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Lead Paint On Steam Radiator

TJC_2 Member Posts: 6
The paint on my old steam radiators tested positive for lead. Does the surface of the radiator get hot enough to cause lead to be released into the air? It doesn't seem possible that it is turning it into a vapor, but my concern it the dryed dust that may flake off.


  • Mike T., Swampeast MO
    Mike T., Swampeast MO Member Posts: 6,928

    Not even close to the temp required to vaporize lead. Lead oxide (what I believe is in paint) won't even begin to vaporize until about 530°F. The actual vaporization temperature is MUCH higher. A steam radiator always be less than half of 530°F. As long as the paint is currently well-adhered it should stay that way and pose no more danger than anything else covered with lead paint.
  • Mark Biro
    Mark Biro Member Posts: 46
    Lead makes a tough, durable (stay in place) paint

    I am NOT a heating guy, but a homeowner (bungalow, too) who is learning about heating here -- and a boatbuilder.

    Mike T. has it nailed. Lead paint (as I know it from boat applications) made a very tough and durable finish. It doesn't go anywhere. Superior in its integrity. I guess it took paint mnfrs decades to try to get back to its properties after its use was restricted or banned.

    My brother was one of those kids who chewed on windowsills. Just don't chew on the radiator. ;-)
  • John_102
    John_102 Member Posts: 119
    lead paint flakes

    Just to underscore the other two replies, lead paint adheres VERY well. Stable paint isn't a problem. If however, your rads are in poor shape & flakes of paint are falling off, that is another story. You should remove loose paint according to recommended methods & repaint the rads. Lots of info here (by SEARCHing) and in the Library on painting. Look for some recent pics from Mike T. for how beautiful the rads can be.

    Go to paint.com (I believe) for the official word on lead paint. (Or whatever the trade association is.) Also the National Park Service has some tech bulletins, if I recall -www.cr.nps.gov/hps.tps

    Lead is most hazardous to young children & pregnant women. I'd also include family pets in the most-in-danger group. Having worked with a community contaminated with lead from an adjacent battery manufactory, I don't want to minimize the effects of lead; but don't panic, just address the issue sensibly. (Not that I mean to suggest you're not already doing just that.)

    Peace & good luck
  • TJC_2
    TJC_2 Member Posts: 6
    Radiator refinishing

    Yes the paint is flaking, thus my concern over paint dust.

    Mike T.'s articles are for the thin fin tubed radiators. I get the impression that its not as easy for the older styles ones?

    These radiators are huge and heavy.

    Any radiator refinishing services in central Massachusetts?
  • John_102
    John_102 Member Posts: 119
    Just a thought

    (A disclaimer - only a homeowner talking)

    If you are in the middle of heating season & don't want to pull the rads 'til spring, what about knocking off the flakes (using due care, a real respirator, hepa-filtered vac, etc.) & putting an ugly but stabilizing coat of paint on for the duration of the season? Use the winter to work out logistics and/or to find a refinisher who'll do the work. I hear that monument (cemetery marker) carvers are a good possibility. Read the various discussions of painting & cleaning tips here at heatinghelp.com.

    Again, not to minimize lead issues, but it ain't gonna leap off the rad & attack you in your bathrobe. Weigh the risks - only you can do that, after careful research. Are there young children in the house? Pregnant women? How bad is the flaking?

    Yeah, man; those iron guys put a whole new meaning to the word heavy!
  • TJC_2
    TJC_2 Member Posts: 6
    Why sandblasting

    Why can't you use a chemical stripper to strip the paint off of the radiators?

    If I remove and refinish one radiator at a time, why wouldn't it be ok to do them in the winter?
  • Mike T., Swampeast MO
    Mike T., Swampeast MO Member Posts: 6,928

    Using chemical to strip rads in place is something you will not want to do (try) more than once!!!! In fact, I don't believe there is any practical way to strip a radiator in place.

    If you remove to strip chemically, make a traditional lye stripper and a leak- and alkali-proof box to fit your biggest rad for at least half its thickeness. PLUG ALL HOLES IN THE RAD. Soak. Rinse HEAVILY. Repeat if necessary.

    A pressure washer with a ZERO-DEGREE (rotating) nozzle will do nearly as well as any stripping method at much less cost and not much in the way of mess.

This discussion has been closed.