Is Your Building a Candidate for Encapsulation?

October 1, 2008

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If your facility has areas painted with lead paint, you know that lead abatement costs can induce a painful case of sticker shock. One way to possibly ease the financial pain of lead abatement is a technique called encapsulation. 

How much can your facility save?

In 2001, the Fort Ord Reuse Authority undertook an extensive renovation of the buildings and facilities on the military base. As part of the project, some buildings were subjected to standard removal techniques for lead-based paint, while other buildings were encapsulated. Compared to the standard removal in a similar sized building, the savings granted by encapsulation were almost 25 percent.

However, not all buildings will be suitable candidates for lead abatement encapsulation. To find out if your facility is a good candidate for the savings of encapsulation, you need to understand what makes encapsulation work. 

How Lead Abatement Encapsulation Works

Unlike lead abatement removal methods which involve costly amounts of time and materials, as well as getting rid of the paint and disposing the contaminated waste at special landfill facilities, encapsulation methods leave the existing lead paint in place. 

Since the health hazards of lead paint are caused by loose fragments of paint or contaminated dust, encapsulation techniques work by re-binding loose fragments of paint to the existing substrate. A solvent is applied to the paint which softens the coating and allows a properly trained worker to smooth the old paint layers down. Once the paint has been glued back in place, a tough outer coating is applied to the structure.

Lead Abatement Encapsulation Considerations

Not all structures will be good candidates for encapsulation. The overall condition of the paint and the expected future usage of the structure are important considerations that will affect whether your building is a good candidate for encapsulation. 

The condition of the painted surface is very important. If large loose chips of paint are present, the encapsulation procedure may not be able to fully reattach the loose material to the substrate. Large, thick chips of paint may require removal by a properly certified lead abatement worker. Smaller chips can be softened and re-bound to the substrate with multiple applications of solvent. 

Even if the condition of the painted surface is suitable for encapsulation lead abatement techniques, the future usage of the structure may not permit encapsulation. Most of the typical usages that will rule out encapsulation are high friction environments or high impact environments. Both of these types of usage present hazards. Excessive friction will wear away the outer coating of encapsulation paint and leave the original lead paint exposed. Impacts can crack the paint and create lead paint chips. 

Lead abatement work should always be done by a properly certified professional. Most professional painting contractors that do not have the necessary certifications should be able to subcontract out the lead abatement portion of your project to a specialized lead abatement contractor. 

Questions or comments?

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