Brownstone Facade Restoration in NYC

by | Last updated Jun 7, 2024 | Brownstones & Townhouses, Landmarks

New York City has many beautiful Brownstones, but these can be in disrepair. Considering these homes are well over one hundred years old, they often need restoration.


Can You Restore a Brownstone Facade 

Brownstone is a brownish-colored sandstone that was a popular building facade material in the 19th Century. This stone can deteriorate over time from weather and lack of maintenance. There are multiple techniques to restore brownstone facades that can provide high-quality results when properly executed. 

Brownstone facades are found all over NYC. They can be ornate or simple, in excellent condition, or in terrible shape. If you repair or restore a Brownstone, it is essential to do it properly.

I am Jorge Fontan, owner of New York-based architecture firm Fontan Architecture. At our office, we work on various project types, including Brownstone restorations. In this post, I will review some basic concepts for restoring a Brownstone Facade in NYC.


Landmark Brownstones

Many Brownstones are Landmarked or in Landmark Districts in New York City. When the Brownstone is subject to the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) regulations, there will be a set of protocols for restoration work.

As architects, we first document the existing facade and all the areas that need repair. This assessment process can include historical research, especially if the facade is badly deteriorated or missing original elements.

All the work will have to be approved by LPC before you can proceed with the repairs. LPC has strict requirements for restorations. We provide LPC with extensive documentation of the original facade and details on the existing conditions. We will also outline the procedures, materials, colors, and all other details for how we propose to restore the facade in our drawings for LPC.


Cleaning and Removing Paint From a Facade

Believe it or not, there are historic buildings, townhouses, and brownstones where someone painted over the facade or parts of architectural elements. There are multiple cleaning and paint removal methods, but one basic premise governs how we proceed. When cleaning or removing paint from historic materials, we always start with the lightest cleaning method and escalate as needed.

Sandblasting is not allowed on Landmark Facades in New York City. If you want to learn more we have another post you can read on Removing Paint from a Landmark Building


Patching Brownstone

Many Brownstone repair and restoration projects will involve patching. This type of repair is filling deteriorated Brownstone with new material. Brownstone can often flake off at the touch. Some stones may be so deteriorated that patching will not be sufficient. If the damage is not so bad that the stone is salvageable, patching may be the ideal path for repair.

The patch method begins with cutting back all deteriorated material until good quality stone is reached. New cementitious material is applied in multiple coats to fill in the crevices. The final coat must match the original character and color of the stone.

LPC has specific requirements and specified recipes for the various coats of fill material: the slurry coat, scratch coat, and finish coat. LPC must approve samples and mock-ups.


Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on Restoring Brownstone Facades in NYC. 

I hope this was helpful. If you want to speak with an architect about a potential project, you can contact us at Fontan Architecture directly. If you are looking for an architect to work on a Brownstone or other type of project, please see our Brownstone Renovation Architectural Services.


Contact Fontan Architecture

Jorge Fontan

Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.