University of Vermont
HP 203 Conservation Techniques for Historic Structures

2000 Syllabus
Prof. Thomas Visser email link

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Course Goals

The goal of this course is to provide an overview of architectural conservation through an examination of the historic uses and physical properties of common historic building materials and finishes, their deterioration mechanisms, and strategies for conservation and rehabilitation. We recognize that the professional preservationist must have a broad understanding of basic analytical and research skills including a knowledge of historic construction techniques and the abilities:

Another goal of this architectural conservation course is to provide a background for preservationists who will be working with architects, engineers, trades people, contractors, conservators, property owners, and other preservation professionals.

A final goal of the course is to help prepare students for professional positions in preservation that require the review of conservation treatment proposals, architectural designs, and preservation grant applications.

Preservation, Computers and the Internet

More and more preservation organizations and agencies are searching for employees who can use the Internet as a preservation tool. The World Wide Web is also becoming one of the most useful sources of information on historic preservation and architectural conservation.

With the goal of helping preservation students master the potential strengths of the Internet in this field, everyone in HP 203 must arrange access to the World Wide Web. Please note that some required readings are now only accessible through the web. Links to these sites are contained in course web site.

To support these goals, the Historic Preservation Program has purchased computers in Wheeler103 that are reserved primarily for HP 203 student course work. All student printouts from the black & white laser printer in Wheeler 103 cost 10 cents per page. Prints may also be made at the computer labs at the Waterman Building or at the UVM Library. The large format ink jet color printer is available for your use on special projects at 25 cents per page, however please limit its use to when color is necessary. For good quality color prints, use your own good quality color ink jet paper. This coated paper is available at the UVM Bookstore and other retail outlets.

Course Readings

Since we have a very large amount of information to cover, the reading assignments are a very important part of the course. It is your responsibility to keep up with these assignments.

Texts (Available at UVM Bookstore)
Fram, Mark. Well-preserved, Erin, Ontario: Boston Post Mills, 1988. (Fram)

Caring for Your Historic House, Heritage Preservation/ National Park Service. Abrams, 1998. (We will be using this text next semester as well.)

The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, National Park Service, 1995.

Web Site Readings

Various Internet web sites including the National Park Service Preservation Briefs are listed in the syllabus below. Paper copies of the Preservation Briefs may be ordered through the US Government Printing Office. Information on ordering these briefs is available at

A bibliography of additional course references is listed below. These may be very useful when preparing the assignments. Students are strongly encouraged to assemble files on various conservation topics with photocopies of articles from such publications as the Association for Preservation Technology (APT) Bulletin and other sources.


All assignments are due at the beginning of class on the date specified in the class schedule. Late assignments will automatically drop at least one half-letter grade per week unless excused in advance for reasons beyond a student's control.

All written submissions should reflect a professional level of standards, being well-organized, prepared on a word processor, spell-checked, and proof-read. Grades will be reduced if professional writing standards are not met. Please allow sufficient time for proof reading and correcting errors.

There will be no incomplete course grades except with the Graduate Dean's approval.

Laboratory Protocols

Eye protection is required for all lab work. Clothing protection is recommended.

Students should gather, borrow or acquire the items listed below for their Architectural Conservation Field Kits. Most of this equipment will be used for conducting the course assignments.

Course Schedule and Assignments

The lecture portion of the class meets on Wednesdays from 1:25 PM to 4:25 PM in Wheeler 101.

The lab period will be Thursdays from 12:30 to 3:30 PM in Wheeler 106.

2000 Topics Assignments Due





Course Introduction
Overview of course goals, syllabus and web site
Preservation philosophies and standards
Applying scientific methods in conservation
Field kits, lab protocols, info resources, computers
Use of the video microscope
Capturing microscope images on the computer
















Laboratory Introduction
Hazards and safety protocols
MSDS sheets
Sampling exercise
Basic particle analysis
Sieving particles
Posting simple reports on the WWW
Mortar sampling demonstration
Introduce Lab Project 1 (mortar sampling)
Text: (read)
Fram: 1 - 63 Conservation activities and principles
64-77 Inspection fault diagnosis, recording,
214-217 The Venice Charter or on the ICOMOS Venice Charter web site
Caring for Your Historic House: Through page 39.
WWW sites (read)
National Park Service Preservation Briefs Intro
PB 35: Understanding Old Buildings
PB 17: Architectural Character: Identifying the Visual Aspects of Historic Buildings as an Aid to Preserving Their Character
WWW sites (browse and surf)
UVM HP Links
National Park Service Links to the Past
National Register of Historic Places
Illustrated Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings/The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties




