Historic Wood Restoration, Repair, & Replication Services

Restore Your Historic Wood’s Original Color, Detail, and Beauty—Without Permanent Alteration.


Restore Your Historic Wood's Original Color, Detail, and Beauty—Without Permanent Alteration.

Throughout history, humanity has had an affinity for wood, using it both as a simple building material and as a canvas for beautiful, ornate works of art, as well as the more modern use of wood furniture. In historic structures and homes, we often see these two roles merge, as wooden elements serve both a functional role, like wood floors, to decorative roles, which can be seen in some of the case studies from the “Wood Repairs in Historic Building” PDF that The Office of Historic Preservation created back in the 1970s.

Unfortunately, wood is an organic material, susceptible to a variety of damage. Moisture from storms, bad plumbing, and poor drainage can cause swelling, warping, mold, and other water damage; regular use can cause gauges, cracks, and splitting; insects can eat away at the integrity of a structure; even UV exposure and light from the sun can fade previously beautiful wood finishes, colors and patterns until those details seem lost to time.

At John Canning & Co., our artisans have decades of collective experience in restoring and repairing historic wooden elements and structures back to their previous glory. From gentle-but-thorough cleaning to the application of compatible (but reversible) coatings and finishes to repair and even full replication of components, our craftsmen are highly skilled and motivated by a deep respect for the underlying history that the wooden components embody.


Need help with your wood restoration project? Speak with one of our experts.


Our Traditional Wood Restoration Process

In order to restore wood, the exact process followed for a particular project is dictated by certain specifications; most wood restoration and repair projects will follow the steps and process discussed below.

Archival Research & Investigation

Before conducting any restoration or repair work, our first goal is to understand the history of the structure. What was the building's original function, and what role did the woodwork play in that purpose? These details are most often discovered through a combination of archival research and physical investigation. In tandem, we must also understand the full scope of the overall project—including the budget, expectations, and aspirations of the owner and other key stakeholders—in order to appropriately plan and coordinate between other trades as necessary.

Physical Evaluation & Material Analysis

Once we fully understand the scope, challenges, and details of the project, we must evaluate the structure as it currently exists. This evaluation and analysis is invaluable in determining the best path forward, offering insights into details such as:

  • The precise species of wood used
  • The age of the wood
  • The current and original finish
  • Finish types (i.e. shellac and wax, stain and oil, or aniline dyes)
  • Types of joinery, such as mortise-and-tenon or the use of rabbit skin glue as an adhesive, etc.
  • The use of veneers versus solid woods
  • Identifying compo (cast compositions made with plaster and linseed oil) or ormolu (decorative metal applied to woodwork)
Henry Ford Estate

Additionally, a physical examination allows us to document any areas of damage, stabilize the wood structure as necessary, test various cleaning solutions, and draft an initial treatment proposal.

If the treatment plan is to include conservation of the wooden structure, the goal is always to identify the mildest solution which can be used to achieve the desired result. Extreme care is taken to ensure that the solutions will not change the original color, appearance, or texture of the wood, or otherwise damage the structure.

If the treatment plan is to include repair to the wooden structure, the precise actions that we take will be dependent on the type of damage that needs to be repaired. These repairs may include the removal of incompatible finishes, the application of more suitable finishes, Dutchman repairs of damaged or deteriorated areas, the removal of incompatible species of wood (if repairs were made in the past), and more.

In the event that a species has gone extinct and can no longer be sourced, it is often possible to replicate the color, grain, and overall appearance of the original wood with substitute materials, such as plaster. The faux bois method can also be a more cost-effective process in these cases than employing a woodcarver to add a detail or component from scratch.


Cost Factors For Historic Wood Repair

The costs associated with wood restoration, repair, and replication will depend upon a number of factors specific to each individual project. Some of the most important considerations include:

  • The type and species of wood and other materials being worked with
  • The size, complexity, and scope of the project
  • Accessibility (for example, whether scaffolding will be required to conduct the work)
  • Whether the underlying structure must be repaired, stabilized, or restored
  • For projects located in public spaces, whether the work will take place during business or off hours

For this reason, it is difficult for us to state what typical costs might be for the “average” project. The surest way to get an accurate picture of what the costs may entail would be to contact us directly.


Our Restoration and Conservation Specialties

In addition to wood restoration, repair, and replication, we specialize in a number of other complementary services, including:


Selected Projects

mark twain feature

Our conservation artists refinished the historic woodwork throughout the house, plaster restoration, and reproduced wallpaper of the Mark Twain House.

John Canning Sterling Memorial Library Yale University Restoration

Our team conducted archival research, hands-on investigation, and interpretation to inform the restoration of plaster, wood, and decorative finishes.


Our team provided restoration of the plaster, decorative painting, and historic woodwork repair and refinishing at the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building.

Cosmos Mural Restoration

Our team 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.

Henry Ford Estate Feature

We performed multiple projects as part of the restoration efforts to return Fair Lane (Home of Clara & Henry Ford) back to the look and feel of 1919. Most of the scope included cleaning, conservation and restoration of the woodwork for the Fair Lane Estate.

John Canning Gasson Hall Boston College Restoration

At Gasson Hall, Boston College, we provided the historic finishes investigation and analysis needed to restore the interior to its original design scheme.


"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]."

Elizabeth A. Moss
Leed Ap, Architectural Conservator, Swanke Hayden Connell Architects, New York City

Canning’s craft and artistry take aspects of a design to absolute levels of refinement that bring new works to unexpected levels of delight. Visitors are amazed that such craft is still alive and well in our expedient world.

John I. Meyer
AIA, Meyer & Meyer Architecture and Interiors, Boston, Massachusetts

I have had the pleasure of working with artisans in many countries overseas. Canning truly ranks among the best in the world!

Viven P. Woofter
IIDA, Cultural Heritage Officer, Overseas Buildings Operations, Us Department of State


Glossary of Historic Woodworking Terms:

Learn More About The Terminology Of Woodworking Throughout The Ages



A Guide To Historic Woodwork Restoration, Repair, & Replication

A Guide To Understanding Historic Woodwork