Preservation Briefs

Preservation Briefs provide information on preserving, rehabilitating, and restoring historic buildings. These publications help historic building owners recognize and resolve common problems prior to work. The briefs are especially useful to Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program applicants because they recommend methods and approaches for rehabilitating historic buildings that are consistent with their historic character.

Most of the briefs are sold ONLY in sets through the U.S. Government Bookstore of the Government Printing Office.

Preservation Briefs #1–14 are sold only as a set—GPO stock number 024-005-01026-2
Preservation Briefs #15–23 are sold only as a set—GPO stock number 024-005-01256-7
Preservation Briefs #24–34 are sold only as a set—GPO stock number 024-005-01147-1
Preservation Briefs #35–42 are sold only as a set—GPO stock number 024-005-01219-2

Preservation Briefs #1, 3, 14, 15, 33, 35, 37, 39, 41–50 can be purchased as single copies.

  1. Assessing Cleaning and Water-Repellent Treatments for Historic Masonry Buildings. Robert C. Mack, FAIA, and Anne E. Grimmer. Surveys a variety of cleaning methods and materials and provides guidance on selecting the most appropriate method and the gentlest means possible. Discusses water-repellent and waterproof coatings, the purpose of each, the suitability of their application to historic masonry buildings, and possible consequences of their inappropriate use. 2000. GPO stock number 024-005-01207-9
  2. Repointing Mortar Joints in Historic Masonry Buildings. Robert C. Mack, FAIA, and John P. Speweik. Provides general guidance on appropriate materials and methods for repointing historic masonry buildings. 1998.
  3. Improving Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings. Jo Ellen Hensley and Antonio Aguilar. Discusses the inherent energy efficient features of historic buildings. Recommends actions to increase energy efficiency. Describes alternate energy sources that have been used for historic buildings. 2011. GPO stock number 024-005-01294-0
  4. Roofing for Historic Buildings. Sara M. Sweetser. Provides a brief historic of the most commonly used roofing materials in America. Presents a sound preservation approach to roof repair, roof replacement, and the use of alternative roofing materials. 1978.
  5. The Preservation of Historic Adobe Buildings. Provides information on the traditional materials and construction of adobe buildings and the causes of adobe deterioration. Makes recommendations for preserving historic adobe buildings. 1978.
  6. Dangers of Abrasive Cleaning to Historic Buildings. Anne E. Grimmer. Cautions against the use of sandblasting to clean various buildings and suggests measures to mitigate the effects of improper cleaning. Explains the limited circumstances under which abrasive cleaning may be appropriate. 1979.
  7. The Preservation of Historic Glazed Architectural Terra-Cotta. de Teel Patterson Tiller. Discusses deterioration problems common to terra-cotta and provides methods for determining the extent of deterioration. Makes recommendations for maintenance and repair and suggests appropriate replacement materials. 1979.
  8. Aluminum and Vinyl Siding on Historic Buildings: The Appropriateness of Substitute Materials for Resurfacing Historic Wood Frame Buildings (1984). Rescinded October 2023; information and guidance no longer represent best historic preservation practices.
  9. The Repair of Historic Wooden Windows. John H. Myers. Provides information on evaluating the condition of historic wood windows and on practical methods for repair. 1981.
  10. Exterior Paint Problems on Historic Woodwork. Kay D. Weeks and David W. Look, AIA. Identifies and describes common types of paint surface conditions and failures. Provides guidance on preparing historic woodwork for repainting, including limited and total paint removal. 1982.
  11. Rehabilitating Historic Storefronts. H. Ward Jandl. Explores the role of the storefront in historic buildings and provides guidance on rehabilitation techniques for historic storefronts as well as compatible storefront designs. 1982.
  12. The Preservation of Historic Pigmented Structural Glass (Vitrolite and Carrara Glass). Provides information on the early manufacture, installation, and use of this decorative building product commonly found in 20th century buildings; reasons for its damage; and a general approach for its maintenance, repair, and replacement. 1984.
