Safety Tips For Summer Paint Touch-ups
Take a walk around your house and look at the paint with a critical eye. Is it faded, cracked or peeling in some areas? Could it use a touch-up here and there? Summer’s the perfect time for this job. The weather probably won’t get in your way. But don’t rush the work. A little planning and a few precautions will take you safely through the process. Then you can relax and enjoy the results.
The Starting Line
Get ready for the job. The right approach makes painting go more smoothly and safely. Follow these tips:
- Wear a protective mask when sanding and painting.
- Goggles or other eye protection are a must when scraping and sanding.
- Shield your environment with a non-plastic drop cloth.
- Work on the shady side of the house to keep you and your materials from overheating.
- Use paint that’s low in VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. These paints are less toxic for both you and the environment. Check labels or ask your paint supplier for assistance.
- Make sure the weather is mild on work day. A metal ladder plus a sudden thunderstorm could equal disaster.
Get the Lead Out
If the paint you have on your house is relatively old — from the 1970s or earlier— it probably contains lead. This is a serious health hazard. What’s the safest way to handle it? Leave it to professionals. However, if you’re committed to doing it yourself, take precautions.
- If the surface is in good condition, painting over it is acceptable.
- However, if the area is chipped or peeling, you need to prepare it. Dry sanding is dangerous, because you’ll release lead into the environment. Therefore:
- If you are pregnant, avoid dealing with lead paint. Don’t let children participate, either.
- Protect your body, shoes and hair with disposable coverings.
- Use a HEAP-approved respirator.
- Don’t do the work on breezy or windy days.
- Cover the ground with heavy plastic sheeting.
- Remove paint with wet hand scraping or power sanding using HEPA filters.
- Wipe the sanded area with a wet cloth, and then use a strong household cleanser.
- Double bag the plastic sheeting and clean-up cloths before placing them into the trash.
- Shower after working with lead-based paint.
The Ladder of Success
Unless you’re painting at ground level, you’ll need some way to reach upper areas of your house. One of the safest methods is obtaining an electric scissor lift, as contractors and similar professionals are looking ways to reduce their worksite risk. These stable lifts can reach heights of 25 feet, which is great for two-story (and above) homes. You never have to worry about steadying a ladder and maintaining your balance while painting, or for that matter, how much your life insurance policy is worth. However, if you decide to go the ladder route, be on the safe side:
- Be sure to place the ladder on firm ground.
- Use the correct angle. You’ve positioned the ladder right if you can stand at the base, stretch out your arms and touch the rungs ahead of you with your fingertips.
- Keep both feet and at least one hand on the ladder at all times.
- Wear sturdy shoes.
- Have someone else around to keep an eye on you.
- Avoid loose clothing that can get caught on the ladder.
- Don’t be tempted to reach way out. It may be a little time consuming, but get off the ladder and move it.
- Ladders typically have warning labels telling you to avoid stepping on the very top rung. Follow this precaution.
Finish on a High Note
When the job is done — congratulations, by the way — it’s time for cleanup. If you still have enough paint left to save, seal the can tightly and store it in a cool, dry place. However, if you want to dispose of the last dregs of paint, it might not be legal to simply toss the can into your trash bin and wait for collection day. Some waste management facilities don’t accept paint cans. Check to see what the policy is in your area. For example:
- Oil-based paint: This is typically deemed a hazardous waste material, so it’s not accepted for standard garbage pickup. Communities often designate specific days for gathering dangerous substances. Be an environmentally conscious citizen and save your leftovers for these occasions.
- Latex paint: Your trash collection company might take latex paint cans that are properly prepared. You could be allowed to:
- Leave the lid off the can and let the remaining paint dry before tossing the container.
- Empty leftover paint onto newspaper. When it dries, the newspaper and empty can go into the trash.
- Combine remaining paint with kitty litter, sawdust or commercial paint hardener.
You’ve spiffed up your home and responsibly taken care of your materials. It’s looking really good. Time to cross that chore off your to-do list. So … what’s next?
Megan Wild is a home improvement blogger with a passion for fixing up old and unloved homes. When she’s not scouting out homes in new neighborhoods, you can find her writing home improvement tips on Your Wild Home.