Should You Paint Historic Wood?

The Baltimore area has an abundance of historic buildings with beautiful original millwork. If you live or run a business in one of these structures, you might be wondering about making alterations to historic wood, such as painting. But part of the beauty of historic millwork is its preservation. You might be wondering: from a preservationist’s perspective, is it okay to paint historic wood?

Should You Paint Historic Wood?

Does painting over historic wood diminish its value? That depends.

Reasons to Paint Historic Wood

To cut to the chase, it’s ultimately up to you whether or not you paint your interior historic millwork. Unlike with exterior millwork, there shouldn’t be any laws or local rules determining what you can do with it. If your house or commercial property is registered as a historical landmark, or if it falls under the jurisdiction of a homeowner’s association, that can interfere with your ability to make exterior alterations.

But the inside of the building is yours. 

In some cases, painting historic wood may actually be the wisest thing to do from a preservation standpoint. A lot of the millwork used in very early homes was actually of poor quality. This is because of the difficulties of transportation during that time period. Early woodworkers often used local wood by necessity, and with little regard to its quality. They painted over the millwork to compensate for this.

But many homes and commercial spaces in our area did make use of high-quality wood for millwork. But from your perspective, the millwork might interfere with the modern interior ideal of bright, clean spaces. Some people feel as though dark millwork can make a room feel gloomy and Victorian. If you feel that way, consider painting it. It’s yours.

Reasons Not to Paint Historic Wood

So far, we’ve covered some reasons why you might want to paint over historic millwork. But there is just as great an argument as to why you shouldn’t do it. Proponents of historic millwork would argue that once you paint it over, it won’t stand out like it used to. This may be what you’re after, but this diminishes the appeal of historical elements that can be a selling point of the space.

You might paint the wood because you’re under the impression that it can be removed. While this is true to an extent, the process of paint removal is not always easy. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that the thickness of paint could damage some of the finer details in your historic millwork.

Historic millwork can stand as a beautiful touch in almost any residential or commercial space. Rather than tarnish it with alterations, consider restoring it. You can count on Mahogany, Inc. for all your historic wood restoration needs.


Whenever you’re ready to build or renovate a business, Mahogany Inc. has your back. Call us at 410-727-0334 with any questions and speak to one of our licensed professionals. To see examples of our work or to gain inspiration for your next project, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest



This entry was posted on Friday, October 30th, 2020 at 1:55 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.