<photo>Detail of window arches above a rehabilitated storefront;  Link to National Park Service
<photo> historic wood elements

Identify    Protect    Repair    Replace    Missing feature  

Identify, Retain and Preserve

Identifying, retaining, and preserving wood features that are important in defining the overall historic character of the building such as siding, cornices, brackets, window architraves, and doorway pediments; and their paints, finishes, and colors.

photo showing importance of wood trim to the historic character of a building

The wooden trim on the eaves and around the porch gives this building its special historic character. Loss of the wood trim would destroy much of the character that is so dependent upon craftsmanship for the moldings, carvings, and the see-through jigsaw work. Photo: NPS files.

Not Recommended
Removing or radically changing wood features which are important in defining the overall historic character of the building so that, as a result, the character is diminished.

Removing a major portion of the historic wood from a facade instead of repairing or replacing only the deteriorated wood, then reconstructing the facade with new material in order to achieve a uniform or "improved" appearance. Wood features inappropriately stripped of traditional painted finish.

Radically changing the type of finish or its color or accent scheme so that the historic character of the exterior is diminished.

Stripping historically painted surfaces to bare wood, then applying clear finishes or stains in order to create a "natural look."

Stripping paint or varnish to bare wood rather than repairing or reapplying a special finish, i.e., a grain finish to an exterior wood feature such as a front door.

photo showing how distinctive wood features on a historic buiding were inappropriately stripped of their traditional painted finish

The distinctive wood features on this historic building have been inappropriately stripped of their traditional painted finish. Photo: NPS files.

Protect and Maintain

Protecting and maintaining wood features by providing proper drainage so that water is not allowed to stand on flat, horizontal surfaces or accumulate in decorative features.

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 required. Removing damaged or deteriorated paint to the next sound layer using the gentlest method possible (handscraping and handsanding), then repainting.

photo of a heat gun nozzle aimed into solid decorative surfaces of a carriage house door

The nozzle on the electric heat gun permits hot air to be aimed into cavities on solid decorative surfaces, such as this carriage house door. After the paint has been sufficiently softened, it can be carefully removed with a scraper. Photo: NPS files.

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 preparation. Repainting with colors that are appropriate to the historic building and district.

Evaluating the overall condition of the wood to determine whether more than protection and maintenance are required, that is, if repairs to wood features will be necessary.

Not Recommended
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 can change the appearance of wood features unless they were used historically.

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 a 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 inappropriate to the historic building or district. Failing to undertake adequate measures to assure the protection of wood features.



Repairing wood features by patching, piecing-in, consolidating, 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 where there are surviving prototypes such as brackets, molding, or sections of siding.

photo of a broken clapboard that has been repaired and is ready to be painted

A broken clapboard is easily repaired. This board was replaced with one that matches the size and type of the neighboring clapboards. With a coat of primer and two topcoats of paint, this repair will last as long as the original clapboards next to it. Photo: © John Leeke.

Not Recommended
Replacing an entire wood feature 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 incompatible.


Replacing in kind an entire wood feature that is too deteriorated to repair--if the overall form and detailing are still evident--using the physicalevidence 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.

photo of a rotted wood column base being replaced with new wood

This rotted wood column base is being replaced with new wood. Photo: NPS files.

Not Recommended
Removing an entire wood feature that is unrepairable and not replacing it; or replacing it with a new feature that does not convey the same visual appearance.

The following work is highlighted to indicate that it represents the particularly complex technical or design aspects of Rehabilitation projects and should only be considered after the preservation concerns listed above have been addressed.

Design for the Replacement of Missing Historic Features

Designing and installing a new wood feature such as a cornice or doorway when the historic feature is completely missing. It may be an accurate restoration using historical, pictorial, and physical documentation; or be a new design that is compatible with the size, scale, material, and color of the historic building.

Not Recommended
Creating a false historical appearance because the replaced wood feature is based on insufficient historical, pictorial, and physical documentation.

Introducing a new wood feature that is incompatible in size, scale, material and color.




The Approach

Exterior Materials
Architectural Metals

Exterior Features
Entrances + Porches

Interior Features
Structural System Spaces/Features/Finishes
Mechanical Systems



Special Requirements
Energy Efficiency
New Additions
Health + Safety

The Standards



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Historical Overview