The Critical Nuances of Restoring Historic and Older Buildings

Historical building restoration maintains the original architectural and structural details of the construction period or a noted architect’s design. The proper approach to restoring historic and older buildings consists of preserving the building’s aesthetics as well as its value. Therefore, it is important to understand the critical nuances of historic building restoration.

What Buildings are Considered Historical?

Other than age, the following helps determine a building’s historic significance:

  • Over 50 years old
  • Significant history of the architect and/or architectural period design and construction
  • Historic significance or landmark, i.e., someone famous is attached to the home, or there is something distinct about its appearance
  • Listed on the National Register of Historic Places

In Toronto, you can confirm a building’s historic status using the Heritage Property Search tool. If you’re uncertain whether your building is a heritage building, it must meet one or more of the criteria outlined in the Ontario Regulation 9/06 guidelines.

Heritage Building Treatments

When restoring historic and older buildings, the goal is to preserve and repair instead of redesigning or modernizing. There are four “treatments” used in historical building restoration:

  1. Preservation: Repairing existing materials and characteristics, keeping the original form and aesthetics intact.
  2. Rehabilitation: Retaining the historical details and integrity but altering the building or adding to the building for a different use or purpose.
  3. Restoration: Removing anything added to the building that is not from the period and returning materials and aesthetics to their original form.
  4. Reconstruction: Recreating elements of the structure removed or that are no longer safe or fully intact.

An assessment by a building restoration company like WellDone Inc. will determine the required treatment. In some cases, it might be a combination of treatments depending on the building’s condition and the purpose of the restoration.

Approvals for Exterior Changes to Historic and Older Buildings

The proposed work and plans might require review by the city, depending on the historical status of the building. The review board will determine whether the proposal meets the city’s heritage restoration requirements and provide a permit. A permit should be provided as long as the plans protect the architectural style of the building.

Building Codes and Access

Older and historic buildings must maintain the integrity of the design but also meet the current building code and disability access requirements. Therefore, these details must be included at the initial design stage to ensure the property is safe and accessible.

Historical Restoration Best Practices

Some guidelines for historic preservation include:

  • Prioritize repair over replacement for original architectural detailing
  • Match original materials as closely as possible when replacement is necessary, such as brick
  • Do not damage the original structure
  • Only use products approved for historic preservation

It can be helpful to check in with the local preservation society for restoration guidance, even if the building doesn’t have a heritage designation. This will help ensure that the building is restored to its original glory.

Heritage Grants

For buildings meeting heritage criteria, particularly those with a significant history in the community, your project could qualify for a grant under the Heritage Grant Program. This is more likely if you are a not-for-profit organization or your project will benefit the community.

Owning a historic property is a privilege, making you a steward of the building’s history. Understanding the importance of the property and following historic restoration best practices will help preserve the building’s heritage.

At WellDone Inc., a building restoration company specializing in building improvements for commercial and multi-unit residential buildings throughout the GTA, we have the expertise to assess and complete older building restoration projects. If you want more information about our building restoration services, reach out to us.