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AUTHOR
Ben White »

Winter can be one of the hardest seasons on an historic building, especially in Missouri. The constant freezing and thawing can warp building materials and cause damage if not properly prepared for or dealt with quickly. Building owners need to be diligent in protecting historic buildings during the harsh winter months. Here are some helpful suggestions to alleviate problems before they occur:

 


-Check weather stripping around windows and doors. Install to prevent air filtration (1 hour, depending on type)


-If applicable, install interior storm windows for winter (2 hours)


-Caulk any gaps in wood for a temporary water tight seal (30 min)


-Inspect basement or crawl space for excessive water during wet weather (30 min)


-Sweep debris from flat or low sloping roofs (30 min)



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AUTHOR
Ben White »

Regular building maintenance is a crucial, yet easily forgotten, task for building owners. However, deferred maintenance can lead to more expensive, time-consuming measures in the future. It is better to head off any problems in the present than to deal with a larger headache in the future that could greatly impact not only the property owner, but also possibly even affect the business paying rent in the building.

 


Strategically budgeting for repairs is the first step a property owner should take to maintain their property. Repairs, whether planned for or not, will always happen. Building owners should consider developing a replacement schedule for items such as roof replacement, paint touch-up, window caulking, and more. Knowing when certain projects will need to be addressed helps to budget and get ahead of the problem before it even begins. For instance, a new roof is rated for 15 years. Building owners should budget to replace that roof in about 15 years to avoid issues like water damage that will harm the building further and cause additional, costly fixes. Other projects can include foundation repairs, leaking windows/replacement, and pest damage.

 


Building owners also benefit from emphasizing quality building maintenance and repairs and avoiding cheap fixes cutting corners. Cheap fixes generally equate to a Band-Aid being on the problem that may or may not actually solve the underlying issue. For example, repointing brick with mortar that will actually hurt the integrity of the brick can cause expensive, unforeseen problems. Building owners should take the time to either look at the problem or have a trained professional with historic building experience identify the issue so that a plan of action can be set into motion for the longevity of the building.

 



Deferred maintenance or repairs can also negatively affect the business owner that is paying rent in the building. Main Street America studies and findings published in, “An Analysis of the Economic Impact of Physical Improvements on Retail Sales” by Brenda Spencer show that customers are more willing to step foot in and pay money to a business located in a building that is more visually appealing than a building that appears to be rundown and neglected. For the business to make money and pay rent, they need to be located in a building that is maintained and inviting to the public.  

  


Be on the lookout for the next One-Pager from the Historic Preservation Committee on building maintenance best practices. To see the other completed one-pagers on “Shading Downtown: Awnings and Canopies”, “Masonry 101”, and “Painting 101: Historic Buildings”, please visit the Main Street blog and Main Street Resource Library.

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AUTHOR
Ben White »

Regular maintenance allows building owners to protect their building investment and to prevent larger, more expensive problems in the future. Summer brings excessive heat, storms, and vegetation growth that can compromise the structural integrity of unprotected buildings if not dealt with in a timely manner. Here are some steps that building owners can take for these summer months:



 

Summer Heat & HVAC Systems

Check and service HVAC systems to prevent failures (30 min).

  

 


Summer Storms & Water Damage

Check the grading around the foundation to make sure water will drain away from building and not pool (15 min).

Inspect the interior of the building for leaks during first heavy rain of season (30 min).

Inspect basements or crawl spaces for excessive water during wet weather (30 min).

Examine roof slope to make sure water is not pooling in any areas on the roof (15 min).

Make sure water can flow freely through the gutters and downspouts. Clean out if they are clogged (30 min).

Sweep debris from flat or low sloping roofs (30 min).

 

 


Vegetation Growth & Property Inspections:

Remove plants growing on or close to walls and foundation (30 min).

Visually check for moss or lichen, especially around parapets, sills, and downspouts (30 min).

