<photo>Detail of preserved exterior wood; Link to National Park Service
<photo>detail of masonry wall and decorative elements

Identify    Stabilize    Protect    Repair    Replace in Kind  

Identify, Retain and Preserve

Identifying, retaining, and preserving masonry features that are important in defining the overall historic character of the building such as walls, brackets, railings, cornices, window architraves, door pediments, steps, and columns; and details such as tooling and bonding patterns, coatings, and color.

photo of marbelized stucco finish on Arlington House, VA

The stucco finish on Arlington House, Arlington, Virginia, was marbleized in the 1850s, approximately 30 years after it was built, but because it is a character-defining finish that has gained significance over time, it should be retained and preserved. Photo: NPS files.

Not Recommended
Altering masonry features which are important in defining the overall historic character of the building so that, as a result, the character is diminished.

Replacing historic masonry features instead of repairing or replacing only the deteriorated masonry.

Applying paint or other coatings such as stucco to masonry that has been historically unpainted or uncoated.

Removing paint from historically painted masonry.

Changing the type of paint or coating or its color.


Stabilizing deteriorated or damaged masonry as a preliminary measure, when necessary, prior to undertaking appropriate preservation work.

Not Recommended
Failing to stabilize deteriorated or damaged masonry until additional work is undertaken, thus allowing further damage to occur to the historic building.

Protect and Maintain

Protecting and maintaining masonry by providing proper drainage so that water does not stand on flat, horizontal surfaces or accumulate in curved decorative features.

Cleaning masonry only when necessary to halt deterioration or remove heavy soiling.

Carrying out masonry surface cleaning tests after it has been determined that such cleaning is appropriate. Tests should be observed over a sufficient period of time so that both the immediate and the long range effects are known to enable selection of the gentlest method possible.

Cleaning masonry surfaces with the gentlest method possible, such as low pressure water and detergents, using natural bristle brushes.

Inspecting painted masonry surfaces to determine whether repainting is necessary.

Removing damaged or deteriorated paint only to the next sound layer using the gentlest method possible (e.g., handscraping) prior to repainting.

Applying compatible paint coating systems following proper surface preparation.

Repainting with colors that are historically appropriate to the building and district.

Evaluating the existing condition of the masonry to determine whether more than protection and maintenance are required, that is, if repairs to masonry features will be necessary.

Not Recommended
Failing to evaluate and treat the various causes of mortar joint deterioration such as leaking roofs or gutters, differential settlement of the building, capillary action, or extreme weather exposure.

photo of inappropriate caulking of cracks in historic stucco

The caulking shown here is not an appropriate method for repairing cracks in historic stucco. Photo: NPS files.

Cleaning masonry surfaces when they are not heavily soiled, thus needlessly introducing chemicals or moisture into historic materials.

Cleaning masonry surfaces without testing or without sufficient time for the testing results to be of value.

Sandblasting brick or stone surfaces using dry or wet grit or other abrasives. These methods of cleaning permanently erode the surface of the material and accelerate deterioration.

Using a cleaning method that involves water or liquid chemical solutions when there is any possibility of freezing temperatures.

Cleaning with chemical products that will damage masonry, such as using acid on limestone or marble, or leaving chemicals on masonry surfaces.

Applying high pressure water cleaning methods that will damage historic masonry and the mortar joints.

Removing paint that is firmly adhering to, and thus protecting, masonry surfaces.

Using methods of removing paint which are destructive to masonry, such as sandblasting, application of caustic solutions, or high pressure waterblasting.

Failing to follow manufacturers' product and application instructions when repainting masonry.

Using new paint colors that are inappropriate to the historic building and district.

Failing to undertake adequate measures to assure the protection of masonry features.


Repairing, stabilizing, and conserving fragile masonry by using well-tested consolidants, when appropriate. Repairs should be physically and visually compatible and identifiable upon close inspection for future research.

photo of two workers priming and repainting exterior stone

Adequate protection and maintenance of a historic building is an ongoing commitment. Here, two workers are priming and repainting exterior stone and wood trim. If surface treatments are neglected, more extensive repair and replacement will be required. Each loss further undermines a building's historic integrity. Photo: NPS files.

