Steep-Slope Projects: Risks, Considerations and Best Practices for Contractors

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Many contractors treat residential roofing as routine. However, whether a re-roof or new construction, each project can be infinitely complex and should be addressed as such by always accounting for weather and safety issues, as well as proper installation and customer service.

One of the most prominent and popular elements of residential architecture is a steep-slope roof. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), steep-slope roofs have slopes greater than 4:12 and range from 18.5 degrees to 45 degrees or more. While the process of installing a roof with these angles isn’t necessarily much different from a low-slope roof, it can pose more risks and considerations for workers.

Weather Woes

Weather plays an important role in every roofing project, but staying on top of potential issues from Mother Nature is especially crucial during steep-slope jobs.

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Photos: Atlas Roofing

In high temperatures, workers may fall victim to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke or worse. The best way to beat the heat is to start early and get as much done as possible before the temperature peaks. Starting early in the summer—specifically in the South—can allow work to be completed before daily rain showers roll in. Proper hydration and attire are also important.

Cold temperatures can create even more complications because some manufacturers advise against installing their products in weather below 45 degrees Fahrenheit and certain equipment is susceptible to freezing. Furthermore, workers have to pay extra attention to the grip of their shoes to avoid slipping and falling. Not to mention, freezing-cold hands and feet may cause an otherwise adept worker to become clumsy. Wearing the proper clothing is key during cold-weather jobs, and workers should be advised to keep an eye out for the first signs of frostbite, including cold skin, redness, tingling and numbness.

Safety Considerations

In 2015, falls were the leading cause of private-sector work deaths in the construction industry, accounting for nearly 40 percent of worker fatalities, according to OSHA. In addition, OSHA reports nearly 90 percent of fatal falls happen due to the lack of a fall-protection system.

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Photos: Atlas Roofing

When working on a roof slope greater than 4/12, OSHA requires additional safety measures, which include either a guardrail system with toeboards, safety net systems or personal fall arrest systems. Yet, many contractors—especially residential roofers—choose to forgo protective devices because they feel they are not feasible or create a greater hazard. In such cases, OSHA does allow the use of alternative fall-protection methods in residential construction, as long as contractors develop a written, job-specific fall-protection plan that complies with OSHA regulations.

Proper Installation

During the installation process, roofers should keep a few things in mind whether they’re applying shingles to a steep-slope or low-slope structure.

  • Valleys
Photos: Atlas Roofing

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Valleys are a critical part of proper roof installation because they experience the most water flow during rainstorms and can be potential leak points.

In an open valley, a piece of aluminum, copper or other type of metal is used to help keep rainwater flowing off the roof. Open valleys are often used when a homeowner wants a showier look, such as on a Colonial-style home.

Closed valleys—the most common valley installation method—use asphalt shingles and offer a more traditional look. When properly installed, they keep water from getting trapped in the valley and allow for proper drainage.

In addition to open and closed valleys, contractors also have the option to create a weave valley, which alternates shingles through the valley from both sides, creating a braid-like effect.

Laminate/architectural shingles should not be used for weave valleys. Because laminate shingles aren’t one-dimensional, they do not create the flat surface needed for a weave valley, which should only be used with three-tab shingles.

When using laminate shingles, be sure to follow instructions on the wrapper for either an open or closed application.

Contractors also need to be extremely careful around obstacles such as chimneys and skylights, which require their own flashing and water divergence methods. For instance, more flashing may be needed in these areas to divert water and prevent leaks.

  • Starter Shingles

Starter shingles allow the first course of shingles to properly seal down, protecting the edge of the roof and providing anchoring power for high-wind resistance at the critical eave and rake areas. They further protect the roof by filling in spaces under the cutouts and edges for the first course of exposed shingles, preventing wind uplift.

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Photos: Atlas Roofing

The most common mistake when installing starter shingles or modifying traditional three-tab shingles is putting them on backward or upside-down.

Additionally, the overhang should be no more than three-quarters of an inch to prevent wind from penetrating beneath shingles, as well as to keep shingles from curling or cracking.

In addition, many manufacturers caution against double-stacking pallets of starter shingles, which can cause the bottom shingles to warp. Be sure to read all storage and handling instructions prior to installation.

