Historic Preservation Training:
A series of videos brought to you by the Archaeology, History & Museums Division of California State Parks.

"Building Condition Assessment"
A Workshop in Partnership With
The National Park Service and the University of Oregon Historic Preservation Program

DON PETING, (University of Oregon Historic Preservation Program) “Assessments are done routinely in preservations because they’re necessary to determine essentially how you deal with a building. What we call levels of treatment.”

NARRATOR) Historic preservation entails treating historic buildings under one of 4 treatment options: preservation, restoration, rehabilitation, or reconstruction.

NARRATOR) No matter which treatment you ultimately choose, you must first assess the condition of your historic building.

NARRATOR) In this workshop, we assess buildings at Bodie State Historic Park. Most of the buildings are preserved in a state of arrested decay, which is a very particular form of preservation used at Bodie

TOPPER GRAPHIC) Bodie State Historic Park – A National Historic Landmark

NARRATOR) To get started, you’ll need an assessment form.

DON PETING) “Most people have an assessment form that they put together and they’re all similar. We tried to address the questions that we knew that would come up for these various buildings. We knew that we would not talk a lot about plumbing and heating and electrical issues because these buildings by and large don’t contain that.”

DON PETING) “We’re going to talk about their structure, we’re going to talk about their weather envelope, we’re going to talk about their foundation and roof framing and so forth, so we set up the assessment form up for the nature of the buildings that were there.”

NARRATOR) Here is an example of an assessment form. (Pan down the form) As you can see, it starts with an overview of the exterior and the surroundings. The form contains space for you to write down your observations about the building’s character and condition. It is important to record the date of the inspection and who conducted the assessment.

NARRATOR) Then draw a sketch of the overall site, include a directional arrow. And make sure to note the context of the building, including such landscape elements as the location of major plants and trees, paths and trails, along with other nearby structures.

NARRATOR) as you begin your assessment, stand back and take in the general characteristics of the building

DON PETING) “We’ve identified it as a rectangular plan, single space, gambrel roof, we’re caught by the fact that the windows appear to be in sideways. It might have been the way they built it. It has a significant number of openings. It has the name Carriage House so I have to make the presumption that that it was for carriages from the get-go.”

KIRK HALFORD, BLM) “It’s a single wall construction and it looks like the foundation is pretty much gone. It’s sinking. It’s fairly unique because it’s got the tin covering it. We think it probably dates back to the 1860 – 1880s because of the hand soldering on the tin. There has been a little stabilization, probably back in the 80s on it. It’s in pretty good condition. At this point it wouldn’t take too much work to be able to maintain it in a state of arrested decay.”

DON PETING) “You start on the outside and look for structural failures that are visible through the form of the roof or the slope of the walls or the buckling of this or the bulging out of that…”

NARRATOR) Now take a look at the exterior details. Note the nearby vegetation, do any roots undermine the foundation? Look at the slope of the ground and the drainage. Is there evidence of ponding in or around the building? Does wind driven earth build up at the base?

NARRATOR) Now look at the foundation. What type of materials are used? Concrete, stone or wood? Are there any deficiencies such as cracks, loose mortar or rot?

DON PETING) “You evaluate what the issues seem to be and then you can richly illustrate it with digital photographs quite nicely. Making sketches of key things, that is foundation details and roof to wall details and understanding how things fit together. Because once you draw those details you understand technical issues far better.”

SUEANN BROWN, Yosemite National Park) “What I’m doing right now is just sketching out some of the structure. I’m doing a section drawing which is kind of like slicing the building in half, sort of like your looking into a doll house and that can kind of help you to understand how the building was put together.“

NARRATOR) Now take a look at the masonry elements. - Is there stone or brick on the outside? Note the type of stone and describe the mortar. Then list any deficiencies you find, such as gaps, or places where a different type or color of mortar was used in a repair.

NARRATOR) Now take a look at the structural elements. Describe the wall structure and posts. The beams, rafters and purloins. What type of wood is used? What is the condition of the coatings? Is there plant growth or moss affecting the structure? Describe the siding. Make a note of the width and length of the components.

MIKE MCBRIDE, Bodie State Historic Park) “Then we assess different things like how it’s put together on the inside, we measure the timbers to see what size timbers they used. We look at the joints. This actually has lap joints where the ends come together and they lap over each other. They’re cut halfway and lapped over. So that’s something important to note.”

NARRATOR) Windows and Doors. Describe the style and materials of the doors. The hardware and casement. Are they single or double hung? How many panes do they have?

NARRATOR) Take a look at the roof. Describe the roofing and describe the materials, thicknesses, the exposure, installation pattern and the number of layers.. Now look at the SIDING and other exterior elements. Describe any other components including metal siding or roofing. Look at hardware, stove parts.

NARRATOR) Describe the interior walls, floors and ceilings. If your building has a finished interior, describe the finishes, lighting and condition. Make notes and measurements of the cabinets and counters. Describe the electrical fixtures and plumbing. Also assess the heating and air conditioning applications.

NARRATOR) In addition to your condition assessment form and your sketches, you will need to take some photos to document your building. NARRATOR) The number of photos may vary depending on the condition of the building and the proposed treatment.

PETE SCHULZ, California State Parks Archaeologist) “We recorded this building, we did architectural drawings, we measured the entire thing. We did not only floor plans and elevations. We photo documented it. We photographed every elevation. Our ideal is to photograph every door and every window from both faces, every wall of every room. The ceiling the floors the roofs as well as any condition problems that we come up with. It’s pretty thorough. In a typical building we would have hundreds of photographs to document what it looked like, the significance aspects of it and the condition problems.”

NARRATOR) Any treatment of an historic building needs to begin with a condition assessment. In this video, we showed you how to conduct a building assessment, and here are the key points:

1. Start with an assessment form – you can find examples of assessment forms at www.parks.ca.gov/buildingcondition

2. Begin your assessment with an overview of the exterior

3. Draw a sketch of the site, including the context of the building

4. Stand back and note the general characteristics of the building

5. Make sketches of key elements of the building

6. Note the structural elements, including walls, beams, rafters, and siding

7. Describe the windows and doors

8. Describe the roof and materials, and any exterior components

9. Note the finishes of the interior

10. Take photos to document these features

NARRATOR) For more information, including technical bulletins and the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards, visit www.parks.ca.gov/buildingcondition