Denver Historic Preservation – Similar to flat walls and ceilings, historical ornamental plaster is made of gypsum and lime which are very stable and durable materials. Plaster can be modeled, colored, stamped, or stenciled. If you are fortunate enough to have ornamental plaster in your home, you will want to preserve it. You should keep in mind that ornamental plaster is subject to water intrusion, structural movement and vibrations.
Uncontrolled moisture is the most common cause of deterioration in historic homes resulting in the need for Denver Historic Preservation. Moister leads to erosion, rot, and ultimately the destruction of plaster, finishes, and eventually the structure. Present naturally in the environment, moisture is normally controlled to provide human comfort as well as for the protection of historic building materials. Understanding moisture movement in order to better manage it is a challenge to home owners and preservation professionals alike. There is not one answer to a moisture problems. Moisture control techniques will always differ depending on climatic and soil conditions, ground water effects, and local traditions in building construction.
The enduring decorative forms created by ornamental plaster tradesmen are subjected to the ravages of both moister and man. Consequently, they rarely remain as originally designed. Considerable damage and deterioration are caused by poor maintenance practices. Fortunately the detail, and finish of historic ornamental plaster can be recaptured through careful repair and restoration.
Ornamental Plaster Substrate
The system to attach ornamental plaster primarily consisted of 1/4″ x 1-1/4″ wooden lathing strips nailed 3/8″ apart against studs and joists. First, the craftsmen would apply a scratch coat consisting of sand, lime, and cattle hair troweled on the lath and pressed through the slots so as to slump over and form locks to hold the plaster to the lathing. Then a brown coat is applied to establish a flat and level surface. The earliest plasterwork consisted of two coats of lime and sand plaster; later in the 19th century, a third or finish coat was applied that consisted of both lime and gypsum. Decorative pieces were generally attached to the substrate using plaster as an adhesive.
Historic Ornamental Plaster Failure
Failure of the substrate system is typically more common than the failure of the plaster ornament itself. Structural movement and water intrusion are the most common reasons for the need of Denver historic preservation. Buildings move and settle, causing delamination which results in stress cracking. These cracks often begin at the corners of doors and windows. They will then continue upward at acute angles. Roof or plumbing leaks will cause finishes to discolor and peel. Buildings without climate control are subject to freezing – thawing cycles which ultimately result in base coat as well as ornamental plaster failure.
Denver Historic Preservation of Ornamental Plaster
Repair beyond patching often requires targeted replacement of entire lengths or portions of cast ornamentation. Pieces that have deteriorated or been damaged beyond patching must be removed and replaced with new pieces that exactly match the existing historic plaster. Partial restoration is often a more accurate term than repair. It is not recommended that repair of ornamental plaster be undertaken by property owners. It is a craft requiring years of training and experience. A qualified professional should always be called in to make an assessment of your ornamental plaster enrichments and to identify those details which are repairable onsite and which should be removed for repair or remanufacture in the shop.
DOWD Restoration has Denver Historic Preservation experience from repairing weathered worn and damaged structures to recreating historic architecture to both private homes and commercial properties. Refurbishing a timeworn, derelict or mistreated piece of the past and renovating it for future generations to relish is tremendously satisfying work. Let DOWD Restoration help you with your next Denver historic preservation project!