Don't Underestimate These Historic Preservation Projects

So, you think you have everything well in hand to get started on your historic preservation project. I mean, really, how hard can it be? Just fix a few cracks here, update the plumbing there and voilà! Your building is all good to go, right?

Not so fast!

First of all, this is not just any home or building renovation. You can’t just add a new bathroom or knock out walls without meeting the standards set forth by the U.S. Secretary of Interior. If you don’t follow these standards, you will not only anger a lot of local historians but your project could be deemed ineligible for historic tax credits.

There is a lot more to historic preservation than just improving the aesthetics of a building. The following restoration projects may seem straightforward, but they are actually a lot more complicated than first meets the eye.

Window restoration

As it turns out, window restoration is one of the most sensitive hot button topics when it comes to historic preservation. Building owners want windows that are more energy-efficient while those charged with protecting the historic character of the building insist on maintaining authenticity. Original materials can only be replaced when they are too deteriorated to ensure a sound building envelope, and any new windows must be compatible in type, style, operation, sashes, size of lights, and number of panes. Before you place an order for all new windows on your project, check with your local Historic Preservation Office or you might end up having to replace them all over again.

Masonry restoration

When restoring the masonry on a historic building, special attention needs to be placed on the replacement materials. Similar-looking bricks from your local Big Box store will not do. Instead, you will need to salvage, clean, or repair as much of the existing building material as possible or find the closest possible match if the existing materials are beyond saving. Also, as much attention needs to be paid to the removal method as the type of material used upon re-installation. Only a professional preservation company with an appreciation for the delicate nature of historic buildings and a lot of experience working with hand tools can fully restore your historic treasure.

Trying to recreate the past

Some may look at historical preservation as trying to recreate the past, but there is a fine line between restoring a historic building and adding a new addition that merely looks historic. Using neo-traditional designs that replicate the past to tack on additional rooms or outbuildings, for example, can actually detract from the authenticity of a site, giving off a false sense of historical development and incurring the wrath of local preservationists. According the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, anything new must be differentiated from the old and new designs that recreate the past are unacceptable, so tread lightly when it comes to altering original historic designs.

Want to find out more about the challenges of historic preservation projects? Call 732-810-1049!