Detail of restored roof; Link to Parknet
<photo>detail of masonry wall and decorative elements

Identify    Protect    Repair    Replace    Remove   Re-Create

Identify, Retain and Preserve

Identifying, retaining, and preserving masonry features from the restoration period 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 showing how masonry craftsmanship contributes significantly to a building's historic character

The craft details reflect the building's period of significance and thus need to be carefully preserved. This artisanry would be difficult to match if it were damaged, and the effect could be easily damaged through insensitive treatments such as painting the brickwork or by careless repointing. Photo: NPS files.

Not Recommended
Altering masonry features from the restoration period.Failing to properly document masonry features from the restoration period which may result in their loss.Applying paint or other coatings such as stucco to masonry or removing paint or stucco from masonry if such treatments cannot be documented to the restoration period.Changing the type or color of the paint or coating unless the work can be substantiated by historical documentation.

Protect and Maintain

Protecting and maintaining masonry from the restoration period 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.

photo of a late 19th century granite building that has been appropriately repointed

Because there are so many possible causes for deterioration in historic buildings, it may be desirable to retain a consultant, such as a historic architect or architectural conservator, to analyze the building. This late 19th century granite has recently been repointed with the joint profile and mortar color carefully matched to the original. Photo: NPS files.

Repainting with colors that are documented to the restoration period of the building.

Evaluating the existing condition of the masonry to determine whether more than protection and maintenance are required, that is, if repairs to the masonry features from the restoration period 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.

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 not documented to the restoration period of the building.

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


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

photo of Frank Lloyd Wright's famed house, Fallingwater, shown to make the point that concrete features need to be repaired with great care

"Fallingwater," a dramatic reinforced concrete residence by Frank Lloyd Wright, is anchored into bedrock on the hillside. The significance of this structure means great attention to detail must be taken during stabilization and repair work on the deteriorating concrete features. Photo: HABS Collection, NPS.

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.

Removing deteriorated mortar by carefully hand-raking the joints to avoid damaging the masonry. Duplicating, and if necessary, reproducing period mortar in strength, composition, color, and texture.

Duplicating and, if necessary, reproducing period mortar joints in width and in joint profile.

Repairing stucco by removing the damaged material and patching with new stucco that duplicates stucco of the restoration period 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.

photo of 18th century pediment that exhibits distinctively different mortar joints

This 18th century pediment and surrounding wall exhibit distinctively different mortar joints. These differences need to be taken into consideration in a restoration project. Photo: NPS files.

Repairing masonry features from the restoration period by patching, piecing-in, or otherwise reinforcing the masonry using recognized preservation methods. Repair may also include the limited replacement in kind--or with compatible substitute material--of those extensively deteriorated or missing parts of masonry features from the restoration period when there are surviving prototypes such as terra-cotta brackets or stone balusters. 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 from the restoration period that could be stabilized, repaired and conserved; or using untested consolidants and untrained personnel, thus causing further damage to fragile historic 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.

photo showing inappropriate use of caulking on the top of a wall

Caulking was inappropriately used here in place of mortar on the top of the wall. As a result, it has not been durable. Photo: NPS files.

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.

Replacing an entire masonry feature from the restoration period such as a cornice or balustrade when repair of the masonry and limited replacement of deteriorated or missing parts are appropriate.

Using a substitute material for the replacement part that does not convey the visual appearance of the surviving parts of the masonry feature or that is physically or chemically incompatible.

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.


Replacing in kind an entire masonry feature from the restoration period that is too deteriorated to repair--if the overall form and detailing are still evident--using the physical evidence as a model to reproduce the feature. Examples can include large sections of a wall, a cornice, balustrade, column, or stairway. If using the same kind of material is not technically or economically feasible, then a compatible substitute material may be considered. The new work should be unobtrusively dated to guide future research and treatment.

paired photos of restoration work on the Rhode Island State House terrace restoration

The Rhode Island State House (left), designed by McKim, Mead, & White, is undergoing restoration of the marble terraces (right), walls, steps, balustrades and plazas in a phased project. Photos: Durkee, Brown, Viveiros & Werenfels, Architects.

Not Recommended
Removing a masonry feature from the restoration period that is unrepairable and not replacing it.

The following Restoration work is highlighted to indicate that it involves the removal or alteration of existing historic masonry features that would be retained in Preservation and Rehabilitation treatments; and the replacement of missing masonry features from the restoration period using all new materials.

Removing Existing Features from Other Historic Periods

Removing or altering masonry features from other historic periods such as a later doorway, porch, or steps.

Documenting materials and features dating from other periods prior to their alteration or removal. If possible, selected examples of these features or materials should be stored to facilitate future research.

Drawing of Meyer May House, Grand Rapids, MI, showing building as it evolved over time. In the Restoration, portions were demolished to portray the house at one specific time in its history.

The treatment, Restoration, is undertaken to return a building to its appearance at a specific time, as shown in this drawing. The Meyer May House in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1909. In 1922, May added to the house for an expanding family. After the May occupancy, the house was altered for use as apartments, with a carport added in 1955. In the 1980s restoration, the Wright's original design was deemed more significant than May's later changes, and, as a result, the additions were removed and the house returned to its 1909 appearance. Drawing: Martha L. Werenfels, AIA.

Not Recommended
Failing to remove a masonry feature from another period, thus confusing the depiction of the building's significance.

Failing to document masonry features from other historic periods that are removed from the building so that a valuable portion of the historic record is lost.

Re-creating Missing Features from the Restoration Period

Re-creating a missing masonry feature that existed during the restoration period based on physical or documentary evidence; for example, duplicating a terra-cotta bracket or stone balustrade.

Not Recommended
Constructing a masonry feature that was part of the original design for the building but was never actually built; or constructing a feature which was thought to have existed during the restoration period, but for which there is insufficient documentation.




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