Maintenance of Your Historic Home

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Basic Differences Between Historic and Modern Homes

Your house is one of the most important investments you will make in your lifetime.   Just like your automobile, your historic home needs regular upkeep and has needs that are unique to its make and model.   Fortunately, the exterior materials on your historic house are locally made and long-lasting, and are typically much more durable than modern building materials.  Want to know more?

Historic Houses

  • Varying materials, such as wood, masonry, and metals, carefully matched to one another and a particular locale and/or climate 

  • Materials can last for many decades when well maintained 

  • Structural masonry of varying hardness due to placement in a kiln 

  • Flexible mortar with high concentrations of lime 

  • Permeable construction designed to absorb water and then readily release it through evaporation

  • Energy efficiency and comfort controlled naturally through use of building materials, openings, and building placement 

  • Thick, heavy building materials with low levels of artificial insulation

Modern Houses

  • Synthetic materials that are standardized, pre- assembled, and chosen from national producers without regard for locale and/or climate 

  • Materials have an average lifespan of 10-25 years when well maintained

  • Veneer masonry of extreme hardness due to firing at much higher temperature

  • Rigid mortar with high concentrations of cement

  • Emphasis on waterproofing to prevent water penetration. Once trapped, water cannot evaporate

  • Energy efficiency and comfort controlled by automated temperature control systems and insulation 

  • Thin, lightweight building materials with high levels of artificial insulation 

Maintenance Tips:  

  • For more information on important historic building materials to maintain and preserve go here.

  • If you purchase a historic home where repairs have been delayed, you may notice serious conditions such as a cracked building wall or a shifted foundation, which require quick corrective action.  

  • For serious problems hire professionals, such as a structural engineer with experience working on historic buildings, to help you develop an appropriate course of action.  Historic Denver, Inc. maintains a list of historic preservation architects, engineers, and contractors.

  • If possible, perform annual inspections to make sure that everything is in working order.  An examination of roof, chimney, cutters/downspouts, exterior walls and porches, windows, foundations, doors, attic and basement will identify problem areas, and needed repairs.   

  • An owner can then take small actions – such as painting a wood sash window or emptying gutters – to avert a more serious problem later.

  • Regardless of the type of maintenance work needed, consider the building’s historic materials and its character-defining features.  

  • For more resources on maintenance including inspection guides and checklists, go here.  

This web content was added in 2019, and is accurate to the best of our abilities. Contact Denver Landmark Preservation for the most up-to-date and accurate information on the city's design review and permit requirements.