Historic masonry construction
Mortars: sands, lime, cement, additives
The Lime Cycle
"Jam jar and vinegar" field analysis technique
Caring for Your Historic House: "Exterior Masonry" 69-79
WWW sites (read)
HP 203 Mortar Analysis Case Study: Fairbanks Museum, St. Johnsbury, VT
Mortar Types and Applications Table
English Heritage AC1 Smeaton project on historic mortars durability
Lab: Basic mortar analysis
Mortar characterization lab analysis
Mortar analysis report formats
Using mortar analysis template
Introduce Lab Project 2: Simple Mortar Analysis
Bring Field Kit
Eye protection is required.
Clothing protection is recommended.
Mortar Handouts (read for discussion)
Due: Lab Project 1 (mortar sampling)
Conserving Historic Masonry
Repointing techniques and guidelines
Appropriate use of cements in mortars
Calcimeter analysis for cement
Repointing demonstration
PB 2: Repointing Mortar Joints in Historic Brick Buildings

Secretary Standards: 22-25, 67-69, 122-126

Secretary Standards and Guidelines - Masonry

Lab: Producing appropriate mortars
Introduce Lab Project 3 (mortar matching)
Bring Field Kit
Eye protection is required.
Clothing protection is recommended.
Due: Lab Project 2 (simple mortar analysis)
Brick construction
Brick making process
Brick types and physical properties
Analyzing and matching bricks
PB 5: Preservation of Historic Adobe Buildings
Fram: 126-130, 144-147
Lab: Brick deterioration diagnostics
Introduce Lab Project 4 (bricks)
Due: Lab Project 3 (mortar matching)
Masonry construction and conservation
Building stones
The rock cycle
Stone types and physical properties
Sources and finishing
Cleaning masonry
Masonry coatings
Graffiti management approaches
PB 1: The Cleaning and Waterproof Coating of Masonry Buildings
PB 6: Dangers of Abrasive Cleaning to Historic Buildings
Fram: 118-121
PB 38: Removing Graffiti from Historic Masonry



Lab: Conserving stonework
Introduce Lab Project 5 (rising damp)
Due: Lab Project 4 (bricks)




Additional masonry materials
Stuccoes, parging & renders
Cast stone
Terra cotta
Fram: 131-133

Caring for Your Historic House:158-164

PB 7: Preservation of Terra-cotta
PB 15: Preservation of Concrete
PB 22: Preservation & Repair of Stucco
PB 30: Clay Tile Roofs
PB 40: Preserving Historic Ceramic Tile Floors
Lab: Concrete, terra cotta and other masonry
Stucco and parging analysis and conservation techniques
Introduce Lab Project 6 (concrete, parging, terrazzo, terra cotta, tile)
Due: Lab Project 5 (rising damp)
Flat plaster
Ornamental plaster
Fram: 172-175
Caring for Your Historic House:106-115
PB 21: Repairing Flat Plaster
PB 23: Preserving Ornamental Plaster
Lab: Plaster conservation
Introduce Lab Project 7 (plaster)
Due: Lab Project 6 (parging, terrazzo, terra cotta, tile)



Wood conservation
Species identification and use
Framing and construction
Wood deterioration mechanisms
Wood protection
Preservatives & insecticides
Solvent-based vs. water-based borate wood preservatives
Fram: 116-118, 136-139
ICOMOS International Wood Committee Standards for the Protection of Historic Timber Buildings




Lab: Wood decay diagnostics & treatments
Use of moisture meter for wood
Introduce Lab Project 8 (wood conservation)
PB 39: Controlling Unwanted Moisture in Historic Buildings
PB 26: Repair of Historic Log Buildings
PB 34: Composition Ornament

WWW: Taking Care of Your Old Barn

 Due: Lab Project 7 (plaster)

Wood repair and conservation approaches
Patching compounds
Epoxy consolidation and filling
Carpentry repairs
Use of traditional carpentry hand tools
Reproducing wooden elements

Caring for Your Historic House: 80-86, 140-151

Secretary Standards: 26-28, 71-74, 127-130

Secretary Standards- Wood

Lab: Wood conservation
No class (Spring break)
No class (HP grad research trips)



Architectural finishes and fillers
Pigments, vehicles, solvents and fillers
Putties and caulking compounds
Fram: 164-167, 176-179, 186-189

Caring for Your Historic House:127-139

PB 28: Painting Historic Interiors






Lab: Coatings
Lab: Paint deterioration diagnostics
Field sampling techniques
Introduce Lab Project 9 (surface finish sampling)

WWW: finishes analysis chart

Due: Lab Project 8 (wood conservation)

Paints: Historic paint applications
Color placement
Glazes and graining techniques
Paints: Physical properties, surface preparation and application techniques
Oil-based coatings
Solvent-based coatings
Water-based coatings
Introduction to finishes analysis techniques
Basic microscopy
Fram: 164-171
Caring for Your Historic House:96-105
Munsell color notation system



