Historic Building Restoration: Preservation Techniques


Preserving and restoring historic buildings requires a great deal of care and precision in order to avoid compromising the structure and interior of the building. Preserving historic structures requires taking into account the vulnerability of the structure and its contents and adopting restoration techniques and technologies to account for weaknesses and degradations in the building. Restoration often involved preserving original contents like fixtures and hardware. This kind of work necessitates specialized equipment and a delicate approach to reconstruction and any type of historical maintenance work.

Evaluating the Space

Like any reconstruction or restoration endeavor, evaluating the space is the first place to start. Look at the structural integrity and work your way through the individual vital components of the home–such as electrical wiring, plumbing, heating and cooling systems, insulation, and onto cosmetic things. Getting a good idea about what needs the most attention and setting priorities is the best way to approach such a potentially large project.

Special care will need to taken with certain components and important systems like electrical and plumbing may be outdated and in disrepair. In preservation and restoration of historic sites, historic structures reports are commonly used to evaluate and document a site’s history, conditions, and maintenance over time. Looking into the history helps approach the preservation with the right information to successfully develop a comprehensive restoration plan.

Building Materials & Technology

Understanding building materials–past and present–and how these materials age and fail is crucial in any preservation project. Knowing how to identify, care for, and maintain historic building materials is one of the most important parts of the historic restoration process. In order to improve and reinforce a structure, you must be able to assess the materials used in the construction and adjust the project. Rehabilitation techniques and utilizing specialized contractors to assist in the preservation are also important points to consider.

Much of the most effective preservation techniques come down to making the building energy efficient and in line with modern building standards. Replacing windows, water heaters, furnaces, re-roofing, insulating, re-wiring, plumbing, and installing new, more efficient fixtures are all effective techniques for historic building restoration. Mapping the structure and understanding the materials used in the building are essential techniques for beginning a preservation project. After this, the work consists of gathering materials, replacing components, and renovating.

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