Preservation Carpentry: Preserving the Past for Future Generations

July 3, 2023
Suzanne Murdoch
Stack of preservation carpentry books

Preservation carpenters enjoy a very special place in the skilled trades. They restore the work of craftspeople from past generations by bringing old buildings back to their former glory.

Old homes tell a story. Each comes from a certain time and place, built by the craftspeople of that era. In many towns and cities, turning down some streets is like entering a time capsule. You may find yourself passing stately 19th century homes or craftsman designs with their distinctive porches and pillars built after the turn of the 20th century. Or, perhaps, especially if you’re in New England, you might even encounter a quintessential 18th century center chimney cape. Each has not only a certain design aesthetic, but also was built with specific construction techniques and architectural details.

There was a time, not too long ago, when older homes were simply torn down to make way for new construction. Today, though, there is an increasing appreciation for the quality, history, and craftsmanship of these structures coupled with an emphasis on authentic restoration using carpentry techniques from the home’s era. That’s where preservation carpentry comes in.

The work preservation carpenters do can range from restoring a certain element such as a door or shutter on a historic home, to a full restoration. It is careful and precise work and requires a deep appreciation and understanding of historic construction. When an old building is brought back to life, the impact goes far beyond utility. Many of these structures utilize materials and features that simply are not commonly found today. Taking the time to reveal the beauty that may be hidden and restoring a home to its former glory is a gift not only to the owner, but to the community and future generations.

Preservation Carpentry students up on building scaffolding

We at North Bennet Street School are proud of our many Preservation Carpentry program students and graduates that have each played a part in bringing the past back to life. And a home doesn’t need to be centuries old to benefit from the skills of a historic preservation carpenter. Alumnus Billy Burns PC ’11 made the point in a Fine Homebuilding article that although preservation carpentry can be employed to restore homes in this country built as early as the 17th century, it is also equally applicable to homes built just decades ago. It is all about honoring the home’s original construction and aesthetic.

Interested in knowing more about the Preservation Carpentry program at NBSS? We’d love to connect with you.