Architect's Checklist For Rehabilitating Historic Structures
- Procedure code:
- Architectural Graphics Standards, 8Th Ed., Credit To Nps
- General Requirements
- Special Project Procedures
- Last Modified:
CHECKLIST FOR REHABILITATING HISTORIC STRUCTURES
This standard was adapted from a checklist developed by the
National Park Service and printed in Ramsey/Sleeper's Architectural
The following checklist is intended for use in identifying some
preservation factors to consider when undertaking the
rehabilitation of historic buildings. Not all of the factors
listed will be applicable to all structures or preservation
1. CHECK HISTORIC DESIGNATION AND AVAILABLE DOCUMENTATION
a. Is the building a local landmark or located in a locally
designated historic district?
b. Is it in a historic district that is listed in the
National Register of Historic Places? Does it contribute
to the historic significance of that district?
c. Is it individually listed in the National Register of
d. What historical or architectural documentation is
available about the building(s) or site? For example:
- National Register nominations
- Architectural or engineering drawings for
construction of survey such as Historic American
Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering
- State or local historical survey or inventory
- Local documents, views, photographs in libraries,
archives, historical societies
2. CHECK LEGAL REQUIREMENTS
a. Are there easements or local ordinances governing
alterations to property (deed records, zoning offices)?
b. How do the state and local building codes apply to the
- What impact will they have upon the character and
integrity of the building?
- Are code variances available?
- Are there code equivalency possibilities for your
c. Will there be federal funds involved in the project which
will require review by the State Historic Preservation
Office or a Section 106 compliance consultation with the
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation?
- Are you familiar with the Secretary of the
Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and
Guidelines for rehabilitating historic buildings?
- Have you contacted the State Historic Preservation
3. EVALUATE HISTORIC CHARACTER/SIGNIFICANCE OF STRUCTURE
a. Have you identified, listed, and prioritized the
character defining aspects of the building? These may
include its form, materials, workmanship, features,
color, relationship of solids to voids, and interior
spaces--all those physical features or tangible aspects
of the building that define its historic character.
NOTE: Some original features may not be important
contributors to the historic character, while some later
features may be all important. For example, a brick
building may have been painted at a later date and its
painted appearance may be an important aspect of its
b. What have been the architectural changes over time?
These may include:
- new additions
- changes to surfaces and finishes (slates to
asphalt, polychrome to monochrome)
- blocking of windows
- changes to grade
- loss of cornice
- false fronts
- changes to basic plan (single family to multiple
c. Are any of the changes significant and worth preserving
or do they detract from the building?
d. Has the architectural integrity of the building and its
setting been assessed? Architectural integrity means the
intactness of the building as an architectural system
(its plan, features, materials, finishes, structural
system, and the presence of architectural features).
4. ASSESS PHYSICAL CONDITION
a. Are there physical problems that threaten the building's
architectural and structural integrity?
b. Has a structural survey been performed to determine
deficiencies due to settlement, deflection of beams,
seismic inadequacy, and cuts through structural members
for mechanical pipes and ducts?
c. Are there inherent architectural problems, such as
materials failure due to poor original design, poor
original materials, severe environmental or moisture
problems, neglect, improper maintenance, etc.?
d. Is there man-inflicted damage, such as ornamentation
removed, inappropriate coatings, bad repointing or
cleaning, insensitive additions, or partitioning of
significant interior spaces?
e. Are historic features hidden behind later alterations?
These may include ornamental ceilings or cornices hidden
above dropped ceilings.
5. DEVELOP PRESERVATION PROJECT PLANS
a. Will it be necessary to write unique specifications
rather than use standard specifications to apply to work
performed on a historic building?
b. Will testing be needed to determine the performance of
the materials or the systems? Note that it may be
necessary to review test results with consultants or
c. Will the project involve hard-to-find replacement
materials such as terra-cotta or ornamental metals that
may require logistical planning?
d. Will the project involve hard-to-find crafts such as
stone carving or ornamental plastering, and if so, can
the necessary expertise be found?
e. Are samples or models available for use in establishing
the standard of craftsmanship for the project?
f. Will the project involve energy conservation measures?
g. Have historic materials and finishes been retained to the
maximum extent possible?
h. Will new uses require upgrading the loading capacity of
wooden floor joists? Will the preservation objectives
affect the decision making? For instance, it is better
to double up existing joists with a parallel member than
to remove historic materials, and if an ornamental
ceiling would be damaged by this approach, a structural
engineer should investigate other alternatives.
i. Has the impact of new additions and adjacent new
construction been minimized by keeping the size, shape,
materials, and detailing in scale with the surrounding
j. What protective measures will be taken to preserve
important character-defining features and finishes during
the construction work?
k. On the exterior, will the rehabilitation work cause loss
of significant historic fabric or seriously damage the
Loss of historic fabric or change of historic character
often occur when:
- storefronts and entrances are altered
- visible skylights are added to a roof
- dormers are added on prominent roofs
- new floors are added on top of an existing building
- porches are enclosed
- new window openings are created
- tinted films or reflective coatings are added to
- new window sash are historically inappropriate as
to configuration and detailing.
l. On the interior, will the rehabilitation cause loss of
significant historic fabric or seriously damage the
Loss of fabric or change of character often occur when:
- interiors are partitioned and there is a loss of
significant sequence of spaces
- interior plaster is removed to expose brickwork
- interiors are gutted, as might occur to introduce
new atriums, new floor levels, or to reconfigure
- significant stairs are removed or altered.
m. Will there be a professional on site during construction
to ensure that work is carried out according to
established preservation principles?
n. Have construction personnel received adequate training in
undertaking historic preservation work?
***CREDITS FOR PRESERVATION***
This information was originally prepared (as it appeared in
Architectural Graphic Standards) by the following staff of the
Preservation Assistance Division National Park Service: Lee H.
Nelson, FAIA, H. Ward Jandl, Michael J. Auer, Charles E. Fisher,
Anne Grimmer, Camille Martone, Sharon C. Park, AIA, and Kay D.
END OF SECTION