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AUTHOR
Ben White »

Cleaning exterior masonry walls not only improves the overall appearance of your building, but also helps maintain the wall's structural integrity. Embedded dirt keeps in moisture and hosts harmful microorganisms, both of which damage a building's surface over time. However, inappropriate masonry cleaning can also cause irreparable damage to the masonry, so the decision to clean the masonry comes with these considerations: 


1. Mortar | The mortar between masonry units may need to be repointed before any cleaning method is undertaken. Otherwise, water will seep through deteriorated mortar, damaging exterior surface, inner metal support, and wall finishes. Infiltrating water can additionally cause salt deposits on or below a wall's surface upon evaporation, known as subflorescence and efflorescence, respectively.  Water itself can contain minerals which discolor or stain masonry, as can dissolved de-icing salts from adjacent sidewalks. An expert can help you determine if such salt deposits on your building are indicative of a need to repoint.


2. Masonry Type | The term "masonry" encompasses a multitude of building materials (i.e., brick, limestone, granite, cast concrete, glazed terra cotta, etc.), each with their own respective cleaning methods. Knowing the type of masonry is important because certain cleaning agents are incompatible with certain types of masonry. Ideally, multiple methods should be patch-tested to assess compatibility with your building's geological composition.


3. Building condition | Do you know what has changed since your building's construction, or prior treatments? What exactly needs to be removed, and where did it come from? These answers affect the type of cleaning agent is the best fit for your building and preventing future deterioration depends on the nature of the building's damage. Other potential cleaning prerequisites include replacing damaged masonry units, sealing doors and windows, investigating your building's architectural history and assessing environmental conditions.


4. Paint | As a rule, unpainted brick should remain unpainted. Paint is notoriously difficult to remove from bricks to the point where it is generally more practical to leave it on. Reasons for having painted a building range from design choice to protective coating; in some cases, buildings were painted later on to cover repairs and alterations. More information can be found in our one-pager, "Painting Your Building".

 

   


The importance of identifying your building's history, environment, and materials cannot be overstated, along with doing test patches. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that some stains remain impossible to remove, and environmental conditions can impact the effectiveness of many cleaning methods. Resources exist to help you determine appropriate cleaning methods. The Technical Preservation Services (National Park Service) website, local historic commission, independent preservation consultants, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Street Center are among many that can provide guidance. 

Ultimately, the goal is to clean as gently as possible, and that means different things for different materials. As a rule, abrasion is an inappropriate cleaning method for historic materials because of the irreparable damage it will cause to the surface of the masonry; sources of abrasion include metal bristle brushes, high pressure washing, and sand blasting (as well as blasting with other mediums, such as pecan shells, dry ice, crushed glass, etc). Seek verification from reputable resources before attempting anything more than a simple low-pressure water cleaning to ensure masonry surfaces remain intact and pollutants stay out of the environment.  

 


How To Clean Masonry Buildings 


1. Make sure all openings are watertight prior to cleaning, caulking around windows and doors. If using chemicals, protect the surrounding flora with a water-resistant material and line up appropriate receptacles to collect chemical runoff, also known as cleaning effluent. Also make sure all automobiles are removed well away from the building to avoid etching their paint finishes since these chemicals can be carried by even a light breeze!


2. Spray building with water using a low-pressure nozzle at least 18 inches from the surface. Pressure should be below 600psi – not much more than a garden hose jet spray nozzle. Research the mineral composition of your city's water supply to understand how it will affect your building, as some minerals have been known to stain.


3. Water is one of the gentlest cleaning agents, often paired with a non-ionic detergent and natural or synthetic bristle brush. This method is often the most economical. For particularly acid-sensitive masonry, steam cleaning is an effective, yet expensive option, but constant misting is a more affordable alternative.


4. Alternatively, use water to soften dirt before applying an appropriate chemical solution, using either a low-pressure sprayer, roller, or paintbrush. 
Leave cleaner on masonry for the time recommended by the manufacturer.


5. Start cleaning at the bottom of the wall and work your way up. Periodically check surface for signs of abrasion - pock marks, rough surface texture, rounded edges, or disintegration.


