Removing lead paint from 200-year-old wood floor

Q: On the second floor much of the hardwood floors are painted very bright and vibrant colors. It is expected below the layer of paint that the previous owners painted, is lead paint ( or the hardwood floors were painted with lead paint some years ago). So it seems the floors were painted a few times at least over the years. My wife and I really like the look of the original hardwood like is on the first floor. We would like to remove the paint from the second floor.

What would be the best way to do it? Also our contractor said we could put a wood laminate over top of the painted hardwood floor to cover it.

A: First, you have no idea what the real condition of the floor is under that paint. It is a roll of the dice to get into removing the paint, especially on a house of this age.

Actually, I just sanded floors in a house that had one painted room. However this house is much younger, and I could see the condition of the floors running into this room. The paint came off fairly easily because the floors had been previously finished. The oak was in surprisingly decent shape. I do use a vacuum system on my sander, and while it does not do a great job of catching all the fragments from sanding paint since it heats and smears, the chunks spewed out do not seem to become airborne. It is a testy thing though.

You really don’t want to be breathing lead particles, and I would check with the health department at least, or another agency before I started tampering with what will likely contain lead.

Removing the paint

Related Q: Under carpet and padding, vinyl tile, and plywood, we’ve “discovered” a floor! It’s narrow width, chestnut boards that are most likely original, which makes them 200 years old. They’ve apparently been painted with some sort of dark brown paint, although in spots it’s rubbed away enough to see the grain. Your thoughts on removing the paint? Also and not surprisingly, the boards are far from level! Many, many thanks for your advice!

A: The paint is probably lead based so I would use a chemical stripper on it to remove as much paint as possible, then have the rest removed and the floor restored by a professional floor refinisher. Aside from the chemical stripping, the sanding part is really best left to someone with experience.