Plan for regular maintenance on your property

Part 2 of 2 –

Careful maintenance can extend the life of custom home features.

A long-term property maintenance strategy should include planning and budgeting for regular work such as exterior painting or roof replacement, and for capital improvements. The cost of maintenance will always be less than that of a major preservation effort after a period of long neglect.


Careful housekeeping can greatly extend the life of building materials. Removing dirt from floors and other contact surfaces limits deterioration by abrasion. Keeping the building free of food waste reduces the likelihood of pest infestation. Use housekeeping and maintenance tools and equipment carefully to protect building materials. Avoid operations that might cause incidental damage. For example, a sharp metal tool used to remove ice can leave gouges in a stone step and metal parts on mops can easily scrape finishes.


Written and photographic records provide valuable information for scheduling maintenance and improvements and for long-range planning. Keep accurate, complete written records of inspections, maintenance work and repairs on site. Photographs are always desirable. Include names and manufacturers of any cleaning or maintenance products used. This information may provide clues for unraveling future material deterioration problems.


Consider the building materials before altering a building’s environment.

When your main goal is building preservation, consult with an architectural conservator when planning alterations or improvements, especially if the changes are being considered to solve specific problems such as a damp basement. The potential effect of a change on other elements and systems of the building must be fully understood. For example, installing central air conditioning will not only change the environment of different spaces within a building, but also may have a significant impact on the building materials. Any changes made should be easily reversible to return the building to its original condition.


Disasters can have a devastating impact on a structure, sometimes even necessitating its demolition. Fire, flooding (from natural causes or plumbing failures), hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other disasters can all cause significant damage. Planning for disasters can help lessen their impact.

Initially, develop a plan to respond to fire. Early detection is critical. Heat and smoke detectors are available at hardware stores and more sophisticated systems can be purchased from specialized dealers. These systems must be tested regularly to be sure they work. Place appropriate fire extinguishers throughout the building, and inspect them regularly. More expensive suppression systems like sprinklers are also available and often required by code.

A more comprehensive disaster preparedness plan can minimize the extent of damage. Start by identifying potential disasters for the geographic area in which the building is located. Write the plan in great detail. Describe any procedures to be implemented when disasters threaten, such a boarding up or taping windows when high winds are forecast. Consider what effect the disaster might have on the community and its services.

If there are no drawings or photographs of the building, consider taking your own photos. Such documentation will provide a record to aid in disaster recovery. These records should be stored away from the building, preferably under archival conditions.


Vandalism can be an ongoing problem. If possible, use constant bright lighting in areas prone to vandalism. If this is problematic, use motion sensor lights instead. Planting prickly or thorny shrubs like holly, roses or evergreens beneath windows and along vulnerable walls also can reduce the chance of vandalism or burglary.

Remove graffiti promptly, as quick removal has proved to be a good deterrent to future graffiti. A conservator can help develop a plan to deal with different types of graffiti so that maintenance staff will know how to remove it quickly and safely. The wrong treatment can damage building materials irreparably.


Buildings, and the materials from which they are made, are subject to a wide variety of problems and require constant attention. You can prevent many of these problems by careful planning, regular inspection, continuous maintenance and good housekeeping. An architectural conservator can not only work with you to resolve existing problems, but also help with planning to prevent future problems.

In case you missed it: Part 1 – Enhance your property’s value by preserving custom features

This blog is part of a continuing series offering advice on preserving, displaying and caring for art objects in your home. Additional information is available at the author’s website. See your local, independent insurance agent for advice on coverage to protect fine art and other items of value.

© Copyright 2016 Doug Eisele; used by permission.

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