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Community and Q&A

Lead painted cedar shingle siding – remove or cover up with another siding?

sevak | Posted in General Questions on

Lead painted wood siding. No Tyvek underneath. Should I:

A. Tear off the lead painted siding and replace with new.
B. Cover with new siding 

Does anyone have a link on instructions on how to cover up old siding, go around windows, etc.? Getting all new stuff is expensive, but just covering up seems messy since there might be some leaks or rot beneath it that I don’t know about. I’m concerned I might lock in a bad smell in the house unless I clean everything up and do it like new. I’m concerned about siding around the windows seems it seems like a specialty to wrap them in vinyl or aluminum. Most houses around me seem wrapped with vinyl or aluminum or some other non-wood product. The windows look like monstrosities. 

MA allows homeowners to just remove the lead siding and throw in the dump if we take a moderate risk de leader course. 

Location: Massachusetts, Zone 6b 


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  1. Expert Member
    DCcontrarian | | #1

    Is there anything in particular that's wrong with the siding? Because in the pictures it looks mostly fine. I'd be worried about the way it was caulked over the door and it looks like a piece of flashing was jammed in, but that can be fixed without residing the whole house.

    I'd be thinking about fixing what needs to be fixed and then repainting. Cedar shingles are crazy expensive right now.

    If it really must go, I would strip it. Stripping old shingles is easy. From the pictures it looks like most of it you wouldn't even have to get on a ladder. You can use a pitchfork to extend your reach, I think even the gable you could just get mostly from a plank on a sawhorse and then put up a ladder for the last bit. If you don't strip it you have to figure out what to do with the trim around the windows and doors, right now it's flush with the edge of the shingles so it probably has to come out 1-1/2" if you reside over the shingles. I think that would be more work than stripping.

    Stripping allows you to fix any issues with the sheathing and flashing, wrap the house in Tyvek and add insulation from the outside if you want. Note that code now requires a drainage plane between the sheathing and the siding, which will push your siding out a minimum of 1/4". That may cause issues with your trim.

  2. canada_deck | | #2

    I would personally take it down to the sheathing before trying to cover it up. But I am also curious why you are considering either. Is the issue that you can no longer repaint those shingles (too many layers) and you don't want to deal with the lead paint removal? Look into a firm that can use a form of blasting to remove that. They can make quick work of it and then you will have a fresh clean surface to start from scratch.

  3. walta100 | | #3

    The way I see it the siding is least of your problems. The elephant in the room is the windows and trim both interior and exterior. Every time you open or close a window paint chips off and gets ground into lead dust. Some of the lead dust gets blown into the house where it can poison the residents.

    The exterior window trim is often covered with white aluminum trim and vinyl siding is hung over the cedar siding but it is a skill to make it happen.

    What is the long-term plan for the house? To my eye it doesn’t look like something worth putting the money new windows, trim and siding would cost. Scrape it paint it sell it?

    Canada Deck the state of Massachusetts has very stricter laws for contractors working around lead paint. The only ones allowed to handle lead pant are suited up in HazMat and collecting big dollars to work slowly. An owner is exempt from the rules but risks poisoning himself.


  4. Andrew207 | | #4

    I have similar issues so I've been reading old posts as well. Here is one worth reading:

  5. Andrew207 | | #5

    I'd also add that most siders in my area refuse to pull down the old siding. Their plans for vinyl siding ranged from just going over the old siding, putting a thin layer of house wrap over the old siding, or laying 3/4" insulation over the old siding and adding 1x3 to the window trim to allow for the insulation. This is not best practice, but a lot of house are being done this way.

    If you cannot do aluminum around the windows you may try using composite material that cuts like wood to trim them.

    1. canada_deck | | #6

      Are you also in MA? Are people refusing to pull down old siding because of the lead concerns?

      1. Andrew207 | | #7

        Maine for me. For some it's lead, for others they want to do a quick job and make 20k. Lead laws are actually apply to all 50 states by the federal EPA - huge fines if you do it wrong and you are not a homeowner.

  6. paulmagnuscalabro | | #8

    Sevak, not sure this affects your decision, but it looks like your siding's been repainted at least once already. In that first photo, there are some pretty deep gouges on the cedar from being hit with an orbital sander or grinder. Impossible to say whether whoever sanded & repainted took precautions to mitigate lead dust - but, based on the gouging, I'd guess probably not. Could be residual lead dust / flakes / etc in the soil around the house. Just something to be cognizant of, especially if young kids or vegetable gardens are part of the equation.

    It's been a few years since I've done the courses or been in the Northeast, but my recollection is that there are two paths you can take:
    1. You can take a course to become a certified "deleader." This is a more intensive course, and the typical work done by a deleader would be scraping, removing, or encapsulating lead in certain areas (ie, anything below a certain height, or that could be "mouthable/graspable" by a child). A deleader can do things like say, "this house has been deleaded and is safe to be rented by a family with kids."
    2. You can become a lead-safe remodeler. If you go this route, you pretty much learn how to safely contain lead dust, and then you can rip off or gut anything with lead (taking proper precautions) and put it out with the trash. Definitely the easier route. You can't certify a project as "deleaded"... but you can get rid of all the lead.

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