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Paint It Black (Or Pink Or Blue)

The Lead-Free, ‘This Old House’-Approved Guide To Painting The Nursery

Your partner is doing the heavy lifting, as you’ve acknowledged, so here’s something lightweight for you to grab: a paintbrush. As a matter of fact, you have to, because fetus + paint fumes = no bueno. Truthfully, it’s a bigger job than simply laying on a few coats. You might have to check your home for lead, you definitely have to pick the right brand and color of paint, and you can’t just go Jackson Pollack on the room because you thought “it looks cool.” You’ll be amazed at where poop manages to end up — best be able to tell it apart from the wall decor.


Getting The Lead Out Wikipedia Lead: bad for gasoline, even worse for your kid, and possibly an unwelcome houseguest already if your home was built before 1978. The good news is you only need to worry about it if you plan on renovating; as long as the paint is intact, it poses no threat. However, once you start cutting into walls and the like, the paint dust is potentially toxic, so it’s best to test. You have 3 testing methods to choose from, each slightly less comprehensive than the last:

  • Inspection. A professional comes to your house, inventories all the surfaces, and evaluates samples with a portable X-ray fluorescence or sends them to a lab. May require 1- to 4-square-inch chunks to be removed, which may require you to finally frame and hang that wedding portrait.
  • Risk Assessment. Areas with deteriorating paint are tested, areas with paint intact are not. So you’ll find out if those areas are in fact hazardous, but you could also get a negative test result while still leaving lead-based paint somewhere in your house.
  • Hazard Screen. Like a risk assessment, but required to screen even less stuff. Don’t hate the inspector, though; typically this type of test is done if your home is already known to be at lower risk.

Actually, make it 4 tests. You could always DIY it. Before you do, though, note the margin of error and ask yourself: do you feel lucky?

Choosing A Paint
While the days of lead-based paint are largely behind us, the volatile organic compounds (VOCs), fungicides, and pigments in latex paint can still fill your home with plenty of toxic chemicals. As with everything these days, there are natural, non-VOC alternatives out there (for the hippies who aren’t down with toxic chemicals). This review is now a few years old but still an exhaustive assesses of 6 such paints that assesses everything from color to sheen, cleanability, and which one smells faintly of peach yogurt (that’d be Safecoat). Real Simple also has a roundup of these; they recommend Mythic Paint for their selection of kid-friendly colors like “Dumbo’s Ears.”

Getting The Job DoneWikipedia With 40-some-odd weeks to figure out how to paint a room, you should have plenty of time to do it right. If you have no idea where to start — or just want proof that someone could actually write 5,000 words about how to paint a room — look to the standard bearers of such directions: This Old House. They’ll guide you through the process in painstaking detail, from choosing a paint, to sanding and measuring pretty much everything, to gathering your tapes and brushes and tools, to perfect stripes and edges, to avoiding globs and bits of lint, to proper coating technique, to how to grip the damn brush. Honestly, painstaking may not even be the right adjective. It might take you 30 of those weeks just to read it all. In fairness, it’s super informative and engaging, as opposed to, say, watching your handiwork dry.

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