How Do I Restore or Rehabilitate a Historic Building?Updated
Rehabilitating or restoring an old building is an exciting challenge. Although the process can be difficult (not to mention expensive and time-consuming), all of your hard work will be richly rewarded when you successfully complete your project. Keep in mind, too, that you do not have to do it all yourself. Many professionals are available to assist you during every phase of your project: architects, architectural historians, landscape architects, contractors, and suppliers as well as researchers, librarians, and preservationists.
How Do I Start?
Before buying a historic building, you should first determine the condition of the building by thoroughly inspecting it yourself or with a trained professional, such as an architect, structural engineer, or a building inspector with renovation experience. A local preservation organization can probably recommend an appropriate person. Carefully map out what you want to accomplish and budget how much money you can afford to spend.
The next step is research. The more you know about your building, the more accurate your restoration will be. You will also save money by eliminating as much guess work as possible before beginning any actual work on the building.
· Search for deeds, tax records, property abstracts, and maps to determine your property's previous owners and the history of the building. Your city or county records office can help you begin.
· Look through city directories, census records, and insurance maps for information on the building's previous owners. Your public library and local historic society will have this information.
· To determine whether the building is a designated historic structure on the local, state, or national level, or to find out if it is within an historic district, contact your State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).
· If your building is indeed a locally designated historic structure, or in a historic district, you may need local approval to make any changes to the exterior. Ask your local planning office.
· Easements or other tax abatement programs may be available to you. Again, your local planning office and local historical commission are the best sources of information.
Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation
The Secretary of Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings is an excellent resource for all work done on old buildings. These guidelines are used to determine whether the historic character of a building is preserved in the process of rehabilitation. The guidelines recommend responsible methods and approaches and list treatments that should be avoided. A copy can be obtained from your State Historic Preservation officer, on-line at http://www.cr.nps.gov/hps/tps/standguide/index.htm, or from the Government Printing Office, 941 North Capitol Street, NW, Washington, DC 20002; 202-512-1800. For more information write to the National Park Service, Heritage Preservation Services-424, P.O. Box 37127, Washington, DC 20013-7127; or call 202-354-2213.
"Ten Basic Principles for Sensitive Rehabilitation"
"What Every Restorer Should Know," an article by Susan Morse, appeared in the January/February 1989 issue of Historic Preservation. Morse lists the Department of the Interior's "Ten Basic Principles for Sensitive Rehabilitation," also known as the "Do's and Don'ts for First-Timers and Veterans."
1. Make every effort to use the building for its original purpose.
2. Do not destroy distinctive original features.
3. Recognize all buildings as products of their own time.
4. Recognize and respect changes that have taken place over time.
5. Treat sensitively distinctive stylistic features or examples of skilled craft work.
6. Repair rather than replace worn architectural features when possible. When replacement is necessary, new material should match the old in design, composition, and color.
7. Clean facades using the gentlest methods possible. Avoid sandblasting and other damaging methods.
8. Protect and preserve affected archeological resources.
9. Compatible contemporary alterations are acceptable if they do not destroy significant historical or architectural fabric.
10. Build new additions so they can be removed without impairing the underlying structure.