How to Properly Maintain a Heritage Site:


There are certain requirements that are associated with caring for a heritage site. These spaces are highly valued for their cultural significance and deserve to be treated properly.


If you’ve acquired a designated heritage site, consider following The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada. This set of guidelines provides an extensive framework for the proper care of the cultural elements to your site, including examples on how to preserve sites in different areas such as urban or industrial environments. Specific laws and regulations are different in every province, so be sure to review the requirements for heritage site protections in your area.


Here is an outline for the general care of heritage sites:



the Site


Determine the Primary Treatment


Planning the Appropriate and Sustainable Uses


Review the Standards and Follow the Guidelines


Identify Project Requirements




  1. Understand the Site

    • The first step in the overall project is to identify the character-defining elements (CDEs) that are critical to the overall heritage value of the site. Most CDEs cannot be altered or changed due to their importance. These elements should be captured in an official Statement of Significance (SoS) or equivalent document. If you’ve recently acquired the site it is likely that an SOS has already been written; however, it is still important to review the site’s status.

    • It is essential to know the context and history of the space so that you may use it properly. It is important to understand not only the cultural value of the site, but also its physical condition and changes over time. You should review and document the site’s appearance and functionality so that you may properly address any issues and make appropriate changes to later steps.

  2. Planning the Appropriate and Sustainable Uses

    • It is important to find the right balance of the use of the site to ensure this use will last through the future. Viable, practical, and sustainable use better guarantees the long-term existence of the site and limits deterioration. For example, adding modern appliances to the kitchen without harming the antique tile-work is a practical balance.

  3. Identify Project Requirements

    • Defining the needs of existing or future users and determining the scope and cost of the work are essential in establishing realistic objectives, especially when utilizing heritage sites for projects like Reside. Changes to account for contemporary needs such as security, health and safety, and accessibility can impact the cultural value and CDEs of a heritage site. Understand what alterations and improvements need to be added to the home, so that they may be implemented without damaging the cultural integrity of the site.

  4. Determine the Primary Treatment

    • Based on the needs assessment in step 3, you should determine a focused approach. The three main categories that a heritage site renovation may fall under are preservation, rehabilitation, or restoration. Projects may involve more than one of the three categories, so it helps to decide during the planning stage what form of treatment primarily applies. Most projects following the Reside model will involve aspects of all three, with a majority focus on rehabilitation.

  5. Review the Standards and Follow the Guidelines

    • Each heritage site is unique and has parameters on what CDEs must be maintained to preserve its status as a heritage site. This is where specific conservation laws are especially relevant. Review government mandated standards and regulations for proper conservation in your area, and consider The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada for further recommendations.

  6. Intervention

    • Undertaking the project is one of the last and most important steps. It is important that people who undertake the project have the necessary knowledge and skills to carry it out. These individuals will be best suited to carry out the treatments and requirements outlined in earlier planning. It is essential to have a plan that accounts for what alterations and improvements need to be added to the home, so that qualified individuals may install these changes without damaging the cultural integrity of the site.

    • Prevention is the best form of conservation. Prepare for regular maintenance. Providing consistent and appropriate care to the CDEs of a heritage site will ensure that they last for future use. It is also good practice to regularly care for the space as a whole. This will guarantee long-term sustainable use, and make it easier to implement appropriate updates when needed.  

Why Do We Have Heritage Laws?


Heritage sites and buildings can have an overwhelmingly positive influence on many aspects of the way communities develop around them.  The designation of heritage properties is a way to publicly acknowledge a property’s cultural value and influence within a community. These sites add character and a unique distinctiveness to the area. These spaces are a fundamental asset in creating a ‘sense of space’ for those engaging with them. Housing, education, economic growth, tourism, and overall shared community involvement and development are examples of the ways in which heritage can make a positive contribution to an area. People care deeply for their communities and shared local history, so it is important to respect and preserve the cultural value of heritage sites.


Heritage laws give municipalities and the provincial government the power to preserve the culture of a place by expanding the government’s ability to identify and designate sites of great significance. These laws also provide sound guidelines for the proper preservation of heritage properties.


Please remember that specific laws and regulations differ from province to province. Be sure to review the requirements for heritage site protections in your area.


What is the Ontario Heritage Act?

The Ontario Heritage Act is the primary, overarching legislation for protecting cultural heritage in Ontario. The Act provides several ways for governments to help conserve cultural heritage. The act allows for policies such as the designation of individual properties (Part IV), the designation of heritage conservation districts (Part V), the establishment of a heritage register, and the ability to enter into heritage easement agreements. The Act also places parameters for the proper demolition and alteration of heritage sites.

What is Ontario Regulation 9/06 ?


Ontario Regulation 9/06 is a regulation from the Ontario Heritage Act that establishes and defines the criteria used for determining cultural heritage value or interest. A property may be designated to be a site if it meets specific attributes used for determining whether it is of cultural heritage value or interest. The property must have design/physical, historical, or contextual value in order to meet this criteria. A property can be named if it has one or more of these attributes. This criteria is required in order to designate a particular property a heritage site under the Ontario Heritage Act.

What is the Planning Act?  


The Planning Act provides the legislative framework and guidelines for land use planning in Ontario. Section 2 of this act identifies matters of provincial interest, which includes the legal protections for the conservation of significant features of architectural, cultural, historical, archaeological or scientific interest.

What is the Provincial Policy Statement?


The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), issued under the Planning Act, is the framework for more broadly integrated planning. This also holds the guidelines to long-term planning. It contains policy statements on matters of the whole provincial interest, and provides policy direction on specific land use planning matters. PPS Section 2.6 sets out cultural heritage and archaeology policies, including what proper conservation looks like, and how the land around these sites may be altered.

Author: Claire Ronan


Canada's Historic Places. “The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation

of Historic Places in Canada.” The Standards & Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada, Parks Canada, 25 Feb. 2011, www.historicplaces.ca/en/pages/standards-normes.aspx.