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Chicago Historic Restoration Requires an Understanding of Original Building Materials

Doing paint restoration on vintage buildings requires an understanding of the nature and function of building materials, such as old growth timbers, wood, masonry, mortars and plasters.

Wood deteriorates and rots. In some occasions, windows, doors or trim can be restored using epoxy consolidants and fillers. Vintage old growth wood can only be replaced at a high cost. Modern woods cannot approach the quality of the woods used in old homes. This is why it is important for a house painter to assess the condition of wood and make informed decisions regarding its restoration. Restoring vintage wood makes sense!

Understandings mortars and their function can also be very helpful. In vintage or historic houses, lime mortar was commonly used. It was designed to be softer than the brick or stone, so that moisture could escape through it. Painting masonry interferes with the proper functioning of mortars. The migrating moisture will cause the paint to fail and peel. However, lime paints and lime washes can safely be used in paint restoration because they naturally bond to the masonry, without interfering with the proper functioning of the building.

Plaster walls and ceilings, as well as plaster decorations and trim elements also deserve close attention. Plaster is held in place by the keys formed when the first plaster layer was forced through the lath. Over time, these keys break and cause the plaster to crack. House painting contractors working on vintage houses need to understand plaster, so that they can properly repair it or know when to call in a plasterer to do the more demanding work.

Plaster Crown from Chicago Mansion

Plaster Crown from Chicago Mansion

Here is a picture of the cast for a plaster crown section that will used to replace a damaged area in a Chicago mansion. For this kind of repair, as house painting contractors, we would call in the master plasterers!

Lastly paint analysis, for instance, can also be used to provide vital information on the historic colors and paint finishes used for the interior painting and exterior painting of buildings.

House painting contractors who are well educated on the materials used in old houses can better understand how paints and paint finishes can affect those materials and vise versa. From that greater understanding, painters can create added value for their clients by using more appropriate work methods and procedures or refer the more specialized tasks to other experts’ hands.

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