The beginning: In the fall of 2016, Brooklyn-based Excellent Contracting got the call to do a facade restoration on a landmarked Harlem brownstone. “To begin with, brownstone is a porous stone,” said managing partner Jeff Haider. “It’s sandstone, so once the water gets in, the damage starts. Limestone is more durable.”
Fortunately, Excellent Contracting has been serving New York City for decades, many of their jobs being historical preservation.
The first thing Haider noted was the damage done to the facade by coatings of paint. “I saw lots of deterioration due to the paint, which traps the moisture inside, as well as deterioration due to the ivy. Also, details like the square panels and circular holes at the balcony level were all missing, having been sealed at some point.”
The stoop generally deteriorates faster than the facade due to snow accumulation and wear and tear. “It’s pretty typical for the stoop to show this kind of deterioration,” Haider said.
A chipping gun was used on the side of the stoop and the entire facade to remove layers of paint. “My first reaction was ‘wow, those are the original details.'”
Deterioration can vary, like here on the crown of the doorway header. “Areas with cracks will have more water penetration and lead to more deterioration.”
The brownstone details were restored by hand. “We took out the damaged one and carved and sculpted new ones out of brownstone stucco mix.”
A scratch coat was applied to the facade in the fall and left to cure over the winter. Details and moldings were built back into shape, and panels in the upper balcony were removed and re-stuccoed.
“We applied a chemical, which had to be approved by Landmarks, to remove the original paint,” he said. “We had the original brownstone exposed, and had to give color samples to Landmarks to match the original color. We have to make sure the color is the same — it can’t look like patchwork.”
Project start: Fall of 2016
Project completed: Summer of 2017
Cost: According to Haider, a brownstone facade project can range from $50,000 (very simple) to $250,000 (very intricate details on facade and stoop). “It can be potentially even higher,” he says. “But most brownstone restoration projects range from $80,000 to $150,000.”
For more information about your restoration needs, contact Excellent Contracting here.