Historic Building Window Protection

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The Minnesota Historical Society’s Local History Services helps Minnesotans preserve and share their history. This blog is a resource of best practices on the wide variety of museum, preservation, conservation, funding, and non-profit management topics. We’re here to help.

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Historic Building Window Protection

By: Tamsin Himes | June 8, 2020
Royalty-free stock photo.

Installing window protection is important for historic buildings that may be in danger of vandalism.  This can be difficult to do in a sensitive way while still providing the protection your building needs. Given that every building is unique, there are different methods that would be better or worse for your particular building depending on its situation and material. Take the time to assess what kind of boarding-up technique is best before beginning. As you secure your building, be careful how you are securing plywood coverings to historic material. As with any situation, minimally invasive methods are preferable. For example, if forced to secure directly to the building, opt for using screws, not nails. Fasten to mortar instead of masonry, brick, or terracotta. 

Here are a few tips and resources which may be helpful as you work to protect your building: 

  • Detailed instructions for window coverings on historic buildings are spelled out in this Preservation Brief. Look for the section titled “Mothballing.”
  • Be sure to add additional padding and protection if you are boarding up stained glass windows. This could be any kind of softer material between the glazing and the boards such as packing styrofoam, thick fabric, or packing blankets. 
  • If you’re wondering about what type of window covering or securing method is best for your building, this document provides an overview of different options with the pros, cons, and uses of each.
  • When boarding up a building, ensure that there is still ventilation throughout.
  • On some buildings, storm window panel clips may be the least invasive option. Check out this video about how they work. Storm window panel clips can be acquired at most larger hardware stores. 
  • These suggestions for temporary window covering solutions may also be helpful.

Window protection is a simple step that can save your building from irreparable damage. Regardless of whether or not your building is in danger at the moment, it's a good idea to take the time and effort now to prepare and plan ahead. This can be as simple as measuring your windows, finding out what kind of fixtures you need, looking over the instructions in the preservation briefs, and getting a few supplies. A little planning now can make a big difference in the future.