Repairing masonry walls and other masonry features by repointing the mortar joints where there is evidence of deterioration such as disintegrating mortar, cracks in mortar joints, loose bricks, damp walls, or damaged plasterwork.

emoving deteriorated mortar by carefully hand-raking the joints to avoid damaging the masonry.

Duplicating old mortar in strength, composition, color, and texture.

Duplicating old mortar joints in width and in joint profile.

photo of women recoating an adobe wall with mud plaster and straw mixture

Traditionally, adobe surface coatings that protected the fragile adobe building fabric were renewed every few years. Women are seen here recoating an adobe wall with mud plaster mixed with straw at Chamisal, New Mexico. Photo: Russell Lee, Farm Security Administration Collection, Library of Congress.

Repairing stucco by removing the damaged material and patching with new stucco that duplicates the old in strength, composition, color, and texture.

Using mud plaster as a surface coating over unfired, unstabilized adobe because the mud plaster will bond to the adobe.

Cutting damaged concrete back to remove the source of deterioration (often corrosion on metal reinforcement bars). The new patch must be applied carefully so it will bond satisfactorily with, and match, the historic concrete.

Repairing masonry features by patching, piecing-in, or otherwise reinforcing the masonry using recognized preservation methods. The new work should be unobtrusively dated to guide future research and treatment.

Applying new or non-historic surface treatments such as water-repellent coatings to masonry only after repointing and only if masonry repairs have failed to arrest water penetration problems.

Not Recommended
Removing masonry that could be stabilized, repaired and conserved; or using untested consolidants and untrained personnel, thus causing further damage to fragile materials.

Removing nondeteriorated mortar from sound joints, then repointing the entire building to achieve a uniform appearance.

Using electric saws and hammers rather than hand tools to remove deteriorated mortar from joints prior to repointing.

Repointing with mortar of high portland cement content (unless it is the content of the historic mortar). This can often create a bond that is stronger than the historic material and can cause damage as a result of the differing coefficient of expansion and the differing porosity of the material and the mortar.

Repointing with a synthetic caulking compound.

Using a "scrub" coating technique to repoint instead of traditional repointing methods.Changing the width or joint profile when repointing.

Removing sound stucco; or repairing with new stucco that is stronger than the historic material or does not convey the same visual appearance.

Applying cement stucco to unfired, unstabilized adobe. Because the cement stucco will not bond properly, moisture can become entrapped between materials, resulting in accelerated deterioration of the adobe.

Patching concrete without removing the source of deterioration.

Removing masonry that could be repaired, using improper repair techniques, or failing to document the new work.

Applying waterproof, water repellent, or non-historic coatings such as stucco to masonry as a substitute for repointing and masonry repairs. Coatings are frequently unnecessary, expensive, and may change the appearance of historic masonry as well as accelerate its deterioration.

The following work is highlighted to indicate that it represents the greatest degree of intervention generally recommended within the treatment Preservation, and should only be considered after protection, stabilization, and repair concerns have been addressed.

Limited Replacement in Kind

Replacing in kind extensively deteriorated or missing parts of masonry features when there are surviving prototypes such as terra-cotta brackets or stone balusters. The new work should match the old in material, design, color, and texture; and be unobtrusively dated to guide future research and treatment.

Not Recommended
Replacing an entire masonry feature such as a column or stairway when limited replacement of deteriorated and missing parts is appropriate.

Using replacement material that does not match the historic masonry feature; or failing to properly document the new work.




The Approach

Exterior Materials
Architectural Metals

Exterior Features
Entrances + Porches

Interior Features
Structural System Spaces/Features/Finishes
Mechanical Systems



Special Requirements
Energy Efficiency
Health + Safety

The Standards



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Historical Overview