Specifying the use of surface protection products on historic interiors during construction

Specifying the use of surface protection products on historic interiors during construction

Projects involving historic interiors range from the meticulous restoration of a classic movie theater to the renovation of abandoned attics for new homes. The size of the building, the importance of the interior and the scope of the work will determine how best to protect the interior finishes during construction work. However, all works involving historic buildings share the need for proper planning and the specification of appropriate temporary surface protection products. Without such provisions, unnecessary damage can occur, which will require additional funds and may lead to the complete loss of some interior coatings. Relying on the contractor to protect the interior without specifying such surface protection puts the historic material and finishes at unnecessary risk. Protective measures must be specified in the construction specifications for the work. Although the general language of the contract may refer to “protection of existing structure” and may require the contractor to “restore all damage to its original condition without additional expense,” the general nature of the language provides little protection to existing historic finishes or features . Instead of providing adequate protection, some contractors deliberately choose to repair the damage, believing it is cheaper. Therefore, best practice for historic interiors involves specifying the protection of all historic architectural features and finishes using temporary surface protection products.

An important difference between protecting historic interior features and finishes and protecting new interior features and finishes during construction is the timing of the construction schedule. In new work, finishes such as cabinets and flooring are installed late in the construction schedule, after mechanical and electrical systems and other heavy work are completed, so that the finishes are not exposed to major construction operations. However, in conservation works, the existing interior finishes are exposed to all the high-impact and potentially damaging construction phases of the project. Important architectural elements that are easily removed should be stored off-site if possible to protect against vandalism, theft and damage during construction. Typical examples are lighting fixtures, fireplaces and interior doors. Access to construction personnel to spaces with significant features and finishes shall be limited, except for their work directly related to the preservation of such spaces. Restricted access spaces should be identified by the design team and specified in the construction documents to allow the contractor to include all associated costs in their bid. For spaces such as halls and lobbies it may not be practical to restrict access and all internal spaces may require some construction work. In such circumstances, interior finishes must be physically isolated from construction operations by means of protective barriers and coverings such as Zipwall systems. Such surfaces are generally limited to floors, walls up to approximately 6 feet high, and special construction such as stairways. Flooring needs to be protected from damage caused by abrasion, falling objects and there are a variety of floor protection products available from companies that specialize in surface protection.

Temporary protection during construction may include covering historic features, such as floors and walls, and using temporary doors to control the passage of workers and the inevitable dust and dirt. Fire extinguishers located in a visible place are mandatory. When protection from spilled liquids is required, a layer of waterproof surface protection should be used. Fire protection must be used in projects where electrical systems are being upgraded. Care must be taken in selecting the appropriate floor protection to ensure that moisture from spilled liquids does not become trapped on the historic flooring or that the newly installed or renovated flooring can breathe. Care should also be taken to avoid coatings such as rosin paper, which could potentially stain the historic flooring. Historic staircases, balustrades, balconies, fireplaces, door surrounds, windows and other components will also need to be protected from construction damage. There are a variety of surface protection products on the market, including Swiftwrap Handrail Protection, Ram Jamb Door Protection, DoorGuard Temporary Door Protection and more. It makes sense to contact a surface protection expert to select the best temporary protection for the project.

Determining the temporary protection of historic interiors during construction is the responsibility of both the architect and the contractor. Most general construction contract terms contain wording such as: “The contractor is solely responsible and has control over the construction materials, methods, techniques, sequences and procedures and for the coordination of all parts of the work. For conservation projects, it is recommended that the temporary protection of historic interiors during construction be specified in a separate section of the Section 1 specification to ensure that the required provisions are not overlooked by tenderers. By creating a separate section in a bid proposal, the bidder will be inclined to treat “special project procedures” as an additional expense rather than part of the temporary facilities required for each change project. In this way, the contractor’s project manager can provide for the incurring of reasonable costs to provide certain temporary surface protection during construction To ensure the adequacy of temporary protective measures in projects involving a construction manager, c.r. is often best provided by the construction manager, who normally works to the owner on a cost plus fee basis Temporary surface protection should normally be specified in terms of product name, type and company where the products are offered.

Conditions prior to commencement of construction shall be photographically documented by the contractor. For small projects, a videotape survey can also be an effective supplement to photographs of existing conditions. The owner may wish to document existing conditions independently of the contractor to avoid any future disputes regarding damage caused by construction operations as opposed to pre-existing damage. The temporary protection of historic interiors during construction, an essential component of any preservation project, is largely a matter of construction management. A successful protection program is the result of careful advance planning, thorough project-specific specifications, owner vigilance, contract performance, and contractor diligence. Cost savings can be realized by minimizing damage to the historic structure during construction and the proper use of temporary surface protection products.

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