Want to restore brownstone yourself?

“Brownstone” is the common name for a variety
of brown, red, and pink sandstone widely used as
building materials from the mid-1800s until the
early-1900s. In fact, it was so common that the
word became synonymous with “row house.”
Brownstone is found in buildings as early as the
1600s, but it truly emerged as a dominant American
building material in the mid-1800s, when popular
taste in literature, art, and architecture embraced a
romantic return to nature. Its rich, earth-toned color
and variety of surface textures expressed this ideal
perfectly. To nineteenth-century builders, the softness
of brownstone was an ideal quality. The material
lent itself perfectly to the rapid carving of moldings,
brackets, consoles, bas-relief, pediments, architraves,
enframements, and many other architectural devices
that decorated roughhouses of this period.
During the period of its greatest use, brownstone
was central to the look and feel of American
architecture. It is found not only in row houses
and individual residences, but also in religious,
industrial, commercial, and public buildings.
Brownstone use was most common in the
Northeast, close to the principal quarries

Almost as soon as sandstone became prominent as a
building material, it became known for its tendency
to decay. Unfortunately, its layered composition and
high porosity means that brownstone deteriorates
easily. It is especially susceptible to the action of
water, salts, freeze-thaw cycling, air pollutants, and
similar factors. In the Northeast, the local climate
consisting of wet winters with daily temperature
fluctuations has proven to be particularly hard on
the material. Consequently, brownstone presents
significant maintenance and repair problems for
many owners of historic brownstone buildings.

Do you want to protect and maintain your building?

Building owners and stewards can avoid many
problems commonly associated with brownstone
through proper maintenance. A regular maintenance
program can remedy water infiltration and slow
the rate of decay. Deteriorating stone often can be
protected, and repair and replacement costs can
be reduced. A responsible building owner can carry out most of
the following basic maintenance procedures at a very low cost: