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4 Tips for a Successful Historical Restoration Project

Historic restoration is defined as the process of accurately depicting the form, features and character of a property as it appeared at a particular time. On a roofing project that means installing a type of material that was available and used during the time period when the building was built which is usually slate, tile, wood shingles or a specialty metal. While that may not sound difficult the successful completion of a historical restoration project is a large undertaking and requires skill that not every contractor is equipped to handle. Here are four ways to help that project go as smoothly as possible.

Select a Team

In order for your project to get off on the right foot, selecting a team of knowledgeable experts is the first step. Often this includes bringing in a local historical restoration group, local government officials and potentially a state historic preservation officer. They will help you navigate the back end of the project. Then you need a team of architects and contractors that will prepare the scope of work and then get it done. A proven track record of previous historical restoration work is essential to a smooth project.

Have a Plan

The first step is doing the research to know what standards you are trying to match. Then there is usually a fair amount of investigation to discover what you have. For a roof project this involves removing a small area of roofing to expose the existing roof layers, deck boards and rafter layout. It is rare to have blueprints or other records to show how the building was originally constructed so some old photos and maybe a few notes might be the only link to the past to provide direction for the future. Then you need to determine what can and can’t be done based on current codes, available resources and the current state of the structure. Laying out a path for the end goal will aid tremendously as the project moves forward.

Secure Funding

Old world craftsmanship and materials require additional time and money as compared to more modern installations. In order to pay for a project like this additional funding streams may be needed such as grants, private funding, donations or tax credits. Always have a little contingency fund for the unexpected.

Prepare for a Journey

When it comes to historical restoration projects they often take more time, money and run into unexpected items. If you know this going in, you won’t be surprised when it happens. Part of the fun of these projects is working with a great team to solve a problem that becomes uncovered during the restoration process. These are not cookie cutter projects and they require flexibility, adaptability and skill to resolve the issues.

While not easy, historical restoration projects will be worth the time, money and effort to have done it correctly. When the project is finally complete there is a lot of pride knowing that you saved the past and provided a link to future generations.

To learn about a historical restoration project that GSM recently completed, see the WHEATLAND profile. The team that worked on this project won a 2020 Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Award.

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Thanks Delores. Also, it was a pleasure dealing with Jeff on this. He was great on the phone in explaining the issues and was very proactive.

Nate Sorenson Director of Commercial Property Management June 28, 2022