Identify, Retain and Preserve
Identifying, retaining, and preserving wood features
from the restoration period such as siding, cornices,
brackets, window architraves, and doorway pediments;
and their paints, finishes, and color.
The form, features, and detailing of this 19th
century stick-style villa (The Emlen Physick House
in Cape May, New Jersey) have been retained and preserved.
The National Historic Landmark structure is open
the public. Photo: HABS Collection, NPS.
Altering wood features from the restoration period.
Failing to properly document wood features from the
restoration period which may result in their loss.
Applying paint or other coatings to wood or removing
paint from wood 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 wood features from the
restoration period by providing proper drainage so that
water is not allowed to stand on flat, horizontal surfaces
or accumulate in decorative features.
Repair of this broken downspout is essential
to prevent damage to the historic building as well as
to prevent serious moisture problems in below-grade
foundation walls and the basement. Photo: NPS
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
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
Repainting with colors that are documented to the
restoration period of the building.
Evaluating the existing condition of the wood to
determine whether more than protection and maintenance
are required, that is, if repairs to wood features from
the restoration period will be necessary.
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.
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 not documented to the restoration
period of the building.
Failing to undertake adequate measures to assure the
protection of wood features from the restoration period.
Repairing, stabilizing, and conserving fragile wood
from the restoration period using well-tested consolidants,
when appropriate. Repairs should be physically and visually
compatible and identifiable upon close inspection for
The totem pole collection at Sitka National
Historical Park (top) embodies the rich carving
traditions--past and present--of Southeast Alaskan
Natives. In a project to restore the carvings along
one pole to reduce water penetration and fungal
decay, borates were first applied (left) using
a sprayer and brushes; and (right) a water-repellent
with mildewcide was applied. Photos: NPS files.
Repairing wood features from the restoration period
by patching, piecing-in, or otherwise reinforcing the
wood 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 features from the restoration
period where there are surviving prototypes such as
brackets, molding, or sections of siding. The new work
should be unobtrusively dated to guide future research
Removing wood from the restoration period that could
be stabilized and conserved; or using untested consolidants
and untrained personnel, thus causing further damage
to fragile historic materials.
Replacing an entire wood feature from the restoration
period such as a cornice or wall when repair of the
wood and limited replacement of deteriorated or missing
parts are appropriate.
Using substitute material for the replacement part
that does not convey the visual appearance of the surviving
parts of the wood feature or that is physically or chemically
Replacing in kind an entire wood 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 of wood features include a cornice, entablature
or balustrade. 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
Removing a wood 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
wood features that would be retained in Preservation
and Rehabilitation treatments; and the replacement
of missing wood features from the restoration
period using all new materials.
Removing Existing Features from Other Historic
Removing or altering wood features from other
historic periods such as a later doorway, porch,
19th century clapboards and trim have been discovered underneath
mid-20th century shingles. All the later shingles will be removed in order to restore the original appearance of the house. The consistent backdating of a historic building is a major documentary effort that goes far beyond the ordinary maintenance of existing materials and features. Photo:
© John Leeke.
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
Failing to remove a wood feature from another
period, thus confusing the depiction of the building's
significance.Failing to document wood 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 wood feature that existed
during the restoration period based on physical
or documentary evidence; for example, duplicating
a roof dormer or porch.
Constructing a wood 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.