what lies beneath

So, the orange carpet I have been complaining about since, well, since before we even moved in?   It met its fate this afternoon.  I thought we would just rip the unglued carpet up to expose the grey painted linoleum patchwork beneath it.  However, when a large piece happened to stick to the carpet backing and exposed a layer of newspapers from April and May 1949 we couldn’t resist going further.  Beneath that layer of newspapers lay the original wooden floor boards.

All romance aside, when I posted this picture on Facebook, a friend gently mentioned to be careful as we may have unearthed some lead paint as they did in their own house.  Eep!  We spent the rest of the afternoon calling around to find out about home tests, and Googling the scary lead facts.  We still don’t know for sure so we are camping out in the spare room while we figure out our next step.  We didn’t do any sanding or chipping which seems to be the largest concern, but we did begin removing the linoleum.

The hallway and other rooms already have a layer of wood/particle board down so we will be doing the same in the bedroom and then laying simple pine flooring on top of that since we have read it is likely better just to let non-chipping paint well alone and bury it.

Now it has us thinking about all the other places lead may be lurking in our home.  My beloved mismatched plates?  Vintage toys?  Other painted surfaces in our house?  Vintage is lovely and romantic, but not always safe or practical.  Another (rather unsettling) reality of living in a 104 year old cabin, I suppose.  They say if you live in a house built before 1960  or even 1970 chances are you have lead paint in your home.

The up side?  It looks as though a new set of dishes and some wood flooring may be in my very near future.  As for those papers, well, you’d have sworn Mike and I had found buried treasure judging by our level of excitement.  Ignorance is bliss, what can I say.

go gently + be wonderful


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  1. Posted January 24, 2012 at 11:02 pm by Ana | Permalink

    Oh! I would have been excited too, by all the history secretly hiding!

    But lead? Eep. That never even occurred to me, with old toys or plates!

  2. Posted January 25, 2012 at 9:17 am by Tania | Permalink

    Hi Erin, I searched under Apples for a little visit but found you here! I just had to comment on the lead concerns that you have. I too have turned myself inside out with worry about the same thing. In fact, I bought a lead test kit from Home hardware, and discovered that my grandmothers lovely mix matched dishes do not contain lead. The floors did however, as does the dresser we use for stuff in the living room. We decided to hire Higgins (from Peterborough) to sand the floors while we left the house for a week. They did an exceptional job and followed very stringent regulations. The dresser remains here and I ask that the kids not lick it. I clean around it as often as possible, but little to no flakes are peeling. I have driven myself crazy with worry about the off gassing of products like new particle board, textiles etc. for years. Lead is only a concern if it is peeling, and is ingested in some way. Try not to read any more online about it either… been there!! Enjoy the old house and its charm and try not to worry. Imagine an air tight new home with all the chemicals that lurk within… there does not seem to be a safe place unless you decide to just let go and be mindful.

    • Posted January 25, 2012 at 10:42 am by erin | Permalink

      Yes, Google is a scary place! We are going to get some tests and figure it out, but I think we will be laying a new pine floor down on top of it.
      Thanks so much! It is always nice to hear from people who have been through it.

  3. Posted January 25, 2012 at 11:41 am by heather | Permalink

    hi. what a a lovely new space you have. i had to get rid of the cutest old kids chairs a few years ago…..i started testing antique things in the house and they had it. it was sad to let them go. but a no brainer. how cool those old papers are. i haven’t been here in so long. it’s so different! looks like a lot of work. good for you.

    • Posted January 25, 2012 at 6:43 pm by erin | Permalink

      Yay! So glad to see you here! Yes, it seems to have been awhile for both us. Must remedy that :)
      Hope you’re well Love.

  4. Posted January 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm by KarenW | Permalink

    My dad once helped a neighbour tear a wall out in their kitchen. They found a full suit of clothes (including a top hat) and several copies of the Peterborough Examiner. They had been so carefully tacked up, it looked like the body had just slipped right out the pantlegs, just waiting for someone to find!

    • Posted January 25, 2012 at 6:43 pm by erin | Permalink

      What a great find! So interesting, thanks for sharing :)

  5. Posted January 25, 2012 at 5:01 pm by Stephanie K. | Permalink

    We’ve surrendered to the possibility of lead paint….I’ve always lived in 100+ year old houses. So far so good. I don’t let my kids lick old painted stuff, and have carefully painted over our gross painted ceiling.
    This reminds me of our first house…we spent more time read the old newspapers we found under the layers (and layers and layers) of flooring than we did renovating! Great memories.

    • Posted January 25, 2012 at 6:42 pm by erin | Permalink

      Nice to know we’re not alone. Sometimes you wonder why you ever thought buying an old house was a good idea 😉

  6. Posted January 26, 2012 at 6:40 am by Linnea | Permalink

    Ah yes. We’re on our second old home and know lead well. France & Austria banned lead-based paint in 1909, the League of Nations banned it by 1920-something. The US? Not until 1978! Not sure about Canada.

    I’ve taught kids with lead poisoning issues. So by the time we rehabbed old houses, this was on my mind.

    It is indeed any amount of cracking, chipping, peeling, dusting that you’re worried about. There are some primers that are sanctioned for lead abatement. (kilz & bin both have some) so even if you cover old floor with new pine, I’d look into that option.

    Honestly (and you may hate to hear this) I’d be more cautious about candle wicks with metal in them than old dishes in good shape.

    In the US, there are some lead tests, abatement, and eradication programs available. Since we have kids under 5, we were able to get free professional testing and a small interest-free loan for some lead work. Might be worth contacting local organizations?

    Good luck wading through the lead stuff!

    • Posted January 26, 2012 at 9:14 am by erin | Permalink

      I have stopped buying candles for the same reason and would like start making my own soy or beeswax candles.
      Thanks so much for this info. I can’t believe how behind the US and Canada seem to be.
      Thanks for taking the time to write :)

  7. Posted January 26, 2012 at 12:22 pm by Amberlea | Permalink

    Fantastic! What a great find (the newspapers, I mean, not so much the likely lead-based paint; we have it too…)! We recently found some old papers from a previous owner, and I can totally understand your excitement! Yay for old treasures!

    • Posted January 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm by erin | Permalink

      I am seeing we are not the only ones with lead…everything is just a little scarier when there are kids involved I find…gah!

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