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Sgraffito

- the technique of applying decoration to buildings by inscribing the finishing coat of a render to reveal the darker colour of the coat below. Sgraffito is Italian for "scratches", and the process is sometimes refered to rather disparagingly as "scratch work". The term is the origin of the word "graffiti" some of which we are now at the stage of recognising as being worthy of conservation in its own right, it is a particular problem where it is defacing historic fabric, particularly where the surface is rough and porous, which is true of most stone. Basically, graffiti can either be scratched or carved on, or applied in some paint form which can include anything from felt tip pens to aerosols. There are a variety of methods of removal, which can be reduced to two main groups, chemical removal, and mechanical removal, both of which require very skilled operatives and meet with varying levels of success.

As a rule of thumb, graffiti should always be removed as quickly as possible, not just because of its aesthetic effect, but also because the more recent the graffiti, the easier it is to remove. There are various preventitive measures, such as the use of waxes which can be melted off by using hot water, taking any graffiti with it, but the most effective control is preventative management which might for example, entail the installation of good security lighting. English Heritage have viewed the problem as being sufficiently serious to produce a Technical Advice Note entitled "Graffiti on historic buildings and monuments - Methods of Removal and Prevention" (English Heritage 1999).