6. Graffiti removal often requires a cleaning agent separate from traditional paint and tar removal methods. The best product will depend on the type of masonry and graffiti, as well as the surface dimensions. The methods range from paste of inert clays to cellulose products mixed with water or other appropriate solvent. If applying paste, cover with plastic sheet to prevent evaporation.


7. Thoroughly rinse off any chemical treatment with water. Residue left behind can cause efflorescence. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for capturing the run-off to prevent polluting local waterways.


8. Make sure that all cleaning effluent is safely and legally disposed of after rinsing. Masonry walls can take several weeks to dry completely, at which point paint can be applied.

 


Safety First 


While we’ve highlighted the hazards cleaning chemicals pose to the environment, they can also be dangerous to your health. Airborne particles can enter surrounding buildings and cars, affecting nearby individuals and can badly burn the skin or eyes. It may be necessary to clean during non-business hours, nights, or weekends. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be provided and worn at all times, especially when removing graffiti; cleaning agents of this level must be disposed of professionally. Always check manufacturer's guidelines before cleaning. 

 


You can download this article as a PDF by clicking this link: Masonry 101: Historic Building & Cleaning Masonry.


This "Masonry 101: Historic Building & Cleaning Masonry" is brought to you by:

 


     

You can download this article as a PDF by clicking this link: Shading Downtown: Awnings and Canopies

 
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AUTHOR
Ben White »

Painting can be one of the most dramatic improvements you make to your building. However, only paint a building that has been previously painted to maintain the historic look of the building. Measures should be taken to remove old paint from brick to restore the original brick, if applicable. In addition, if repointing must be done to prep the façade, before painting, consult with a mason experienced with using the type of mortar for the age of your building. If the building is metal or has metal components, we recommend consulting with a  professional company for cleaning and preparatory work. The following steps will help smooth the way for a successful paint job on your historic building:

 

1. Evaluation. Determine what you need to prepare for painting. Check all the wood. Is it sound or rotting? Does it have insect damage? Repair or replace any damaged areas that you find. If you need to repaint your masonry building, first check the mortar. Make sure the surface is prepped correctly before proceeding, including looking for moisture damage or possible areas where moisture could come in. If the building needs repointing, do that before painting.


2. Timing. Plan a painting schedule. Some times of the year are better than others for painting. Good weather usually ensures a better paint job. Ask your local paint dealer for assistance.


3. Windows. Check the condition of your windows. Glaze and repair windows as necessary. Replace any deteriorated putty with a glazing compound; be sure to put it all around the window. Wait two or three days for the compound to dry before painting.


4. Old Paint. Prepare the surface adequately. Be sure to remove all peeling and loose paint. A variety of tools can be used: a wire brush, a scraper, a blow torch, or an electric heat gun. Use these last two devices carefully; employ only enough heat to soften the paint so that it can be easily removed. Do not blast masonry as this can ruin the old brick; instead, use a chemical application to help remove the old paint.


5. Primer. A primer should be used for all bare wood surfaces as it helps the final coat adhere. Mix a little of the finish coat paint with the primer to achieve a richer color. If working with metal, primers need to be chemically compatible with the type of metal material before painting; be sure to choose a paint that is rust-inhibiting as well.


6. Building Material. Determine the type of paint best suited for your building. Stone, brick, wood, concrete block, and metal all require different paints and primers.


7. Oil vs. Latex. Which kind of paint should you use, oil or latex? That can depend on the material!
We recommend reading more about this from Preservation Brief 11 from the National Park Service. There are advantages and disadvantages to each:


8. Shine. Be aware that there are three degrees of shine for paint: gloss, semi-gloss, and flat/matte.


9. Quality. Remember that quality paint will last longer than a cheap brand. It will not fade or peel as quickly and usually gives better coverage.

 

A Note on Lead Paint

If your building is more than 50 years old, it may contain lead-based paint. If you are removing the existing paint as part of the repainting process, have a sample tested. It is imperative that the testing be done by a reputable company or by a state testing lab. If there is a problem, contact your state environmental department for information on options for removing or encasing the lead-based paint.

