Rehabbing an Old House: A Safety Checklist

Home Renovation

Your number one health concern with rehabbing an old house is protecting kids from lead exposure—and the go-to source for specific information and local referrals is the Environmental Protection Agency ( You have a lot of work ahead of you, but before the dust starts to fly …

  1. Hire a certified lead inspector. It’s best to go with a professional when checking for lead paint: Home lead tests aren’t always reliable.
  2. Test the water. Water can pick up lead from home plumbing. State testing programs vary, so call your water company for details.
  3. Shut off the heating and cooling system if possible, or tape plastic over the ductwork while you’re working. Lead dust and other nasty particles from remodeling can get into ductwork and linger for years.
  4. Have ducts professionally cleaned when renovation is complete.
  5. Keep your house healthy once you move in by encouraging family and friends to take off their shoes when they enter. The soles of shoes can track lead, pesticides, and plenty of other grimy stuff into the house. Tip: Encourage the practice by placing a storage bench near your home’s primary entrance.