Maintain, Repair or Restore
Knowing the secret – When to Maintain, Repair or Restore your architectural heritage
These three words summarize the philosophy of architectural heritage conservation and enhancement. They are what needs to be remembered and they will be discussed throughout the articles in this website.
A building is made of different components which are themselves made with different materials. Some of these materials are fragile and their life expectancy varies according to their nature. Wood for instance, will need to be treated or painted to extend its useful life. Other materials such as stone or slate are relatively weatherproof and will be more affected by impacts or damage than by wear and decay.
So it is easy to understand that, to ensure proper maintenance of your house, you will need to focus on its weakest components. Theoretically, a building will stand the test of time if it is well maintained. Ancestral homes in Québec and, perhaps even more so, medieval houses in Europe are prime examples of this.
Exterior woodworkAny joinery work or wooden lining, in particular on the walls., finely worked metal and sheetmetal on roofs need particular attention and must be protected against their mortal enemy: water. To accomplish this, they must be painted regularly so rust and decay won’t set in.
When properly painted and protected, original doors and windows will last for many years, the beautiful zinc coated sheet metal cornices A generally horizontal building element, with a sometime utilitarian role (to throw rainwater clear off a wall) but mostly decorative. will continue to top beautiful façades and the wrought iron balustradesRailing, often with an openwork design, formed by pillars and topped with a ramp to prevent falls. and staircases will continue to shine under the sun for decades to come.
In an ideal world, successive owners of a house would have ensured its maintenance over the years. If this was not the case, some elements will surely show signs of wear and deterioration. However, before we consider replacing then, we must remember the second principle of our approach: repair.
Most of the component elements of an old building can be repaired, given that they are made with materials that can be mended. For instance, the decayed or damaged part of a window frame can be replaced with a piece of wood that is sound. This will save you from changing the window. Furthermore, let’s not forget that aesthetically speaking, it is sometimes difficult to change only one window and that, if repairs are not undertaken in time, there maybe no other choice but to replace all the windows. Overlooked maintenance that may seem trivial at first can sometimes result in major and expensive work that could have been avoided by simply taking the time to consider available repair options.
Of course, it is not always possible to repair and we must then resign ourselves to replacing the component that is irreparable.
Replacing architectural elements on a heritage façade is always a hazardous undertaking. It is always best to replace the damaged element with an identical one. The original model of a window, a door or piece of decorative woodworkAny joinery work or wooden lining, in particular on the walls. is part of a whole that gives the façade its distinctive character. If you introduce a disparate element you will destroy its overall balance.
If the original model is not available or is too costly, a replacement model that is as similar as possible must be found. If the elements that you need to replace are not the original ones, you will need to examine similar neighbouring façades to try to find this authentic prototype. So now, pick up your scrapers and brushes and get going on your home maintenance!