Building Doctor officials visit the Reeves Museum in Dover

DOVER ‒ You need a full physical every year, just like your home.

A historic building preservation expert told an audience late Thursday that homeowners should perform a full inspection every year, from roof to foundation, inside and out. The goal is to find and fix small problems before they become big ones.

Enemy number one is humidity, Nathan Bevil told an audience at the Reeves Museum carriage shed. He appeared as part of the Building Doctor program of the State Historic Preservation Office of the Ohio History Connection.

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A three-member team gave a presentation on Thursday and toured old buildings on Friday.

Friday’s first site visit was to the Reeves Museum, where Bevil’s point about humidity was proven.

Building Doctor: peeling paint and failing plaster

Museum director Shelagh K. Pruni led the team to problem areas of the historic structure. The first stop was the kitchen, where wallpaper peeled off damaged plaster under a window.

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Bevil, community planning and preservation manager, suggested looking outside for the cause. He found it. Looking up, he saw clumps of leaves above a gutter. He said the water likely overflowed from the clogged drain and spilled over the wall and window sill before entering the interior. He suggested seeing the area during a thunderstorm.

He said that once the water seepage was stopped, the wall would have to dry out for a year before it could be repaired.

On Thursday evening, he and other Building Doctor advisers gave illustrated lectures on topics such as peeling paint and failing plaster, damp basements, deteriorating masonry, windows, wood problems and updating pre-1955 buildings without sacrificing historic integrity.

Bevil and Joy Williams, Head of Architectural Reviews, showed several issue slides.

Water damage is apparent on a wall at the Reeves Museum in Dover.  Historic building preservation experts visited the site on Thursday and Friday.

The public groaned when Williams showed photos of window openings with rounded tops that had replacement windows with straight tops. She recommended that replacement windows match the shape and size of the originals.

But given the choice of replacing or repairing windows in an old building, Bevil recommended repairing when possible. His reasoning: Century-old windows have been made with old wood that is superior to today’s wood.

How to Prioritize Historic Building Repairs

Zoar Mayor Scott Gordon asked how to prioritize spending on historic building projects.

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If a building needs both windows and a roof, Bevil said, and you couldn’t afford historically perfect replacements for both, spend the money to get the best windows. He said the windows are very visible, but people wouldn’t spend much time staring at a roof. He said rubber substitutes for expensive slate roofing can look quite nice.

Bevil suggested looking at old family photos for clues to a home’s original appearance, such as the style of a missing porch.

A Building Doctor publication offers these additional requirements:


  • Open basement windows during the dry season to allow air to circulate. Touch basement walls to detect moisture. Verify adequate ventilation and dehumidification. Make sure air can circulate freely and is not blocked by materials stored against the wall.
  • Look for loose or damaged coatings. Note any areas of paint defect. Check the gaps between the boards. Gaps less than a quarter inch will help ventilate the wall cavity; larger spaces can admit rainwater.
  • Caulk spaces where window and door frames meet masonry or wood openings to keep water out.


  • Use abrasive cleaning methods, such as sandblasting, to clean brick or masonry, as this can cause irreparable damage by damaging the hard exterior and exposing the softer interior.
  • Use water repellent coatings on masonry. They can trap moisture inside. Trapped moisture that freezes and expands forces the surface to flake or peel.
  • Seal basement windows. This can trap moist air inside, prevent proper air circulation and make the basement damp.
  • Plant bushes or other vegetation near the foundation. This can block sunlight from reaching the ground, allowing moisture to collect there.

More information about the Building Doctor is available online at The Dover clinic was co-sponsored by the Reeves Victorian Home & Carriage House Museum.

Contact Nancy at 330-364-8402 or [email protected]

On Twitter: @nmolnarTR

About Carlos V. Mitchell

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