Lab: Finishes analysis
Advanced computer-assisted videomicroscopy
Introduce Lab Project 10 (finishes analysis)
Due:Lab Project 9 (surface finish sampling)
Paint deterioration mechanisms & diagnostic approaches
Paint condition surveys
Paint finishing systems and specifications
Paint removal
Lead based paint hazard mitigation
Treatments for chronic paint failure
Introduce Lab Project 11 (paint condition survey and treatments)
Secretary Standards: 45-47; 94-99; 147-150
PB 10: Exterior Paint Problems
PB 8: Aluminum and Vinyl Siding on Historic Buildings
PB 37 Appropriate Methods for Reducing Lead-Paint Hazards in Historic Buildings
Lab: Finishes analysis continued



Windows & doors
Deterioration mechanisms
Repair and replacement strategies
Window surveys
Fram: 79-115, 148-163, 180-185

Caring for Your Historic House:87-95

Secretary Standards:35-37; 81-84; 137-139
Secretary Standards & Guidelines - Windows
PB 9: Repair of Historic Wooden Windows
PB 13: Steel Windows
PB 33: Stained and Leaded Glass
National Park Service, Secretary of the Interior's Standards Electronic Rehab Course
Due: Lab Project 10 (finishes analysis)
4/27 Lab: window surveys and conservation techniques
Introduce Lab Project 12 (windows)
Due: Lab Project 11 (paint condition survey and treatments)
Window survey outline
5/3 Course review Due: Lab project 12 (windows)
5/11 Final Exam  

Course Field Kits

Each graduate student should acquire (or borrow) the following equipment:

Magnifying glass or loupe (8X)
"X-Acto" knife (large No. 1) and curved blades
or "Proedge" Pro #2 Medium duty knife and Pro #22 blades (available at UVM Bookstore)
Forceps or tweezers
Screwdriver (straight point)
Tape measure (25') or folding rule (8' or 12')
Field notebook (bound, grid ruled)
Polyethylene bags (Ziplock type) for samples
Transparent tape
Indelible marking pen
Safety glasses are required for all lab work. These available are at the UVM Bookstore.
Disposable dust masks or respirator
Disposal gloves
Field and lab clothing (Lab coats are recommended for lab work. These are available from the UVM Medical Bookstore in the Given Building complex.)
Pack or shoulder bag is recommended
35 mm camera, preferably a SLR with wide angle lens (28 mm or 35 mm), flash, and/ or tripod, close-up lenses or macro lens for copystand work.
Film - (Kodachrome 64 and 200 are good multipurpose slide films that are relatively archivally stable, but they must be sent to Kodalux for processing. This can take over a week. Ektachrome or Fujichrome slide films can be processed locally in several hours, however they may be less archivally stable. Kodacolor 200 or Fujicolor 200 are good multipurpose color print films. Use Ektachrome 160 or Kodachrome 40 (Kodalux processing only) for color slide copy stand work since they are color balanced for tungsten light. Otherwise under incandescent light use a 40A (blue) filter with daylight films.

Course References
(Most are available at UVM Library or "on reserve" in Wheeler 103)

Bulletin, Association for Preservation Technology (At UVM Library, v 1 - v. 8 in Microforms, v. 9 - current issues in Periodicals)
Traditional Building
Old House Journal

A Guide to Vermont Architecture. Montpelier: Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, 1991.
Ashurst, John & Nicola. Practical Building Conservation. New York: Halsted Press, 1988. Vol. 1-5.
Feilden, Bernard. Conservation of Historic Buildings. London: Butterworth, 1982.
Harris, Cyril, Ed. Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. New York: McGraw Hill, 1975.
Hoadley, Bruce. Understanding Wood. Newtown, Conn.: Tauton Press, 1980.
McAlester, V. & L. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Knopf 1988.
McKee, Harley. Introduction to Early American Masonry. Washington: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1973.
Mitchell, Eleanor. Emergency Repairs for Historic Buildings. London: English Heritage, 1988.
Nylander, Richard C. et al. Wallpaper in New England. Boston: SPNEA, 1986.
Phillips, M. W. & Selwyn, J. E. Epoxies for Wood Repairs in Historic Buildings. Washington: US Dept. of Interior, 1978.
Poore, Patricia, ed. The Old-House Journal Guide to Restoration, Dutton, 1992.
Preservation &Conservation. Washington: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1976.
Recording Historic Structures. Washington: AIA Press, 1988.
Repairing Old and Historic Windows. Washington, DC: Preservation Press, 1992.
Residential Building Systems Inspection. Washington: APT Foundation, 1986.
Respectful Rehabilitation. Washington: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1982.
Slate Roofs. National Slate Ass'n., 1925. (Reprints from Vermont Structural Slate, Fairhaven, VT)
Structural Assessment. Washington: APT Foundation, 1986.
Technology of Historic American Buildings. Washington: APT Foundation, 1983.
Weaver, Martin. Conserving Buildings. New York: John Wiley, 1993.
Wilson, Forrest. Building Materials Evaluation Handbook. New York: Van Nostrand, 1984.

Other references
A Guide to Vermont Architecture is available through the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation in Montpelier (828-3226) for about $3.00 on request.

©2000 UVM Historic Preservation Program

Contact: Prof. Thomas Visser ,