Whether you are a buyer or a seller, it is important to understand that the professional who inspects your home is not finding problems or potential issues because of anything personal. To the contrary, they are doing the job they were hired to do, which is to help report on the home in a way that will ensure your safety, comfort, satisfaction, and even your freedom from potential liability. That’s why one of the factors that an inspector may be on the lookout for is environmental hazards, including one of the most common of all – namely lead paint.
Understanding the Scope of the Inspection
A general home inspector is usually not qualified or even hired to make definitive recommendations regarding environmental issues, however, because that is a highly specialized field. Environmental inspectors have extensive training in that area, and if you suspect an environmental threat like lead paint, asbestos, or radon gas you will need to hire that particular kind of inspector. The person who does a buyer ordered inspection or a pre-listing inspection paid for by the seller will draw attention to suspected lead paint if the symptoms are obvious. Let’s say, for example, that a section of exterior paint is curled up and chipping away. An inspector may highlight that fact in the report, without overstepping his or her authority to try and diagnose the root cause of that curled paint. They may say, for instance, that it should be checked out and investigated further by someone with that kind of expertise.
What to Do Next
Don’t be alarmed or panic, just hire a qualified environmental inspector and let them do their job and let you know what they find. In some cases it may not be lead paint that caused those symptoms. It may be that two types of incompatible paint were used on top of each other, and when the bottom layer began to shrink it caused the layer on top to curl away. That’s no big deal and can be remedied by a new paint job to repair the affected area. Similarly, harsh sunlight can also cause paint to chip, warp, and peel. While overexposure to UV rays from the sun can have adverse effects on your health over time, that is not a property issue with the home and once again, it simply means that the house needs new paint.
So if the environment expert gives the home a clean bill of health and after testing realized that the paint is not lead-based, the next step is easy. Call some paint contractors, solicit competitive bids, and negotiate between the buyer and seller to figure out who will pay for the necessary painting project. Then to ensure that everything was done satisfactorily you may want to ask the original home inspector to return and do a follow up inspection of the paint job to make sure it was done right.
If Lead Paint is Present
On the other hand, if lead is found in the paint on the house, that does create a bigger challenge. The contaminated paint will need to be safely removed and disposed of, which can be a complicated task. You cannot just sand it off, for instance, and let the ground-up paint fall on the ground because the lead may then seep into the soil and groundwater. In this scenario you will need to hire a lead paint removal contractor with a good reputation and have them get rid of all lead-based paint before the house is then repainted with “healthy” paint.
In that situation you will want to first have the environmental inspector return for a follow-up inspection, and he or she should retest the area to confirm that there is no environmental threat present. Then after the normal painting project is completed you may want to invite the general home inspector for a conclusive follow-up report.