Four men wearing protective personal equipment work on a red brick building's pediment, using sanders and producing dust.

The Most Common Challenges in Historic Building Restoration

Restoring a vintage building, whether for the purpose of turning it into a residence, office space, or some other functional space, is an incredibly rewarding experience—specially for the local economy, which often thrives after a historic building restoration. It’s also a challenging change that comes with issues and hazards you won’t encounter with new construction. Here are some of the most common challenges in building restoration.

Hazardous Materials

They may have known how to build things to last in the past, but they didn’t always use the best or safest materials to do so. Before you begin restoring a building, perform an environmental site assessment. Inspectors must test all materials considered hazardous and create a list of what to address before restoration begins. Among these hazards are asbestos, mercury, lead paint, PCBs, and more.

Many hazardous materials in old buildings can cause illness, injury, and even death, so they require certified personnel to handle them upon discovery. These professionals remove the hazards using special safety gear, tools, and disposal methods. The EPA estimates that construction and demolition projects generated more than 600 million tons of waste and debris in 2018 alone. Because of its hazardous nature, that waste can’t enter municipal solid waste landfills.

Getting Approval for Changes

Local communities can be protective of historical properties. Such properties usually have specific rules on restoration to preserve the integrity and look of a property. Your plans and designs for a building may need approval not only to meet local building codes but also rules and regulations set up by architectural review boards, historical commissions, environmental protection departments, and others.

Draft plans and present them to groups with proof of your intent to preserve the building without defacing it. This requires the services of architects, engineers, restoration experts, and possibly attorneys.

One-of-a-Kind Features

The things that make vintage buildings so special also make them very difficult to restore. The old-world craftspeople who worked on these buildings are gone, and few construction companies practice those skills and techniques nowadays. Many materials are no longer available—certain woods are extinct or cannot be used in construction anymore, for instance. And it’s too easy to destroy the old while adding the new.

After a century or so, the original brick, mortar, plaster, lathe, and so forth may be barely hanging on and will crumble if it encounters excessive force or even vibrations from workers’ tools and machinery. Reproductions can cost huge amounts of cash and risk looking unattractive. Preserving historical features is an ongoing balancing act and can add more time and money to your projected budget.

Structural Integrity

Old buildings sometimes have good bones, as they say. More often, they don’t. You’ll need to hire a structural engineer to test the strength of the timbers forming the building’s internal frame as well as load-bearing walls. The foundation will come under scrutiny as well, and the need to repour or reinforce it before beginning extensive restoration work is a strong possibility.

Those are some of the most common challenges in building restoration. Consider them carefully before embarking on a vintage building restoration project!

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Sue

Sue Baxter

Susie Young Baxter, CEO, has published PanoramaNOW Magazine for 31 years. Her hobbies are Camping, Boating, Hiking, Nature, Gardening and Outdoor Activities. She is an Artist, Graphic Designer, an Avid Seamstress, Dabbles in Homemade Crafts and Landscaping. Since her Father was a Health Teacher, she also likes homeopathic Health Solutions. Since blogging started over 10 years ago, PanoramaNow has been added to Newsbreak – a national news affiliate.

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About The Author

Sue Baxter

Susie Young Baxter, CEO, has published PanoramaNOW Magazine for 31 years. Her hobbies are Camping, Boating, Hiking, Nature, Gardening and Outdoor Activities. She is an Artist, Graphic Designer, an Avid Seamstress, Dabbles in Homemade Crafts and Landscaping. Since her Father was a Health Teacher, she also likes homeopathic Health Solutions. Since blogging started over 10 years ago, PanoramaNow has been added to Newsbreak - a national news affiliate.