 

    


An important reminder: Once you use latex, you must continue to use it. It is difficult to switch back to oil. If you have been using an oil-based paint, it is best to continue with oil.


The color you paint your building, window trim, or door is, to some extent, a personal decision. It is an expression of yourself and your commercial establishment. However, there are other people and things to think about. The following procedures can help you decide what colors to use on your building.

 

 


1. Look Around! Be a good neighbor and look at your building in the context of the entire block or downtown. The color of your building can affect the overall character of Main Street.


2. Investigate. Decide whether you'd like to return your building to its original paint colors. If you are seeking historical accuracy, carefully scrape a small area to reveal different layers of paint. Please note that over time, the original color may have faded. To get a better idea of the true color, wet the original surface. The base color will appear more accurately when moist.


3. Research. Color schemes for commercial buildings differ by region of the country. They also differ according to the period when the building was constructed. Scrape a small area of the building to determine its historic color. Sherwin Williams also has a line of historically-used colors to choose from. Choose a swatch that fits with the era of your building and what it was historically painted.


4. Sunlight. Think about how the sun strikes your building. The amount of sunlight can change the hue of paint color. Hold a paint splotch against your building on cloudy and sunny days. To be certain about your color choice, invest in a quart of paint and apply it. There is a great difference between a small color spot and an entire wall.


5. White Paint. It is important to remember that white paint was not used as widely during the Victorian period as it is today. White is a glaring color that does not blend in readily with most downtown environments. Historic downtown buildings traditionally used dark colors, especially on the window’s trim and architectural features.


6. Trim. Traditionally, building trim was painted as decoration, often in a contrasting shade lighter or darker than the primary building color. This paint treatment defined the trim, but it was not so overpowering that the trim colors dominated the buildings.


7. Aluminum Frames. Today, aluminum frames have frequently replaced traditional wood doors and windows. The shine and metallic color of the aluminum do not complement historic buildings. Paint them a more neutral color or choose darker, anodized frames if the original window has to be replaced or the original window has previously been replaced.


8. Accent. Paint color should be used to tie together all building elements, including the cornice, upper facade, windows, storefront, and doors. Use at most 4 colors to accent the features of your building that bring character.


9. Express Yourself! With these procedures in mind, express the identity of your business through paint color. It adds to the richness and variety of Main Street.

  

 You can download this article as a PDF by clicking this link: Painting 101: Historic Buildings & Paint Color.


This "Painting 101: Historic Buildings & Paint Color" is brought to you by: 

 

    

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AUTHOR
Ben White »

Is the weather finally getting warmer!? With the warmth and change in season, now is the time for building owners to address potential needs that may have come up from the cold temperatures and the natural freeze and thaw cycle of winter. This is also the time to check for plants and weeds that may be growing near the foundation of a building that can cause major damage. Be intentional as these small maintenance measures can prevent future building problems.

 

Check masonry for loose bricks and mortar. (15 min)

Examine windows for broken glass or putty failure. (15 min)

Remove any temporary caulk (from winter), and permanently fix the wood gaps with an epoxy or wood consolidant. (1 hour plus set time)


Inspect any metal or cast iron for components of rust; scrape and paint with rust inhibiting paint. (1 hour)


Examine any painted surface for paint failure. For example the cornice, windows, trim, and storefront. (30 min) Repaint if needed. (2-3 hours)

Remove plants growing on or close to walls or foundations. (30 min)d storefront) (30 min) Repaint if needed. (2-3 hours)

 
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AUTHOR
Ben White »

Winter weather can wreak havoc on a building and if not maintained, can cause further long-term damage. In order to prevent expensive headaches in the future, building owners can take those simple steps to ensure the longevity of their building.


