely replace windows that have lead based paint. Lead dust is something you don’t want to mess with. Instead, let a professional handle it for you and replace your windows safely.

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