How-To Resources

The maintenance of historic buildings can be a daunting challenge.

When you own or live in a historic building, it can sometimes be a daunting challenge to address repairs and maintenance. These buildings often feature unique, character-defining details that require careful attention. Thankfully, there is an abundance of resources for property owners who have made the commitment to working with – not against – their older buildings.

One of the key considerations in a life cycle assessment of a historic building is the quality of its materials. The materials in historic houses often can last indefinitely if properly cared for. Many homes have old-growth wood windows, brick and wood exteriors, and stone foundations that are a hundred years old or older. These materials can easily last another one hundred years because of their inherent quality. Contrast this with common materials today such as new-growth wood elements or vinyl windows that often require replacement after just ten to twenty years.

Below is a variety of how-to resources for property owners who need a better understanding of how to maintain their historic property – if there is a particular area not listed here or you need additional information, feel free to email us anytime!


From the National Park Service:

Preservation Briefs: These briefs cover a wide variety of treatments for all components of historic buildings.
Preservation Tech Notes: Various case studies in historic preservation, with a focus on building materials.

How-To Blogs and Discussion Forums

The Historic District  Discussion forum for do-it-yourselfers who own or live in historic buildings
Historic HomeWorks  Information on the treatment and maintenance of older building materials, with a focus on wood windows and trim.
The Craftsman Blog  Various how-to categories for older buildings

Anatomy of Old Buildings

“A-Z in Your Old House: A Primer for Homeowners,” Historic New England. An excellent beginning resource for property owners.
“How Old Buildings were Designed to Work,” article by Bob Yapp for the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions
“Anatomy of a Main Street Building,” State of Washington Historic Preservation Office. Using examples from Washington state, this presentation gives a thorough overview of historic commercial buildings.
“Timber, Balloon, or Platform Frame?” The Craftsman Blog. An introductory article on popular framing methods for older, wood-framed buildings.

Energy Efficiency, Weatherization & Sustainability

“Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings,” National Park Service. Various weatherization methods and energy conservation solutions are outlined.
“Energy Advice for Owners of Older and Historic Homes,” US Environmental Protection Agency. General information and strategies on energy conservation in historic buildings.
“Weatherization Guide for Older & Historic Buildings,” National Trust for Historic Preservation. A roof-to-foundation guide for various weatherization strategies.
“Saving Energy in your Older Home,” UGA College of Family & Consumer Services. Quick tips for weatherizing historic houses.
Seven Ways to Weatherize,” Old House Journal. Quick tips for weatherizing historic houses.
“What Window Replacements Can’t Replace,” Journal of Preservation Technology.  Several myths and facts about window replacement are discussed.
“How to Insulate Your Drafty Historic Home,” Flagpole Magazine. Weatherization advice from a local perspective.
“Sample Guidelines for Solar Systems in Historic Districts,” National Alliance of Preservation Commissions. Helpful overview of considerations for installing solar systems on buildings in locally-designated historic districts.
“Installing Solar Panels on Historic Buildings,” North Carolina Solar Center, et. al.  A collaborative study that looks at all facets of installing solar systems on historic buildings.
“Illustrated Guidelines on Sustainability for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings,” National Park Service.  These guidelines offer specific guidance on how to make historic buildings more sustainable in a manner that will preserve their historic character and that will meet The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
“Balancing Solar Energy Use with Potential Competing Interests,” American Planning Association. Briefing paper that analyzes various competing interests with solar installations, including historic preservation.

Window Repair

“How to Repair Sash Windows,” This Old House.  Step-by-step procedures for the do-it-yourselfer.
“How to Repair Old Wood Windows,” The Craftsman Blog.  A more detailed breakdown of the window repair process.
“How to Restore Sash Windows,” Old House Online. Step-by-step procedures for the do-it-yourselfer.
“Restoring Window Sashes,” Fine Homebuilding.  Informative article on the benefits of sash restoration and steps involved.

Exterior Painting

“Exterior Paint Problems on Historic Woodwork,” National Park Service.  In depth discussion on all things related to exterior paint.
“A Guide to Painting your Historic House,” City of Bloomington, IN.  Basic breakdown of best practices when dealing with exterior paint.
“Understanding Georgia’s Lead Paint Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule,” Hunter MacLean Attorneys.  Summary of 2011 Georgia legislation that established new parameters for lead abatement.