  13. The Repair and Thermal Upgrading of Historic Steel Windows. Sharon C. Park, AIA. Presents brief historical background on the development, use, and styles of rolled steel windows popular in the first half of the 20th century. Explains steps for cleaning and repairing damaged steel windows; provides information on methods of weatherstripping and options for storm panels or the installation of thermal glass. 1984.
  14. Exterior Additions to Historic Buildings: Preservation Concerns. Anne E. Grimmer and Kay D. Weeks. Uses a series of examples to suggest ways that attached additions can successfully serve contemporary uses as part of a rehabilitation project while preserving significant historic materials and features and the building's historic character. 2010. GPO stock number 024-005-01280-0
  15. Preservation of Historic Concrete. Paul Gaudette and Deborah Slaton. Discusses the characteristics of concrete and causes of deterioration. Includes information on cleaning, maintenance, and repair, and on protective systems. 2007. GPO stock number 024-005-01253-2
  16. NEW The Use of Substitute Materials on Historic Building Exteriors. John Sandor, David Trayte, Amy Elizabeth Uebel. Provides general guidance on the use of substitute materials as replacement materials for distinctive features on the exterior of historic buildings. Revised 2023. NEW
  17. Architectural Character—Identifying the Visual Aspects of Historic Buildings as an Aid to Preserving Their Character. Lee H. Nelson, FAIA. Essential guidance to help property owners and architects identify those features of historic buildings that give the building its visual character so that their preservation can be maximized in rehabilitation. 1988.
  18. Rehabilitating Interiors in Historic Buildings—Identifying Character-Defining Elements. H. Ward Jandl. Assists building owners in identifying significant interior spaces, features, and finishes so they may be preserved in rehabilitation work. Applies to all building types and styles, from 18th century churches to 20th century office buildings. 1988.
  19. The Repair and Replacement of Historic Wooden Shingle Roofs. Sharon C. Park, AIA. Discusses historic wooden roofing, expectations for longevity, and repair and replacement options. Identifies roofing material that duplicates the appearance of a historic roof, offers guidance on proper installation, and provides information on coatings and maintenance procedures to help preserve the roof. 1989.
  20. The Preservation of Historic Barns. Michael J. Auer. Identifies historic barn types, helps owners understand the historic character of their barns, and offers advice on the maintenance, repair, and rehabilitation of old and historic barns. 1989.
  21. Repairing Historic Flat Plaster—Walls and Ceilings. Marylee MacDonald. Guides building owners on repairing historic plaster using traditional materials (wet plaster) and techniques. Suggests replacement options if the historic plaster is severely deteriorated. Useful chart on various plaster bases and compatible basecoats and finish coats. 1989.
  22. The Preservation and Repair of Historic Stucco. Anne E. Grimmer. Describes the evolution of stucco as a building material, beginning with a brief history of how stucco is applied, and how its composition, texture, and surface patterns have changed. Includes guidelines on how to plan for and carry out repair of historic stucco, with sample mixes for 18th, 19th, and 20th century stucco types. 1990.
  23. Preserving Historic Ornamental Plaster. David Flaharty. Discusses ornamental plaster production, explaining the processes of run-in-place and cast ornamentation using three common decorative forms as examples: the cornice, ceiling medallion, and coffered ceiling. Provides guidance on identifying causes of deterioration and understanding complex restoration techniques. Includes useful advice on selecting and evaluating a restoration contractor. 1990.
  24. Heating, Ventilating, and Cooling Historic Buildings: Problems and Recommended Approaches. Sharon C. Park, AIA. Underscores the importance of careful planning in order to balance preservation objectives with the interior climate needs of the building. 1991.
  25. The Preservation of Historic Signs. Michael J. Auer. Discusses the history of sign types pre-1800 to the 20th century, including symbol signs, flat signs, fascia signs, hanging signs, goldleaf signs, rooftop signs, and neon signs. Makes recommendations for their repair and re-use. 1991.
