Historic Building Conditions Assessment

Understand and document the current conditions of your historic building in order to anticipate and plan for conservation, restoration, and preservation needs.

Historic Building Conditions Assessment

When it comes to working on a historic building or structure, utmost care must be taken at every step to ensure that the historic and cultural integrity of the building is preserved. Whether the work in question is conservation-, restoration-, or preservation-focused or entirely new construction, this all starts by understanding the existing conditions of the building: What do you have?

A historic building conditions assessment can help you answer this, and other, questions, informing everything from the earliest planning phases to project sequencing, restoration and preservation work, new construction, and more. 

Even if conservation work and/or new construction are not planned, an assessment can help you to document what exists, which may inform ongoing maintenance and stabilization efforts and safeguard against future damage.

At Canning, our expert artisans and tradesmen have more than 40 years of experience investigating, analyzing, and documenting, historic structures for owners and architects looking to preserve the historic fabric of their building.


“Canning understands materials and specifications, especially traditional materials and techniques, and understands and appreciates the benefits of a truly collaborative effort in design excellence. [WV Capitol Dome]”


“It has been my pleasure to work with the John Canning & Co. for over 15 years. Their talent and skill in execution is unique in the arena of historic restoration projects.”


Our Process

UVA - Garrett Hallr

Each conditions assessment must, by nature, be tailored to the individual historic building or structure being investigated or analyzed. That being said, most assessments follow an approach similar to the one outlined below.

Before conducting the on-site investigation or assessment, we prefer to review any available primary sources—such as architectural specifications, drawings, diary entries, newspaper or magazine articles, etc. These resources, paired with an understanding of the owner’s goals and aspirations, offer valuable insight into the history of a structure and allow us to theorize about important elements or areas within a structure which may warrant closer on-site inspection.

This background research is followed by an on-site assessment, during which our experts examine, investigate, and assess all relevant areas within a structure, which could include decorative elements (paint, gilding, ornamental plaster, etc.) as well as structural elements (marble, stone, wood, metal, etc.) or murals and fine art. The conditions of these elements are thoroughly documented through a mixture of photographs, architectural drawings, and overlay mappings (as deemed appropriate).

Off-site laboratory analysis may be necessary to identify and document certain materials, such as paint and finishes, plaster substrates and compositions, wood species, etc.

In addition to documenting the existing conditions of the structure, the resulting report can help to inform project sequencing, budgets, and schedules, and typically includes recommended next steps for maintenance and stabilization.

Cost Factors

The exact cost of conducting a conditions assessment for a historic structure will naturally depend upon a number of factors. These may include:

  • The size of the building or structure to be assessed
  • The complexity of the work and the scope of the overall project
  • Whether or not there are accessibility or safety concerns which must be accounted for (for example, whether or not scaffolding or stabilization efforts will be required)
  • Whether or not other types of assessment (historic paint and finishes investigation, plaster conditions survey, etc.) are required

For this reason, it can be difficult for us to state what might be the typical costs for an “average” conditions assessment. If you are considering an assessment for your historic building or structure, we encourage you to contact us directly, which will allow us to give you a more accurate picture of what the costs may entail.

Our Specialties

In addition to the historic building conditions assessment, we specialize in a number of other complementary services which may form the logical next step after an initial assessment. These may include:


We carefully conserved and restored all aspects of the Luzerne County Courthouses historic fabric: marble, metal, plaster, paint, and mural artwork.


We were involved in plaster stabilization and creating a new ceiling and beam structure independent of the severely compromised Garrett Hall building.

Decorative Painting

Our team of artisans were the restoration consultants and specialty contractors for the historic Stadium Theatre decoration and finishes.

Cosmos Mural Restoration

Canning scheduled all trades and performed specialty contracting to conserve and restore fine-art murals, ornamental plaster, gilding, decorative finishes and the parquet floor of the ornately decorated Cosmos Club ballroom in Washington, DC.

Our artisans were entrusted with the restoration and conservation of historic decorative painting and gilding originally designed by Thomas Jefferson.

Our conservation team restored the plaster work throughout the Colonial Theatre’s auditorium and public spaces, including casting ornamental plaster.