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Liszt Historical Masonry Restoration

Liszt Historical Masonry Restoration

Why use Liszt Historical Restoration, Inc. and not just any other restoration contractor or mason?

Because understanding the cause of the failure, the nature of the materials and how these materials interact with each other in the confines of the structure itself is the only way to produce lasting beneficial results. 

Many masonry restoration contractors claim to be ‘experts’ and tout years of experience, even how dedicated and passionate their employees are about the trade.  These are all good things to be sure, but they are not particularly unique and they are not the most important elements that set one contractor apart from another.  What sets Liszt Historical Restoration, Inc. apart from other contractors in our field is Comprehension.  We have worked very hard in the study of building restoration  and continue to do so.  This isn’t the same thing as keeping up with recent developments in chemical cleaning agents and state-of-the-art consolidation compounds or waterproofing and repair materials although again these things are good things, they can’t replace a fundamental understanding of the antique building techniques and materials.  It’s a bit like flashing and caulking:  both will keep water out for a period of time, but let’s face it, caulking is a supplement to flashing not a replacement for flashing.  (Unfortunately many architects/engineers don’t understand this so sealants are used more and more in new construction where flashing should have been used and the results are premature water damage in very expensive new construction.)  Too often the restoration of Historical Masonry Buildings results in much more injury to the building than actual restoration.  There is a lot of ‘gray area’ and ambiguity surrounding this trade; not many architects or engineers know much about these old structures; how they were constructed, what materials were used and how these materials have been compromised by the many changes in environmental conditions over many decade, even centuries.  This is not a fault of the architect or engineer; they haven’t had the training and only rarely the opportunity to gain field experience with these older structures.  Their training is geared for the modern world after all, new construction, so often these older buildings fall into the category ‘obsolete’.  The property owner who is fortunate enough to own one of these antique expressions of the marriage of form and function appreciate them but also know what a challenge they are to maintain and how difficult it is to get good advice and competent service for their repairs.  Often they have little more resource than the salesman at a supply store or factory representative both of whom are not well versed in the topic and very rarely have any experience.  They are both motivated to promote what they are selling and this usually isn’t suitable for the older masonry in question. 

Masonry vs. Restoration

There is a big difference between the two and rarely does one contractor do both particularly well.  They both use many of the same tools, and some of the same materials but their ‘ends’ are very different.  The mason is a builder; he works hard to produce a given structure for a given purpose with the materials best suited for the job or those materials called out in project manuals/drawings.  Can the general mason restore an older structure?  If it is not more than 80 or so years old, they often can.  If the structure is older than that using a general mason as a restoration craftsman is a big mistake.  Can a qualified restoration craftsman perform general masonry construction?  Yes, but usually not as proficiently as the masonry contractor who has honed his skills and refine the process to produce it as efficiently as possible.  The problem is that both bring their trade mindset and habits into the process and almost never are even aware of it.  The mason ‘fixes’ things, and it sure looks fixed.  You can see his repairs a mile away and he always uses modern materials which are not compatible with the original building fabric.  The restoration contractor is often someone never even trained in masonry beyond what little they have seen on a restoration project.  This makes for many problems when building new masonry.  Some of the worst masonry work I have ever seen was performed by a Restoration Contractor.  Some of the worst restoration I have seen was performed by a masonry contractor. It should also be made clear that some of the very worst restoration I have seen has been performed by restoration contractors, although I have never seen the very worst masonry work performed by a viable  masonry contractor:  The two habits and mindsets of the trades are very different and they do not overlap well, generally speaking.   If you wish to construct new masonry structures hire a reputable masonry contractor and there are many to choose from as that particular trade has a long and honorable tradition.  If you need to restore an existing structure, particularly an older one, hire a reputable restoration contractor with many solid references including jobs similar to your own, as this trade is somewhat new.  Call their references too.  Some contractors use names and even projects they had nothing to do with and are counting on you to skip doing your homework thinking, ‘if it’s on their webpage or in print, it must be valid; as no one would put something out there that wasn’t true, Right?’ Wrong.  It happens all the time.  What you will find is that there are many, many times more qualified masonry contractors than there are restoration contractors.  Masonry is pretty straight forward; restoration is a lot more complicated and the good masons I know avoid it as completely alien to their trade.  While our crew was working at Middlebury College’s Star Library Project, where we did some pretty amazing work (2006-7), the masonry contractor building the new construction would walk past us saying, ‘man you couldn’t pay me enough to do that’, to which we would reply, ‘you couldn’t pay us to do your work either’.  When we need a sufficient quantity of masonry work performed as part of our restoration project we often sub-contract it to a reputable masonry company we work with.  Many of them do the same with Liszt Restoration.   Unfortunately the industry is rather covetous about any trade using similar tools.  If you are holding a trowel you must fall under ‘masonry’.  This is not good for older buildings.  I look at articles in publications from various ‘masonry magazines’ and see what they call good restoration work and cringe.  Unfortunately that’s the way things are today, but if you have a valuable historic masonry, brick and/or stone building don’t leave it in the hands of a modern mason who often doesn’t even know what his own materials are made of to say nothing of materials used 150 years ago.