  • Underlayment

Underlayment is an important part of the roofing process and is required by code for residential properties to meet Class A fire requirements. Serving as a secondary barrier, underlayment protects rakes, eaves and critical flashings from water infiltration. Most warranties also require underlayment for the roof to be ASTM compliant. However, some contractors still opt not to use it because they want to save time on a project or their customer balks at the cost.

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Another frequent error during underlayment installation is incorrect overlaps. On low-slope roofs (slopes between 2:12 and 4:12), underlayment should have double coverage. And while traditional installation is fine on steep-slope roofs, always follow manufacturer instructions for overlaps from course to course.

Last but not least, be sure to keep underlayment from wrinkling, which can cause ripples in the shingles. While trying to keep underlayment as flat as possible, avoid pulling it too tight because it has a natural expansion and contraction. If underlayment gets wet, be sure it adequately dries out before continuing the installation process.

  • Shingles and Nails

Shingles should be installed with the manufacturer’s recommended offset, which will help prevent leak points and also properly align the shingles across the roof. Once all of the shingles are aligned, only the shingles themselves should be exposed—not the nails.

Because the common bond area is the strongest part of a shingle, manufacturers require nails be placed there to achieve the advertised wind performance. Nails should not be too high or too low, or unevenly spaced. If nails aren’t positioned correctly, the manufacturer’s wind warranty may not be valid.

Customer Service Follow-Up

Providing excellent customer service is key to every roofing job. Homeowners who have a good experience are more likely to share positive reviews and opinions.

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Before starting a steep-slope project, be sure to discuss the entire process with homeowners to ensure that they know what to expect, as well as the types of warranties they will receive with their new roof. In addition, prepare the surrounding property, such as windows and landscaping, to prevent damage during the installation process.

During the job, be sure workers are vigilant about not dropping nails anywhere on the jobsite. After the job, walk the property with the homeowners to ensure all debris and materials were cleaned up; magnets can be used to double-check for stray nails. If the homeowners are happy with the finished product and their experience, don’t be afraid to ask them to write a nice review on the company website, Angie’s List, Yelp or other customer referral app.

Most of the best practices for steep-slope roofing can be applied to any type of roofing project. However, steep-slope work can pose additional challenges that other projects may not. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions and OSHA guidelines on all roofing jobs, but especially on steep-slope projects, when one minor slip could turn into major consequences for all involved.

 

ABC Supply Offers Building Products to Contractors at the Bowling Green Branch

ABC Supply Co. Inc. has opened a branch in Bowling Green, Ky., located at 125 Hunter Court. The location will offer steep-slope and low-slope roofing and other select building products that contractors need to run their businesses.

Jason Swigart will manage the branch. Prior to joining ABC Supply, Swigart worked for other building products distributors in the Louisville area in positions ranging from inside and outside sales to operations manager. In March 2016, he started at the Louisville branch located at 619 Industry Road as an outside sales associate. He graduated from the University of Louisville with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing.

This is ABC Supply’s sixth location in Kentucky. “Our new location in Bowling Green will help contractors in south-central Kentucky have access to the products and services that they rely on for their businesses every day,” says Tom Kuchan, vice president of ABC Supply’s Northeast Region. “Whether it’s working with new or existing customers, Jason and his team look forward to continuing to build relationships with the area’s contractors.” 

Branch hours are 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CDT, Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. CDT on Saturday. The phone number is (270) 782-8787. 

Key Priorities for Fire Station Project Include Visual Appeal, Resistance to Algae and Wind

When the Burlington Fire Department decided to replace its aging steep-slope system, the goals included finding a system that would look good, stand up to high winds and resist algae growth.

When the Burlington Fire Department decided to replace its aging steep-slope system, the goals included finding a system that would look good, stand up to high winds and resist algae growth.

The firemen and firewomen of the Burlington Fire Department, located in Burlington, Wash., reportedly respond to about 1,800 service calls a year. The members of the department are on call 24/7, handling a variety of emergencies, both big and small.

Whether it is fighting a fire, performing a search and rescue, or something as simple as retrieving a driver’s keys from the car, the city’s bravest are too busy to have roof issues make their days more difficult. When the fire station began to experience leaks that required countless repairs and patchwork solutions, the City of Burlington knew it was time to replace the entire roofing system and ensure that the firefighters were safe from the elements.

