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Resources: Preservation Library: Diagnosing the Condition of a Building

Planning and Carrying Out Your Project:

The Old House Journal New Compendium, edited by Patricia Poore and Clem Labine, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1983.
As the title indicates, this is a collection of articles from the Old House Journal. It is a complete guide to historic house restoration and repair with emphasis on the practical and the specific. Valuable information on every aspect of rehabilitation.

Diagnosing and Repairing House Structure Problems, by Edgar O. Seaquist, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, 1980.
This book catalogs and describes damage and deterioration patterns in residential buildings and presents methods to reason out the causes of problems. It warns of the consequences if problems are not addressed, and recommends repairs.


Respectful Rehabilitation: Answers to Your Questions About Old Buildings, Washington, D.C.: The Preservation Press, 1982.
A compilation of the Question and Answer column in the magazine Historic Preservation. While many owners, architects, and contractors are familiar with modern construction technologies and products, relatively few have had extensive experience with historic buildings. Many of the materials suitable for new construction are not appropriate for rehabilitating historic buildings. There is specific information here for owners on the building site and environment, masonry, and mechanical systems.

Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings, Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 1983.
Those interested in qualifying a property for the National Register (or in doing their rehab right) will find valuable information here. Using "Recommended" and "Not Recommended" columns, it covers materials and techniques that should and should not be used on roofs, windows, entrances and porches, storefronts, building interior and exterior, building site, and district/neighborhood. Health and safety code requirements are also included.


Rehab Right: How to Realize the Full Value of Your Old House, by Helaine Kaplan Prentice and Blair Prentice, Oakland, Ca.: City of Oakland Planning Department, 1978.
Editors of the Old House Journal call this "the best regional preservation guidebook around." The authors present the case for sensitive rehabilitation using plain language and clear graphics. They don't proselytize, don't try to legislate taste; just explain how to repair things and give lots of examples in a well-illustrated, step-by-step approach.


The Complete Guide To Home Repair and Maintenance, by Bernard Gladstone, Mount Vernon, N.Y.: Consumers Union, 1984.
Intended to make home repair and routine maintenance practical, effective, and safe for any kind of do-it-yourselfer, this volume is useful, informative, comprehensive, and realistic. It explains how to do jobs that homeowners are likely to undertake themselves, and avoids projects most homeowners would not and probably should not undertake . Using excellent pictures and a step-by-step approach, it covers tools and techniques, doors, windows, interior walls and ceilings, and plumbing.


Interiors Handbook for Historic Buildings, by Charles Fisher, et al, Washington, D.C.: Historic Preservation Education Foundation, 1988.
A large loose-leaf binder with sections on planning, architectural features, finishes, systems, fire protection, adaptive reuse, manufacturers, sources and literature, and a bibliography. Each section has detailed information and tips, with black and white photos, diagrams, and illustrations. Tucked in the front pocket of the binder is a re-issue of Old House Journal's excellent pamphlet on interior restoration.


Home Improvement Cost Guide, Mount Vernon, N.Y.: Consumers Union, 1985.
This volume details the costs, material, labor, and time estimates for 74 popular home improvement projects--interior and exterior--for nearly every part of the house likely to undergo renovation. Each project includes: materials, level of difficulty, what to watch out for, and summary. It provides a basis for evaluating and comparing bids, assessing how much of the quote is for materials, spotting hidden or unexpected charges, and determining construction quality standards. Detailed illustrations.


Preservation Briefs, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1975-1999.
As the title indicates, this is a series of brief monographs on 38 subjects ranging from "Dangers of Abrasive Cleaning to Historic Buildings" to "The Use of Substitute Materials on Historic Building Exteriors." Each monograph is prepared by a different author or authors with expertise in the particular subject. Virtually all have pictures/diagrams and recommendations for further reading. Packed with useful information from experts.


Fixing Up: A Bilingual Handbook for Older Homes, by Dennis P. Albert, et al, Warren, R.I.: Massasoit Historical Association, 1979.
Written in English and Portuguese, this is one of the clearest presentations of basic preservation and restoration information yet seen. Using some of the historic houses in Warren as examples, it defines the various historical styles and tells about their distinguishing characteristics. A section titled "Restoration Clinic" provides practical advice about masonry, entrances, windows, roofs, and color. Very good illustrations throughout, with an excellent glossary.


Cyclical Maintenance for Historic Buildings, by Henry J. Chambers, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1976.
Solid information for those charged with removing dirt, making routine repairs, or in other ways retarding a building's deterioration. Gives guidance on several categories of work, including preservation, restoration, repairs, maintenance, and housekeeping.


Home Security, edited by Sidney C. and Anne Scott Cooper, Mount Vernon, N.Y.: Consumers Union, 1988.
This book is meant for readers with little or no home repair or installation skills, to provide the background they need to make informed decisions and hold intelligent discussions with carpenters, locksmiths, and security alarm installers. Emphasis is on the do-able, the affordable, the realistic. It covers doors, windows, locks, and burglar alarms.


Floors, Walls and Ceilings, edited by Graham Blackburn, Mount Vernon, N.Y.: 1989.
This is written for people who have a minimum of skills but who would rather do the job themselves. It provides detailed information about how to plan and what materials to use. Step-by-step instructions explain the best ways to prepare surfaces and the practical repair and installation techniques that should be used to get the job done correctly. The back of the book contains a handy tool glossary, comprehensive index, and Consumer Reports product ratings for wood finishes, spackling compounds, latex paints, and high-gloss enamel paints.


Walls and Moldings, by Natalie Shivers, Washington D.C.: Preservation Press, 1990.
This book contains advice and information on old buildings, especially those more than 40 years old. Specific and detailed remedies are provided. Some can be done by do-it-yourselfers, but commercial methods are also listed.


Old House Woodwork Restoration: How to Restore Doors, Windows, Walls, Stairs, and Decorative Trim To Their Original Beauty, by Ed Johnson, N.Y.: Prentice Hall, 1983.
It is hard to imagine a more complete treatment of this single but very important aspect of restoration. The author gives step-by-step procedures for removing multiple layers of paint and dealing with water and other damage for houses of all periods.


Epoxies For Wood Repairs in Historic Buildings, by Morgan W. Phillips and Judith E. Selwyn, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1978.
Very technical information for those who need it. Its purpose is to "provide suggested formulations and lists of suppliers so that the reader will be able to manufacture serviceable material." The two main types of epoxies discussed are low-viscosity consolidants that can be soaked into rotted wood in order to restore its solidity, and pastes for filling holes and cracks in historic woodwork.


Moisture Problems in Historic Masonry Walls, by Baird M. Smith, Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1986.
Moisture is probably the greatest source of damage to historic buildings. Excess rain, ground water, and condensation can inflict damage ranging from dampened wallpaper and plaster to severe deterioration of structural components. This monograph with pictures, diagrams, and illustrations, attempts to present sound technical information for architects, building owners, and others responsible for the care and maintenance of historic buildings. It does not focus on specific moisture problems, but tells the reader how to recognize and assess moisture damage.


Old House Dictionary, by Steven J. Phillips, Lakewood, Colorado: American Source Books, 1989.
Literally a dictionary of architectural, construction, and preservation terms used in American architecture during the period covered - 1600 to 1940.