<photo>Detail of preserved exterior wood; Link to National Park Service
<photo> historic wood elements

Identify    Stabilize    Protect    Repair    Replace in Kind  

Identify, Retain and Preserve

Identifying, retaining, and preserving wood features that are important in defining the overall historic character of the building such as siding, cornices, brackets, window architraves, and doorway pediments; and their paints, finishes, and colors.

Whether it is used for exterior cladding, roofing, interior finishes, decorative features, or structural members, wood is frequently an essential component of historic and older buildings which should be retained and preserved. Photo: NPS files.

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

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

Changing the type of paint or finish and its color.


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

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

Protect and Maintain

Protecting and maintaining wood features by providing proper drainage so that water is not allowed to stand on flat, horizontal surfaces or accumulate in decorative features.

Applying chemical preservatives to wood features such as beam ends or outriggers that are exposed to decay hazards and are traditionally unpainted.

Retaining coatings such as paint that help protect the wood from moisture and ultraviolet light. Paint removal should be considered only where there is paint surface deterioration and as part of an overall maintenance program which involves repainting or applying other appropriate protective coatings.

Inspecting painted wood surfaces to determine whether repainting is necessary or if cleaning is all that is required.

Maximizing retention of historic materials and features is the primary goal of Preservation, as demonstrated here in these "before" and "after" photographs. Aside from some minor repairs and limited replacement of deteriorated material, work on this house consisted primarily of repainting the wood exterior. Photos: Historic Charleston Foundation.

Removing damaged or deteriorated paint to the next sound layer using the gentlest method possible (handscraping and handsanding), then repainting.

Using with care electric hot-air guns on decorative wood features and electric heat plates on flat wood surfaces when paint is so deteriorated that total removal is necessary prior to repainting.

Using chemical strippers primarily to supplement other methods such as handscraping, handsanding and the above-recommended thermal devices. Detachable wooden elements such as shutters, doors, and columns may--with the proper safeguards--be chemically dip-stripped.

Applying compatible paint coating systems following proper surface preparation.

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

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

Not Recommended
Failing to identify, evaluate, and treat the causes of wood deterioration, including faulty flashing, leaking gutters, cracks and holes in siding, deteriorated caulking in joints and seams, plant material growing too close to wood surfaces, or insect or fungus infestation.

Using chemical preservatives such as creosote which, unless they were used historically, can change the appearance of wood features.

As shown, the paint on this house is failing in isolated spots, while most of it is in good condition. On older buildings heavy paint buildup is common. The thick paint film traps moisture in the wood. As the moisture escapes from the wood it pushes the paint off the wall, leaving spots of bare wood. Photo: © John Leeke.

Stripping paint or other coatings to reveal bare wood, thus exposing historically coated surfaces to the effects of accelerated weathering.

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

Using destructive paint removal methods such as propane or butane torches, sandblasting or waterblasting. These methods can irreversibly damage historic woodwork.

Using thermal devices improperly so that the historic woodwork is scorched.

Failing to neutralize the wood thoroughly after using chemicals so that new paint does not adhere.

Allowing detachable wood features to soak too long in a caustic solution so that the wood grain is raised and the surface roughened.

Failing to follow manufacturers' product and application instructions when repainting exterior woodwork.Using new colors that are inappropriate to the historic building or district.

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


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

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

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

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

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 wood features when there are surviving prototypes such as brackets, molding, or sections of siding. New work should match the old in material, design, color, and texture; and be unobtrusively dated to guide future research and treatment.

An example of "limited replacement in kind" points out an appropriate scope of work within the treatment, Preservation. Targeted repairs to deteriorated wood cornice elements (fascia board and modillions) meant that most of the historic materials were retained in the work. Photo: NPS files.

Not Recommended
Replacing an entire wood 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 wood 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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