Each passing season reminds us that the world around us is constantly changing. Flowers and lush green lawns give way to falling leaves and frosty mornings. Hot, cold, rainy or dry, we protect our bodies from the elements with weather-appropriate clothing and an occasional umbrella. Even though we realize the importance of staying comfortable and dry, we somehow expect our buildings to endure season after season of harsh environmental conditions without any additional protection. This is an unrealistic expectation, however, because buildings begin to deteriorate the moment they are constructed. Left unattended, even normal exposure to the elements along with general wear and tear can lead to severe deterioration. One of the easiest ways to counteract the effects of time is to perform periodic preventative maintenance.
Routine periodic inspections and preventative maintenance allows us to keep a close watch on the Woodrow Wilson Family Home. Throughout the rehabilitation process we carefully addressed the issues that caused previous deterioration and developed solutions that will help mitigate any future problems. We understand that a building is only original once and each architectural component that is replaced diminishes a building’s authenticity. Replacing a few boards today may not seem excessive, but continuing this practice over a period of 50 or 100 years results in a structure that will be more replaced than original.
Preventative maintenance enables historic materials to be retained and repaired because they are not allowed to reach a point of deterioration where replacement is the only option. Although some components such as roofing materials should be replaced when they reach the end of their service life, other parts such as wood siding, windows, shutters, doors, columns, and a host of other architectural details should be on the conservation priority list. These elements help to define the building and preserve its historic integrity.
The primary goal of a preventative maintenance is to prevent moisture infiltration. Water typically enters a building through the path of least resistance and can lead to devastating results. Many buildings do not have eaves of sufficient width to keep exterior windows and walls dry during a rainstorm. Of course, rain doesn’t always fall straight down to the roof from the sky. Wind blows rain horizontally which leads to infiltration through windows, doors, cracks, and crevices. Water can also breach masonry walls as the moisture is absorbed through exterior pores. This leads to poor paint adhesion and can compromise the integrity of the masonry and its mortar joints. If left unattended, these problems will continue to cause deterioration to the building.
Since water is such a destructive force, it is important to understand how to limit its ability to adversely affect a building. Simple methods include preventing splash-back of moisture onto foundation walls, repointing gaps or cracks in masonry, caulking open joints between masonry and windows, and using proper painting techniques to form a protective barrier.
Utilizing gutters allows water to be directed away from the foundation, which prevents the ground around the perimeter of the building from becoming saturated. Without the use of gutters, water runoff from the roof can lead to problems including damp crawl spaces, leaky basements and even foundation failure. Clogged gutters can actually cause problems, so cleaning out leaves and debris should always be at the top of your preventative maintenance checklist.
Overall, preventative maintenance keeps a building looking and performing its best. It allows potential problems to be noticed and corrected before irreversible damage occurs. This ultimately prevents the deterioration of historic material and helps to preserve the architectural integrity of the building for future generations.