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pc-COG paint 1.jpg
The front facade of Cogswell's Grant being prepped for painting.

Exterior paints, stains, and washes are sacrificial layers meant to protect the substrate and contribute stylistically to the building. Additionally, these finishes hold important information regarding the class, style, and historic practices of previous residents and serve as a record of how a building or structure has changed through time. For these reasons, documenting and retaining examples of paint finishes is crucial to the overall understanding of the structure or feature. Any painting project should consider the documentation of earlier layers as important as creating the new layer.

Historic New England has created the following guidelines for exterior paint:

  • Monitor and maintain the paint finish to prolong its life.
  • Plan thoughtfully, considering issues like materials, preparation, the impact of activities on people and the landscape, and timing. 
  • Follow all appropriate EPA and OSHA guidelines and standards for the safe removal and disposal of paint.
  • Prepare the surface in a manner that balances the potential need to retain earlier paint layers with the need to obtain the longest-lasting finish possible.
  • Apply the paint using a method that will ensure a lasting quality finish.
  • Document the completed project in a way that will help future generations learn about this particular process.

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