Maintain, repair, restore
These three words summarize the philosophy of
architectural heritage conservation and promotion.
They are what needs to be remembered and they will be
discussed throughout the articles in this guide.
A building is made of different component
elements 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 damages 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 woodwork, finely worked metal
and sheet metal 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 will continue to top beautiful
façades and the wrought iron
balustrades 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
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 sometime difficult to
change only one window and that, if repair
is not undertaken in time, there may be 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 woodwork 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!