<photo>Detail of preserved exterior wood; Link to National Park Service
<photo>wood structural members of an early industrial building

Identify    Stabilize    Protect    Repair    Replace in Kind  

Identify, Retain and Preserve

Identifying, retaining, and preserving structural systems--and individual features of systems--that are important in defining the overall historic character of the building, such as post and beam systems, trusses, summer beams, vigas, cast iron columns, above-grade stone foundation walls, or loadbearing brick or stone walls.

photo of the structural system of a historic barn in Shelburne, VT

The interior of this barn in Shelburne, Vermont, is a magnificent space that included an overhead hay loft with tracks that allowed workers to drop hay to the floor below. Photo: NPS files.

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

Overloading the existing structural system; or installing equipment or mechanical systems which could damage the structure.

Replacing a loadbearing masonry wall that could be augmented and retained.

Leaving known structural problems untreated such as deflection of beams, cracking and bowing of walls, or racking of structural members.

Utilizing treatments or products that accelerate the deterioration of structural material such as introducing urea-formaldehyde foam insulation into frame walls.


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

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

Protect and Maintain

Protecting and maintaining the structural system by cleaning the roof gutters and downspouts; replacing roof flashing; keeping masonry, wood, and architectural metals in a sound condition; and ensuring that structural members are free from insect infestation.

photo of impulse radar being used to evaluate visible cracks on a column shaft

Non-destructive evaluation techniques can be of significant value in historic preservation projects. Impulse radar is being used to evaluate both the orientation and depth of the cracks visible on the surface of the column shaft. Photo: Edmund P. Meade, P.E.

Examining and evaluating the existing condition of the structural system and its individual features using non-destructive techniques such as X-ray photography.

Not Recommended
Failing to provide proper building maintenance so that deterioration of the structural system results. Causes of deterioration include subsurface ground movement, vegetation growing too close to foundation walls, improper grading, fungal rot, and poor interior ventilation that results in condensation.

Utilizing destructive probing techniques that will damage or destroy structural material.


Repairing the structural system by augmenting or upgrading individual parts or features using recognized preservation methods. For example, weakened structural members such as floor framing can be paired with a new member, braced, or otherwise supplemented and reinforced.

photo of new base isolator, which allows  the structural support member to move horizontally as it absorbs earthquake forces

The new base isolator allows the structural support member at the foundation to move horizontally as it absorbs the earthquake forces. Photo: ©Jonathan Farrer.

Not Recommended
Upgrading the building structurally in a manner that diminishes the historic character of the exterior, such as installing strapping channels or removing a decorative cornice; or damages interior features or spaces.

Replacing a structural member or other feature of the structural system when it could be augmented and retained.

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 those visible portions or features of the structural system that are either extensively deteriorated or missing when there are surviving prototypes such as cast iron columns and sections of loadbearing walls. The new work should match the old in materials, design, color, and texture; and be unobtrusively dated to guide future research and treatment.

Considering the use of substitute material for unexposed structural replacements, such as roof rafters or trusses. Substitute material should, at a minimum, have equal loadbearing capabilities, and be unobtrusively dated to guide future research and treatment.

Not Recommended
Replacing an entire visible feature of the structural system when limited replacement of deteriorated and missing portions is appropriate.

Using material for a portion of an exposed structural feature that does not match the historic feature; or failing to properly document the new work.

Using substitute material that does not equal the loadbearing capabilities of the historic material or design or is otherwise physically or chemically incompatible.




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