Home Preservation

Exterior Walls and Foundations
Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board

Original Materials on Exterior Walls

Original materials used for exterior walls, including wood clapboards, wood shingles, masonry, and stucco, lend character and a sense of history to Lakewood houses. The treatment of exterior walls give clues about the age and architectural style of a house, as well as adding visually-pleasing texture, detail, and depth. Steps should be taken to maintain and preserve original materials whenever possible.

Follow these guidelines when maintaining or repairing exterior walls:

Repair rather than replace.
Repair original siding materials whenever possible. If sections of siding are deteriorated or damaged, limit repairs to those sections rather than undertaking wholesale replacement.

Match the original.
When making repairs or replacing siding, match the original in material and design. Match the exposure and detail of wood siding and the texture and color of stucco. Masonry repairs can require a bit more attention. Tuckpoint joints with mortar that matches the color, texture, composition, tooling, and size of the original mortar joint. Reuse original bricks and stone, or match replacement pieces as close as possible in color and texture.

Save the details.
Decorative shingles, brackets, exposed rafter tails, hood moldings over windows, cornerboards, and door and window trim are just a few of the architectural details that give Lakewood houses their character. Save the details by repairing these elements or replacing them to match the original. Just remember, don’t add or create exterior decorative elements that were never there— simplicity has its own appeal.

Take it off.
Choose wood over synthetics. Remove non-original siding, but do it carefully. Cheap or improperly installed non-original siding may have caused some deterioration of the original siding beneath. Still, many homeowners find they only have to do a little repair work to restore the original siding.

Walls and Foundations - Another Word on Bricks and Stones

Bricks and stones connote strength and stability in a building, whether used for the foundation, sills and lintels, or for the walls. These materials enjoy a reputation for longevity with low maintenance, however brick and stone are subject to the forces of nature. When it’s time for repairs to brick and stone, keep the following in mind:

Document all details.
Before beginning any work, note colors, textures, and distinctive design features of the masonry. Photograph any interesting details. Place a ruler in the photo to document size.

Preserve that patina.
Stone and brick colors mellow with age. This is a natural beautification process that softens their colors, harmonizing them with nature. If too much soot and dirt have accumulated, scrub with mild detergents, soft-bristled brushes, and a garden hose. Test cleaning agents and procedures first on an inconspicuous part of the structure. Work only when temperatures will not fall below 50BF for three days after wetting the brick.

X Never paint.
Painted stone, brick, or concrete is not as attractive or as durable as the natural patina and require more frequent maintenance than their unpainted counterparts. Once masonry is painted, it is impossible to restore it to its original appearance. Most masonry absorbs the first layer of paint in its pores, and hence, it is usually impossible to remove all traces of it. The result is an original, extremely low maintenance material being converted into a high maintenance material with the addition of one coat of paint. If, however, the masonry is already painted, thick paint build-up or peeling paint can be removed by using chemical strippers formulated for masonry, before repainting. Do not blast or wire brush the paint away. Always test the strippers on an inconspicuous part of the structure.

X Never blast.
Abrasive cleaning removes the hardened surface of older bricks, erodes and pits stone and concrete, and removes the patina that took so long to develop. There are no safe blasting abrasives: not sand, not baking soda, not dolomite, not walnut shells, not glass beads— not even high-pressure water! Abrasively blasted brick and stone will spall (crumble) as moisture attacks the outside surface. In addition, the roughened surface will accumulate dirt and pollutants much faster than the original surface.

Never grind out sound mortar.
Repoint the mortar only where it is cracked or missing. This will keep moisture from penetrating the joints and making the cracks spread.

Match that mortar.
Much of the masonry in Lakewood has joints with colored mortar. When making mortar repairs, match the original color. Color matching can be a tedious experimental process, but the results are worth it. Take a sample of the original mortar to the masonry supply yard and match it with a color chart. Then test small batches until the exact proportions that yield the original color when completely dry are reached. When soliciting contractors, have them prepare mortar samples for approval before beginning the project.

Flex your joints.
Mortar is a cushion, not a glue. Bricks and stones are held in place by their weight, not by adhesion to the mortar. The mortar absorbs expansion and contraction of the masonry structure during freezing and thawing. If the mortar is harder than the stone or brick, the masonry will crack as it, rather than the mortar, yields to seasonal adjustments. Over time the bricks and stones will disintegrate, leaving only the mortar. The type of mortar originally used varies with the age of a building. Pre-mixed cement with its high Portland cement content is too hard for Lakewood’s 19th century and early 20th century masonry. Use lime and sand mixtures. If needed, old mortar samples can be analyzed to determine their ingredients.

Vanquish the vines.
Climbing vines are picturesque. Unfortunately, they trap moisture against the building and harbor insects and birds. Also, by attaching themselves to surfaces, they can damage the wood siding and mortar of a structure. It is best not to encourage foliage to climb on masonry. To remove vines, cut them at the base and allow them to wither for at least one growing season. Once the vines have deteriorated, carefully pull them from the structure. If the mortar and masonry start to pull off, wait another season.

A Word About Sealants.
Clear, penetrating sealers may change the masonry’s color. They may also block the masonry’s ability to breathe, meaning, to pass moisture from inside the house to the outdoors. Moisture trapped within the walls may cause paint failures on inside walls, mildew, and wood rot.


The Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board was established to serve in an advisory capacity for the purpose of educating, informing and making recommendations to City officials, departments, boards and commissions, and the community on matters relating to historic preservation

The Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board may be contacted through the City of Lakewood Department of Planning and Development (216/529-6630). Information in this publication may be reprinted. Please credit the Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board, Lakewood, Ohio.

© 2005 Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board

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