Cleaning works on stone, heritage and historic buildings

Of all the great clients we’ve worked with and the buildings we’ve helped clean and restore, Heritage and historic sites hold a special place in our hearts. It’s a genuine privilege to be involved in the maintenance of some of the UK’s most spectacular architectural history, but it’s also one that brings with it many unique challenges in execution.

In almost all cases, Heritage sites have stringent and specific restrictions on the kinds of cleaning methods that can be used on them, often out of necessity due to the various types of precious stone involved in their construction. Old stone is a particularly common challenge.

With more than 30 years’ experience in working at Heritage and historic sites, our operatives know that every building will have its own characteristics which require an in-depth understanding of the types of stone being treated as well as the history of the building itself. The exact cleaning methods we use will always be determined by a detailed assessment before any work is carried out.

During cleaning we may use physical methods such as brushing, rubbing, washing, and steaming to remove harmful acidic dirt which can cause reactions with carbonate particles in some types of older stone. In some circumstances, we will use safe chemical cleaning methods or organic solvents to clean stone and remove harmful pollutants.

Apart from merely providing an aesthetic improvement, cleaning stone at a Heritage site can help to preserve the surface of the building to make it last longer.

Let’s look at a few of Britain’s most renowned Heritage sites and what cleaning methods would be applied to them when the time comes.

Heritage sites: A worthy challenge

There are no fewer than 374,300 listed buildings across the UK. We have 9,800 conservation sites and a staggering 18 ‘World Heritage’ sites – a clear demonstration of the depth of history in our country.

As we’ve mentioned, each of these buildings is maintained in part thanks to very specific requirements for their cleaning. Gentle stone restoration and cleaning, such as our low-pressure high-temperate DOFF Steam Cleaning method, is an environmentally-friendly means of safely cleaning and restoring such a surface.

Heritage sites usually require a clear log of all products used including a clear and sufficient risk assessment and documentation of any work undertaken, be it cleaning delicate substrates or information on how teams navigate and access a structure.

The Houses of Parliament in London, as an example of this, was built using sand-coloured limestone from the Anston Quarry in Yorkshire. Stone buildings like this are prone to degradation and damage from soiling, algae, carbon sulphation and weather erosion. Degradation can also occur from members of the public, whether this is through the illegal disposal of chewing gum and organic matter or, worse still, illegal graffiti. Each of these common issues requires its own solution that is mindful of the delicate stone façade.

Coventry Cathedral is a similarly stunning example of a world-renowned Heritage site with demanding cleaning requirements. Tall buildings and those with classic architecture invariably involve climbing teams and machinery to access all areas of the building’s façade, necessitating the use of equipment such as mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPs) and abseiling gear.

The Old Vinyl Factory

One of the more unique buildings we’ve worked on in our time as specialist in restorative cleaning and stone restoration is the Old Vinyl Factory.

Located in Hayes, Middlesex, this building holds an important place in music history and technological development. Built originally by renowned architecture firm Wallis, Gilbert & Partners, the iconic design in 1928 features a combination of factory production structures and more modern glass facades across several of the area’s buildings. Despite falling into disrepair for many years, the resurgence of vinyl music in the 2000s led to a full-scale refurbishment and redesign of the historic location.

And once again, our teams were privileged to work on and restore a piece of global music history. Our restorative cleaning here began with a focus on the metallic powder-coated frames and windows – a task which spanned several buildings and included the Link Bridge.

Following that, we used MEWPs to begin DOFF Steam Cleaning and further cleaning of glazing. A big operation, to be sure; abseiling teams, machinery and vehicles spanned the site as we helped to bring the shine back to a treasured part of the region’s history.

A glimpse into our world

 And there you have it: a little about what we do and why it’s a step above simply cleaning buildings. As always, we hope you’ve enjoyed today’s article and found it informative. We’re right here if you’d like to learn more about us and our services, so get in touch right away at info@seebrilliance.com or by calling us on 01635 230888. Take care.

See Brilliance has over 30 years experience in specialist restorative cleaning of metal, glass and stone. We provide façade and cladding restoration, restorative cleaning services, DOFF Steam Cleaning, graffiti removal services, and much more, all across the UK.

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