In 1978, the US banned the use of lead based paint in residential structures because of the serious health issues it causes. If you are buying, selling or currently live in a home built prior to 1978, you should know about lead based paint. You should understand it’s possible health risks, how to mitigate and your responsibilities when selling your home.


Health Concerns

Lead is a metal that is highly toxic that when absorbed into the body can cause serious health problems like:

  • Brain damage
  • Damage to kidneys, nerves and blood
  • Behavioral problems
  • Learning disabilities
  • Seizures 
  • In some extreme cases death

Children are often the ones that become ill from eating peeling or chipped paint, playing with contaminated items and then putting their hands in their mouths or playing in contaminated soil.

It isn’t just the paint on the interior of the home that is an issue. Exterior paint can peel and fall, mixing with dirt and dust that makes it way into your home.


Living in a Home with Lead Based Paint

The Federal government has put forth recommendations for homeowners to try to prevent lead poisoning. 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development * Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control Lead Based Paint Brochure states that: if you live in a home built prior to 1978 you should:

  1. If you live in a home built prior to 1978 
  • Mop smooth floors (using a damp mop) weekly to control dust. 
  • Vacuum carpets and upholstery to remove dust, preferably using a vacuum with a HEPA filter or a “higher efficiency” collection bag. 
  • Take off shoes when entering the house. 
  • Pick up loose paint chips carefully with a paper towel; wipe the surface clean with a wet paper towel. 
  • Take precautions to avoid creating lead dust when remodeling, renovating, or maintaining your home. 
  • Have it checked for lead hazards by a lead professional (including the soil). 
  1. For your child: 
  • Frequently wash your child’s hands and toys to reduce exposure.
  • Use cold tap water for drinking and cooking. 
  • Avoid using home remedies (such as arzacon, greta, pay-loo-ah, or litargirio) and cosmetics (such as kohl or alkohl) that contain lead. 
  • Have your child’s blood lead level tested at age 1 and 2. Children from 3 to 6 years of age should have their blood tested, if they have not been tested before and: – They live in or regularly visit a house built before 1950; – They live in or regularly visit a house built before 1978 with on-going or recent renovations or remodeling; or – They have a sibling or playmate who has or did have lead poisoning. 

*Watch their informative video on Vimeo

Real Estate Transactions (according to WI law)

If you are selling a home built prior to 1978, you have certain legal obligations. Lawmakers decided in 1992 that lead based paint must be disclosed in all real estate transactions. Buyers have legal rights as well. Here is what you need to know:

Sellers Must Disclose!

If you are aware of any lead based paint in the home, you must disclose in writing. If you are not aware of any, you must declare that in writing as well. In Wisconsin, the form is called Addendum S – Lead Based Paint Disclosures and Acknowledgements. Every home sale where the home was built prior to 1978 requires this form. 

Sellers Are Not Required to Pre-Test

If you do not know if there is lead based paint, you are not required to test prior to listing your home. While it isn’t required, having certification that your home is lead free can be a good idea. It makes the older home more marketable and will help set buyer’s minds at ease.

Sellers Must Also:

  • Provide any documentation they have concerning lead based paint in the home
  • Provide the EPA’s lead based paint brochure to buyers prior to accepting an offer to purchase
  • Disclose to Buyers prior to accepting any offers. If they haven’t done so prior to receiving an offer, they must provide and give time to amend the offer to purchase


Buyers have 10 days to Request a Test

If you are considering purchasing a home built prior to 1978, you have 10 days to request a lead based paint test before being obligated to any offer to purchase. You must make this request in writing. This 10 day period can be waived by the buyer and must also be done in writing.

The cost of a lead based paint test is typically the buyer’s responsibility.

Buyers must specify on the addendum S if they will give the seller the “right to cure”. 


Older homes can be a great buy. In fact, there are whole shows built around restoring old homes to their original glory. Just be sure you are aware of and follow laws set forth in your state regarding lead based paint. It will protect your investment and your family. For more tips on repairs sellers should consider before listing their home, see Repairs To Make Before You Sell Your Home