When it comes to historic buildings – think churches, museums, historical commercial spaces – extra care needs to be taken in their painting and restoration. Old paints, while beautiful, tend to deteriorate differently due to exposure to sunlight and humidity – that’s why it’s crucial to research the building’s history. It’s worth noting that in most cases, you’re better off hiring professionals to get the job done safely and effectively.
Finding out the types of paint that were used, the methods applied and the colours that were popular in the time period of the building are a great starting point; after this, you’re ready to get started.
Paint on the exterior will likely need to be removed with a scraping tool, and preferably by hand – this makes it easier to firstly prevent damage and secondly, you’ll be better able to establish when you’ve reached the first well-adhered layer of paint. The same goes for paint on the interior walls, as using mechanical tools to remove paint can damage the wall, detract from the value of the building and ultimately make it impossible to create a pristine finish.
Chemical strippers can be used, but there are precautions to take to ensure that the space is adequately ventilated and that the chemicals don’t get on any other surfaces.
Non-abrasive methods are best
Abrasive methods of paint removal, ie using an electric sander or a high pressure washer can permeate the paint and damage the surface underneath – plus these methods can create deep gouges, depressions and holes that can’t be concealed or covered up.
Opting for a non-abrasive method to remove the paint will have less of an impact on the surface, which ultimately makes up for the fact that it can be the more time-consuming option. Using a non-abrasive approach should also offer up the chance to examine each layer of paint as it’s stripped off, giving an insight into the building’s history and enabling you to preserve as much historic beauty as possible.
Dealing with asbestos and lead-based paint
When painting and renovating historical buildings, the two biggest hazards to be considered will most often come back to asbestos and / or lead-based paint. It’s definitely best to bring in the professionals if you are aware of a history of either of these being present in the building, and even if you’re unsure – they’ll be able to perform tests that’ll confirm whether there’s any asbestos or lead-based paint present.
If either are known to be, or are consequently found to be present, then it’s best for a professional team of cleaners specialised in the removal of hazardous materials to be brought in, so as to eliminate them and ensure that the space is then safe for redecoration or refurbishment.
Maintaining the finish
As with initially studying the building to establish what materials and types of paint have been used before you begin a project, it’s also important that the type of paint used to finish is also researched. If the overarching aim is to restore the building to its former glory, then the overall finish used will have a huge impact on the end result.
Plus, it’s important to make sure that the building is still historically accurate after its revamp – a good commercial painter will be easily able to determine the finish and colour scheme, and ensure they’re applied throughout the whole project.
As we live in an increasingly fresh and modern world, it’s becoming more common to undertake historical painting and restoration projects – and many will likely be documented and can help you in your research. Because ultimately, research is key – colour schemes, styles, materials, and context all play a vital role in restoration projects, and you want to get it right.
We’ve noted a few times throughout that the best option is generally to hire a professional painter / decorator (or a team, depending on the size of the building and interior space), as an experienced and qualified professional will be able to carry out the work safely, carefully, and offer a pristine finish. If you’ve got a project in mind, get in touch and see how we can help.