The conservation of historic timber buildings is a highly specialized niche within the broader field of architectural heritage and there are only a handful of companies who specialize in this sort of work worldwide.

We have a very particular expertise relating to wooden buildings that has been learned through careful study and thoughtful interaction with vernacular buildings.

Understanding the way that traditional materials behave and the way that traditional tools can be used to work them is essential to understanding old buildings.

From Medieval castles to humble barns, our carpenters have spent thousands of hours working with some of the world’s most precious architectural treasures.

We are extremely fortunate to work alongside some of the brightest and most clever professionals who are currently practicing in the heritage field.

Cape Evans

Conservation Objectives

The application of on-site repairs to historic timber buildings is dependent on the judgement of carpenters working within often competing objectives.

Conservation objectives include:

  • Aesthetics
  • Contract Requirements
  • Cost
  • Environmental Policies
  • Health & Safety Considerations
  • Longevity
  • National and International Conservation Charters and Policies
  • On-site Conditions
  • Practicality of Proposed Repairs and/or Specifications

Advanced specifications for repair will typically change during the period between drafting the specification and the start of the practical work on site.

For these reasons, it is important that the client, architect, and all conservation advisors have a high degree of confidence in the on-site carpenters.

There will inevitably remain a large degree of subjectivity in the carpenter’s assessment of and response to the evolving situation.

Degrees of Subjectivity

The conservation of historic timber buildings is a fluid process, where new and important information is often learned as part of the physical work.

Previously undocumented evidence can be revealed through the partial dismantling of a building’s fabric during repairs.

Given the practicalities and limitations of site work, the carpentry team must serve as the ‘eyes and ears’ of a wider team of consultants and advisors who cannot always be present on site.

These consultants and advisors are usually involved in the appraisal and specification of repairs, work scheduling and the preparation of repair methodologies.

For this reason, the field team must be capable of preparing condition assessments to common standards and high levels of detail.

Trestle Bridge

Condition Assessment Protocals

M&L uses a variety of condition assessment protocols to inspect historic buildings and accurately determine their structural integrity.

Pioneered with structural engineers in New Zealand, Great Britain and Canada, our methodology is designed specifically to retain the maximum amount of historic building fabric.

All of our processes are consistent with the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada, and best conservation practice as defined by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), of which we are a professional member.

Visual Grade

M&L has the capacity to visually-grade timbers in-situ, in accordance with NLGA guidelines for structural timbers, and can provide registered grading certificates when required.

Structural Grade


M&L utilizes resistographs (decay detecting drills) to micro-drill into timbers as part of our non-destructive testing methods for the condition assessment of historic timbers.

The specialized tool produces a resistance graph that allows for the visual identification of deterioration within timber with high levels of precision.

Ultrasonic Inspection

Ultrasonic inspection tools are pulse velocity measuring devices used to detect decay within building timbers.

This non-destructive testing tool allows for the in-situ defectoscopy of historic timber elements by measuring the differences in the transmission velocity between the intact and damaged wood.

Destructive and Mechanical Grade

M&L is familiar with a wide range of destructive testing and mechanical testing methodologies for timber and steel.

We have previously been responsible for developing testing procedures in order to refine / justify innovative structural designs on several occasions.

This sort of materials testing is highly specialized, and M&L employs testing houses and laboratories on a case by case basis depending on the specific needs of each project.

By utilizing this approach we have consistently been able to reduce costs and increase the amount of historic fabric that can be retained.

We use this information to guide our recommendations for repairs, which we typically present in both written specifications and drawings.