  26. The Preservation and Repair of Historic Log Buildings. Bruce. L. Bomberger. Focuses on horizontally laid or vertically positioned logs, but the preservation and repair treatments are essentially the same for all log structures. Discusses traditional splicing-in techniques, the use of epoxies, and replacement, as well as guidance on the repair and replacement of chinking and daubing. 1991.
  27. The Maintenance and Repair of Architectural Cast Iron. John G. Waite; historical overview by Margot Gayle. Discusses the role of cast iron in 19th-century industrial development and the resulting advances in building design, technology, ornamental detailing. Provides essential guidance on maintaining and repairing architectural cast iron. 1991.
  28. Painting Historic Interiors. Sara B. Chase. Discusses wall paint and decorative surface treatments from the late 17th century to the 1950s. Describes the usefulness of a complete paint investigation for preservation and restoration projects. Provides guidance on the common causes of interior paint failure and preparing surfaces for repainting. Makes recommendations about paint with health and safety factors in mind. 1992.
  29. The Repair, Replacement, and Maintenance of Slate Roofs. Jeffrey S. Levine. Describes the causes of slate roof failures and provides comprehensive guidance on their repair and, when necessary, their appropriate replacement. Repair/Replacement Guidelines are included to assist owners prior to work. 1992.
  30. The Preservation and Repair of Historic Clay Tile Roofs. Anne E. Grimmer and Paul K. Williams. Reviews the history of clay roofing tiles and describes many types and shapes of historic tiles, as well as their method of attachment. Provides general guidance for historic property owners on how to plan and carry out a project involving the repair and selected replacement of historic clay roofing tiles. 1992.
  31. Mothballing Historic Buildings. Sharon C. Park, AIA. Describes process of protecting a deteriorating historic building from weather as well as vandalism when funds are not currently available to begin a preservation, rehabilitation, or restoration project. 1993.
  32. Making Historic Properties Accessible. Thomas C. Jester and Sharon C. Park, AIA. Introduces the complex issue of providing accessibility at historic properties, and underscores the need to balance accessibility and historic preservation. Provides guidance and many examples of successful projects. 1993.
  33. The Preservation and Repair of Stained and Leaded Glass. Neal A. Vogel and Rolf Achilles. Gives a short history of stained and leaded glass in America. Surveys basic preservation and documentation issues and addresses common causes of deterioration and presents protection, repair, and restoration options. Updated 2007. GPO stock number 024-005-01254-1
  34. Applied Decoration for Historic Interiors: Preserving Historic Composition Ornament. Jonathan Thornton and William Adair, FAAR. Describes the history, appearance, and characteristics of this uniquely pliable material. Provides guidance on identifying compo and suggests appropriate treatments, depending upon whether the project goal is preservation or restoration. 1994.
  35. Understanding Old Buildings: The Process of Architectural Investigation. Travis C. McDonald, Jr. Explains architectural investigation as the critical first step in planning an appropriate treatment. Addresses the investigative process of understanding how a building has changed over time and assessing levels of deterioration. 1994. GPO stock number 024-005-01143-9
  36. Protecting Cultural Landscapes: Planning, Treatment, and Management of Historic Landscapes. Charles A. Birnbaum, ASLA. Describes types of cultural landscapes. Provides a step-by-step process for preserving historic designed and vernacular landscapes to ensure a successful balance between historic preservation and change. 1994.
  37. Appropriate Methods of Reducing Lead-Paint Hazards in Historic Housing. Sharon C. Park, AIA, and Douglas C. Hicks. Under revision to reflect current Federal laws and regulations concerning lead-based paint.
  38. Removing Graffiti from Historic Masonry. Martin E. Weaver. Focuses on cleaning methods to remove surface-applied graffiti without damaging historic masonry. Includes tips for successful graffiti removal, a discussion of barrier coatings, and useful charts designed to guide the graffiti-removal process. 1995.
