Mural Cleaning in Historic Building Construction – Project Changes – Being nimble, versatile, flexible… and “on it”!

We thought we were on a superficial mural cleaning and varnishing project! But its a bit more adventurous than that. In the jungle of scaffolding and working among an army of 1,500 demolition and construction workers and equipment we realize that we are the final “face” that the client will see. Everybody else’s work will be hidden behind walls but our work will be the outward final “look” of the project. So, when I came up with an unexpected cleaning spot on the murals this week, it prompted a gathering of all the chiefs to have a pow wow… since it was going to potentially throw this huge project off schedule IF they wanted to do the in-depth varnish removal cleaning and have major changes (for the better) in the appearance of the murals (brighter, original colors).Mural Restoration Scaffolding

Scaffolding to reach 3,800 sq. ft of murals

“Unexpected” is a funny word, you might say? Am I not the art conservation expert? Did I not do tests ahead of time as the mural restoration consultant? There shouldn’t be anything unexpected!

Well, as it often happens, the client asks for an estimate as they begin to plan the project and get bids. Its WAY ahead of the start date so the building is still in use. When you do the “walk through” with the client there’s no scaffolding, no in-depth tests, no opportunity to figure out all the possible problems and options. I did do a couple of very small tests, during that initial walk-through that showed that the varnish couldn’t be dissolved. But these walls needed exploratory surgery in order to figure out all the details, which I didn’t get a chance to do… until the scaffolding was set up and the location was closed to the public. But by then, the construction schedule and budget were set.

As I said, the varnish couldn’t be dissolved with solvents. This 50 year old varnish was grayish yellow and hard. But once we were given the time to figure it out, we discovered the varnish could be safely swelled, without etching into or dissolving the original paint of the murals. Once the client saw the cleaning tests and the wonderful bright colors of the historic original murals, they flipped with enthusiasm!

Shortly thereafter, the client changed the project’s scope from grime removal and superficial cleaning and varnish to the overall removal of the discolored varnish. Here is a short time lapse video of the cleaning test which reflects the process we ended up having to go through, which I think you will find interesting:

When a mural conservation project is part of a historic preservation and construction project there are timelines to consider and keeping in step with other subcontractors and their responsibilities. If one subcontractor is late, it affects everyone. In the case of this project, FACL, Inc. worked closely with the client’s representative and agent to:

* accomplish the highest quality art restoration treatments of the historic murals

* we are hired to also act as consultant to two artists who painted a new murals that blended with the historic murals

*We responded in a timely effort to abate water damage when a main water line in the ceiling of one of the murals rooms

Basically, FACL oversaw the quality control of all tasks having to do with the historic murals.

Mural paint water damage

Peeling paint from water damage

FACL and Scott M. Haskins is your expert for mural conservation, painting restoration, historic preservation, art conservation expert, mural restoration consultant. Let’s chat about your proposed project!

Scott M. Haskins 805 564 3438

See videos produced specifically for historic preservation experts, architects and contractors at YouTube Channel Bestartdoc (subscribe to the channel!):

Detaching and Removing murals –

Mural conservation/restoration services –

Varnishing murals –

About Scott M. Haskins

Scott Haskins has been in professional art conservation since 1975, specializing in the conservation/restoration of easel paintings, murals and art on paper. FACL, Inc. is known nationally for doing A+ work no matter the size or difficulty of the project. We are happy to do a quick cleaning on a family heirloom. Our client list and resume is also full of very satisfied clients of large, difficult/complicated projects at remote locations. Excellent services are also available as an Expert Witness/Legal Testimony in art related matters. Consultation on art related projects occur regularly including extensive insurance evaluations for insured or insurer. Services are offered worldwide. Scott M. Haskins is also author of the "Save Your Stuff" series, educational information, materials and supplies to help people protect and save their treasured family heirlooms and collectibles at home and office. He can be reached at 805 564 3438. Video and written testimonials at
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13 Responses to Mural Cleaning in Historic Building Construction – Project Changes – Being nimble, versatile, flexible… and “on it”!

  1. Giorgio says:

    Great article on this aspect of your services. You’ve made a good point.

  2. Lucia Roland says:

    Thanks for this info that is so hard to come by for contractors. We’ll be in touch.

  3. Darlene De La Torre says:

    Great info. Thanks for making your expertise available!

  4. I never knew these details of cleaning artworks. I’ll never try this by my own and let the experts do it for me. Thanks for such a informative blog post.

  5. Josh McCreery says:

    Doing mural conservation on a construction site looks like it takes a specific set of skills that are hard won. I had no idea that cleaning murals isn’t that easy or was so involved.

  6. Alan says:

    Is there anyway I can view the video that you provided Scott? It’s set as ‘private’


  7. Stephen Wenzinger says:

    Hello, I can’t tell you how important it has been on this project to have a quality control person as Scott for the historic art aspects. EVERYONE that has had interaction with Scott has been thankful he was on this project.He was instrumental also in helping to keep other subs on their timeline. It was a real pleasure working with him. I am so glad we have him in our “Go-To” now!

  8. Jason Fairbanks says:

    I’m from the Fairbanks family and the murals you worked on were done by my great grandfather and his sons. Thank you for working so hard to save them and make them look their best. Your great work is greatly appreciated by our whole family.

  9. Francesca says:

    We are so thankful to all of you that truly understand what QUALITY work we do! Scott is the best…….and most know this……but few understand how important it is! Keep believing in us, because we will continue to show you that quality control, expertise and professionalism is…….and it WILL be served on a silver plate…always.
    Thank you for trusting the best!

  10. Karl Haubrich says:

    Good points made for this post. While we do historic restoration projects as contractors, we have never contracted with someone that has this expertise and I can see the definite advantages. We will keep you in mind!

  11. Tim Storms says:

    “We would have been in big trouble and you made our navigation through the City (Dallas) and with the project’s architects streamlined and professional. Your quality services and reputation were cemented in our minds when we heard the inspector say they didn’t need to inspect your work for final quality – un heard of in our industry!” Tim Storms , Roberts-Obrien Construction, General Contractor

  12. Mark Garrido says:

    “Scott and his FACL staff of highly competent professional art conservators performed the critical salvage and restoration of a very valuable, irreplaceable historic mural in the main lobby of the Burbank, CA Police/Fire headquarters (as a sub to the general contractor for the City of Burbank). This restoration was a major component of a large water damage correction project that included replacement of the curtain wall system, stone flooring, planters and memorial monument in the middle of and surrounding the mural. Project scheduling was very tight and coordination critical and complex. Under Scott’s hands-on leadership, FACL’s restoration of the mural was flawless, their performance timely and seamless and their cooperation and team work exemplary. Without reservation, I give Scott and FACL my highest recommendation.” Service Category: Art conservation. Year hired: 2009 Top Qualities: Great Results, Expert, High Integrity
    Mark Garrido, Project Manager for the General Contractor on the project posted the following on for Fine Art Conservation Laboratories (FACL, Inc.).

  13. Megan Delacroix says:

    Scott’s been working with us in part as a conservator on our very large historic preservation project (we are Historic Preservation Designer architects) and partly as a consultant who helps us keep quality control on an artist whose new mural work must blend with the historic mural work. THANK GOODNESS for Scott and that he is on our project!!! Scott’s problem solving, his attention to construction timelines, his immediate response when we had a water main burst and his quality work were extremely important on this project. I don’t think the artist would have ever “dialed in” his work without Scott. I’ve enjoyed working with him immensely and I am thankful he was with us on this project.

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