  •  After extreme weather, such as an ice storm, inspect the building’s exterior for damage and the interior for roof leaks. (30 min)
  • Inspect the interior of the building for leaks during and after the first heavy ice/snow of the season. (30 min)
  • Sweep debris from flat or low sloping roofs. (30 min)
  • Examine the roof flashing for a tight fit and proper watershed where any horizontal surface meets a vertical surface (chimney, parapet cap, and roof). (30 min)
  • Clean out gutters and downspouts, and inspect for damage that might have occurred during freeze-thaw cycles. (1 hour)
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AUTHOR
Ben White »

Winter is coming and with that can come all sorts of cold and water related issues. This is a crucial time for your building and if potential problems are not dealt with now, the repairs will just become more expensive down the road. Make sure the building is prepped correctly so these next few months don’t cause headache down the road in the spring and summer time. Here are some steps that building owners can take for these winter months:

 

- Check weather stripping around windows and doors. Install to prevent air infiltration. (1 hour, depending on type)


- If applicable, install interior storm windows for winter. (2 hours)


- Caulk any gaps in wood for a temporary water tight seal. (30 min)


- Inspect basement for crawl space for excessive water during wet weather. (30 min)


- Sweep debris from flat or low sloping roofs. (30 min)

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Adding some new paint to a downtown building is one of the easiest and visually appealing things that a building owner can do to enhance the appearance and perception of their building. However, if not done correctly, it can actually harm the building and cause issues down the road. Here are some things to consider when painting a downtown building:


1. Make sure surfaces are prepped correctly before painting. Replace rotten wood and repoint brick if necessary. Remove all peeling and loose paint with a scraper, wire brush, or carefully apply heat to the area.

2. Prime the area, especially on wood surfaces.

3. Talk with the local hardware store on the appropriate paint for the project and that it will provide the desired effect and color. Oil-based paints are generally more durable but harder to apply; latex-based paints are easier to apply but don’t last as long. Use quality paint so that it will last longer and not peel. 

4. Use two or three complementary colors to accent the architectural features on the building. Choose colors that express your likes and/or the business color scheme, but that also complements the historic fabric of your downtown and the other buildings in it. 

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Spring - Finally!

Now it is time to think about our buildings! 

This is the perfect time for every business and property owner downtown to take a serious look at their building for both maintenance issues and to evaluate whether it is time to make visual improvements.

Instead of starting with the glitz and glamour—it is really important to go through a checklist of basic maintenance items to be prepared for the spring storms and summer sunshine.

First, take a good look at the back of your building. Are the gutters and downspouts in good condition? Or have they gotten disconnected or damaged—it is easy to check during a rain storm to be sure the water is being carried down and away from the building instead of backing up on the roof or blasting onto the back wall where it can cause leaks through the roof or damage the back wall—both expensive to repair and easy to avoid with just a regular inspection of the gutters.

Then, make sure all the trash and leaves that collects through the winter, and even the dead weeds, are all cleared out—both in back and out front—this let’s people know you are really still in business. First impressions count for you and the entire downtown!

 

Cleaning the window glass so it sparkles and hosing down the canvas awnings to remove dust helps the building shine.

 

Now is a good time to check your exterior lighting as well as the lights for your display windows to make sure they are working well—it is hard to compete with the summer sunshine—it is so bright that it will look like your business is closed if you don’t have lights on.

With the basic spring cleaning finished, now is the time when property and business owners should take a step back—across the street—to really look at the front of the building.  Does it look tired and worn? Does it need a fresh coat of paint? Or is it time that you want to consider a major facelift or a new sign? This is the time of year to make those design decisions and line up the contractors who will help you get it done. Remember, your downtown’s Main Street Design Committee can help provide some great ideas and design assistance.

If you think it is time to do a major renovation and repairs, you might want to investigate whether you could utilize some of the financial incentives available to help fund these expenses. If you are in an historic district, you might be able to use historic tax credits to offset 25 to 45% of those improvements. Your city government or Main Street program may have other incentives to help as well. Ask your local Main Street director for details!

Here are two links from our friends in Illinois on building maintenance:

http://www.illinois.gov/ihpa/Preserve/Documents/Maintenance%20Schedule%202013.pdf

http://www.illinois.gov/ihpa/Preserve/Documents/site_review_form.pdf

Written by Karen Bode Baxter, Preservation Specialist and Advisory Board Member of Missouri Main Street Connection.

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