  39. Holding the Line: Controlling Unwanted Moisture in Historic Buildings. Sharon C. Park, AIA. Outlines a way to diagnose moisture problems and choose remedial treatments. Provides guidance on managing moisture deterioration, repairing and maintaining historic building materials, and correcting common problem areas. Includes charts on types of diagnostic tools, recommended treatments and treatments that should always be avoided. 1996. GPO stock mumber 024-005-01168-4
  40. Preserving Historic Ceramic Tile Floors. Anne E. Grimmer and Kimberly A. Konrad. Summarizes the historical use of glazed and unglazed ceramic flooring tiles and describes different types of tiles. Provides guidance for maintaining and preserving historic ceramic tile flooring, on cleaning treatments, and on protective and code-required, slip resistant coatings. Also contains information on various repair options, as well as the selective replacement of damaged tiles. 1996.
  41. The Seismic Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings. Antonio Aguilar. Discusses the issues of protecting historic buildings from earthquake damage. Describes approaches to seismic retrofit that make a building safe without destroying significant historic materials. Provides guidance on the extent of strengthening to consider, design approaches, and the visual impact of these changes. 2016. GPO stock number 024-005-01322-9
  42. The Maintenance, Repair, and Replacement of Historic Cast Stone. Richard Pieper. Provides a brief history of the manufacture and use of cast stone. Discusses the causes of its deterioration, repairable conditions, and methods of repair. Addresses the replication and replacement of historic cast stone installations, and the use of cast stone as a substitute replacement material for natural stone. 2001. GPO stock number 024-005-01190-1
  43. The Preparation and Use of Historic Structure Reports. Deborah Slaton. Defines the historic structure report and provides a historical overview of its use. Outlines an entire procedure for preparing a report, taking a team approach. 2004. GPO stock number 024-005-01191-9
  44. The Use of Awnings on Historic Buildings: Repair, Replacement and New Design. Chad Randl. Provides a historic overview of the practical and aesthetic use of various types of awnings. Presents guidance for their maintenance, preservation, and repair. Discusses the circumstances under which awning replacement is appropriate and how to achieve a compatible design for new awnings on historic buildings. 2004. GPO stock number 024-005-01222-2
  45. Preserving Historic Wooden Porches. Aleca Sullivan and John Leeke. Explains how to assess the condition of historic porches. Provides detailed procedures for proper maintenance and repair, and includes measures to address code issues. Provides a range of information from the selection of materials to guidance on contemporary alterations. 2006. GPO stock number 024-005-01240-1
  46. The Preservation and Reuse of Historic Gas Stations. Chad Randl. Provides guidance on assessing the significance of historic gas stations and provides information on their maintenance and repair. Describes appropriate rehabilitation treatments, including conversions for new functions when the historic use is no longer feasible. 2008. GPO stock number 024-005-01264-8
  47. Maintaining the Exterior of Small and Medium Size Historic Buildings. Sharon Park, FAIA. Discusses the benefits of regular inspection, monitoring, and seasonal maintenance work for historic buildings. Provides guidance on maintenance treatments for historic building exteriors. 2006. GPO stock number 024-005-01252-4
  48. Preserving Grave Markers in Historic Cemeteries. Mary F. Striegel, Frances Gale, Jason Church, and Debbie Dietrich-Smith. Describes grave marker materials and the risk factors that contribute to their decay. provides guidance for assessing their condition, and discusses maintenance programs and various preservation treatments. 2016.GPO stock number 024-005-01328-8
  49. Historic Decorative Metal Ceilings and Walls: Use, Repair, and Replacement. Kaaren R. Staveteig. Discusses the history and manufacturing of decorative metal for ceiling and wall applications; provides information on paint removal, maintenance, and repair; and includes guidance on replacement. 2017. GPO stock number 024-005-01330-0
  50. Lightning Protection for Historic Structures. Charles E. Fisher. Describes the history and components of traditional lightning protection systems; discusses inspection, evaluation, and maintenance of systems; and provides guidance on the repair of systems and the installation of new systems. 2017. GPO stock number 024-005-01341-5

Last updated: May 16, 2024