Managing lead-based paint

There are three options for managing lead-based paint, depending on its condition.

If you own a building or home built before 1980, follow the six step guide (PDF 856KB) when renovating, restoring or repainting, to help manage the health risk for you, your family and vulnerable people.

In good condition

Leave in place and monitor

Lead-based paint that is not flaking, cracking, chalking, chipping or peeling is a low exposure risk.

The paint can be left in place but must be monitored at least once every two years or annually for high impact areas such as window frames, door frames and skirting boards.

With minor deterioration


Small areas with minor deterioration to lead-based paint can be stabilised by sealing with a modern paint topcoat or using an encapsulant.

A small area can be defined as 0.2 square metres (m²) in an interior room, less than 2m² on outdoor surfaces or 10% of the total surface area for items such as windowsills.

Qualified painting contractors can inspect surfaces with lead-based paint and provide advice on the most suitable stabilisation method.

All stabilised areas must be monitored at least once every two years or annually for high impact areas, such as window frames, door frames and skirting boards and stairs, to ensure the layer stays intact.

Method 1  sealing with a modern topcoat paint

Topcoat paints used for sealing should be compatible with the underlying existing paint. Paint currently being sold in Australia is only permitted to contain very small trace amounts of lead, so most modern oil-based or latex paints can be used.

Method 2 using an encapsulant

Encapsulants are specialised chemical coatings that create a longer-lasting barrier over lead-based paint. Encapsulants require greater skill and experience to apply and should not be used on high impact areas such as window frames, skirting boards and stairs. Qualified painting contractors can advise if the area is suitable for an encapsulant and assist with the application.


When preparing small areas for stabilisation:

  • cover or remove all items in the area and protect the floor with plastic sheeting
  • wear personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks and work clothes
  • remove any loose lead-based paint flakes by low dust generation methods (e.g., wet sanding)
  • remove surface grease, grime and dirt with a phosphate-based detergent.

With major deterioration

Removal of lead-based paint or permanent/semi-permanent enclosure of the painted surface is recommended for larger areas, or areas with major deterioration. Consult a painting contractor if unsure whether the level of deterioration in your situation is minor or major. They should be able to guide you as to whether stabilisation will work for your situation or if removal of lead-based paint is required.

Removing the paint

Using a qualified painting contractor to remove lead-based paint is strongly recommended. Removal can create lead paint dust if not done carefully. This toxic dust can move throughout the property and into nearby properties. Use methods which minimize lead paint dust such as wet scraping and wet sanding,  on and off-site chemical stripping, or completely replacing the item (e.g., doors, window sills, skirtings).

Enclosing a painted surface

Some painted areas such as walls and ceilings can be enclosed with a durable, non-toxic, and dust-tight material, such as gypsum board overlays as an alternative to lead-based paint removal. To protect future homeowners or renovators, a label warning of the presence of lead-based paint should be fixed to the surface before enclosing.


When preparing areas for lead-based paint removal, extra precautions are needed in addition to the preparation steps for stabilisation: 

  • seal off the area
  • cover carpets (plastic sheeting) because it is difficult to clean carpets if they become contaminated with lead paint dust during the removal process
  • relocate children, pregnant people and pets out of the house during the work and clean.