Removing Paint from a Landmark Building in NYC

by | Last updated May 29, 2024 | Brownstones & Townhouses, Landmarks

Believe it or not, some people have painted over historic masonry facades and other architectural elements of buildings, townhouses, and brownstones in New York City over the years. Over time, this paint can start to peel and look terrible; it also covers the original character of the masonry facade.


Can You Remove Paint from Landmark Masonry Facades?

You can remove paint from the architectural elements or masonry facade of a historic building if you follow the proper procedures, protocols, and methods established by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. The LPC outlines approved means and methods for removing paint from Historic Masonry Facades. Their office must approve all work in NYC for Landmark buildings and buildings within a Landmark District.  

The good news is that removing paint from historic properties is possible as long as we follow all the protocols and procedures to ensure that we comply with LPC requirements and, more importantly, ensure that we do not damage the original elements of the building.

I am Jorge Fontan, an architect in New York and owner of Fontan Architecture, an architecture firm based in NYC. At our office, we work on various project types, including facade restorations. Painting facades can take away from the character of a building, and the paint usually deteriorates over time, looking terrible. In this post, I will outline some of the best practices and protocols for removing paint from a Historic Building or Townhouse.

Painted Brick Facade with Peeling Paint

Painted Brick Facade with Peeling Paint


Landmark Preservation Commission Requirements

If the building or home is a landmark or within a Landmark District, it will fall under the purview of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, also known as LPC. LPC must approve applications and plans for these buildings before work can commence.

LPC regulates the means of restoring landmark status buildings in NYC. LPC must approve all materials and methods. We present complete documentation of the existing conditions and the original character of the building to LPC with a clear plan for the restoration. LPC will review the application and work with the design team to establish a suitable course of action.


Facade Cleaning and Paint Removal

The most crucial premise for cleaning and removing paint from a historic facade is that you do not want to damage the facade in the process. We always start with the lightest paint removal method to protect the facade and work up to more intensive methods as needed.

Soap and Water: The first step is to attempt with a mild soap, water, and a soft brush.

Pressure Washer: The contractor can use a pressure washer on masonry. Pressure washing should always begin with the lowest pressure sprayed from a safe distance and gradually increase the pressure as needed. The pressure from Masonry should not exceed 500 PSI or 300 PSI on Cast Iron. We do not use a pressure washer on wood or fragile materials and elements on Landmark properties.

Chemical Detergents: LPC can approve the use of Chemical Detergents if they are deemed safe for the existing materials. We make small tests before applying chemicals to a large area.

Alternative Methods: If all else fails, some alternative methods for removing paint and cleaning facades may work but must coordinated with LPC.

Sandblasting Is Not Allowed: LPC prohibits using sandblasting on Landmarks or in Landmark Districts in NYC.


Removing Paint from a Landmark Facade

All work on historic buildings has to be done with great care not to cause damage to the original facade. Cleaning and removing paint should be done methodically to ensure no additional damage occurs. We have another post you can read if you want to learn about Brownstone Facade Restorations


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

I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect about a potential project, you can contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.


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.