Over the last few years, leaks began to appear more frequently in the fire station’s roof, with the worst leaks occurring in the paramedic’s quarters and in the firehouse’s workout room. The water would drip down on the firefighters and ceiling tiles became discolored, creating an unpleasant appearance throughout the firehouse. The intense winds in the area would also cause the shingles of the roof to become loose and fly off.

“The roof was patched several times over the years. We filled the voids as we went,” says Brandon Bond, a lieutenant on the Burlington Fire Department for the last 10 years. “After a while, the patches and replacements weren’t working and the leaks were getting harder to fix. At that point, we knew it was time to replace the whole roof.”

For their new roof, the city wanted a material that was visually appealing and performed against algae and wind. Also, because this was a city project, they wanted to find a contractor who was nearby and a roofing material that was manufactured locally—all of which showed pride in their community. When they considered the criteria, along with the size of the roof—24,000 square feet—the city chose to go with asphalt shingles because they provided a high level of longevity and durability while keeping it affordable.

Asphalt shingles offered a heavyweight, wind-resistant roofing material with a number of color options, making it the optimal choice among the design team. Wind resistance was an important factor because the old roofing system sustained considerable wind damage. The winds in the area can reach 65-70 miles per hour.

Selecting the Right System

Cascade Roofing Company from Burlington was hired to install the new roof on the fire station. The company has been in business for nearly 30 years and works on both commercial and residential roofing projects. The owner of Cascade, Rick Steiner, explains that asphalt shingles were used on the fire station for a number of reasons.

“Shingles were used because of the different pitch heights of the roof, their affordability and their great look,” Steiner says. “The algae-resistance was also a must. Algae grows like weeds in Washington, due to the moisture in the air and fluctuating temperatures.”

Algae flourishes in humid climates and its spores can be carried by the wind. The temperate but rainy weather found in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. produces an environment for algae to thrive in. While algae is not known to cause damage to roofs, the dark streaks are unsightly.

“Burlington is very wet, whether it’s raining or if we’re dealing with the humidity,” says Lauren Wilkins, a firefighter at the Burlington Fire Department since 2012. “We wanted the new roof to provide some resistance to algae so that it looked good as compared to the other surrounding roofs in the area.”

Cascade used shingle manufacturer PABCO Roofing Products, located in nearby Tacoma, Wash. PABCO’s algae-resistant Paramount Signature Cut Shingle in Oakwood color was selected for the project because it provided exceptional curb appeal. An aggressive modified sealant was used as well as high-wind shingle application—6 nails—to add resistance to wind uplift. PABCO Paramount starter shingles were applied over PABCO Universal Starter to provide a double-layer base. A synthetic underlayment along with an ice and water shield on the leading edges were also used. Shasta HD Ridge was applied to the ridge and hips of the roof to complement the roofline.

The roof system was installed by Cascade Roofing Company using shingles manufactured by PABCO Roofing Products.

The roof system was installed by Cascade Roofing Company using shingles manufactured by PABCO Roofing Products.

Keeping it Local

The City of Burlington was thrilled to choose local companies for the project. The manufacturer, contractor and even the supplier were all located nearby. This provided Cascade an avenue for necessary materials to be delivered quickly, allowing them to stay under budget and ahead of schedule. The project took about two weeks and 230 squares of shingles to complete, which is equivalent to the number of shingles necessary for the company to roof six or seven regular-sized homes.

“It’s easily the biggest shingle job I’ve ever done,” Steiner says. “But the design of the building along with the high-profile look of the shingles made the project look incredible. The city has a roof that’s going to last a very long time.”

Steiner also points out how smooth operations were due to the local theme of the project. “Everything was on-time. The supplier was right across the street and very easy to work with,” Steiner notes. “Even the weather cooperated – it made a potentially difficult project that much easier.”

The firefighters felt the same way. “We thought the hardest thing about the renovation would be continuing our daily operations, but we didn’t run into any problems,” Wilkins says. “They were very friendly and easy to coordinate with when moving equipment. There were no horror stories here.”

Since the renovation was completed, the firefighters are very happy with the new roof. The firemen and firewomen of the Burlington Fire Department can now focus on keeping the residents of Burlington safe.

The unique installation of the roof also earned Cascade Roofing and the fire station project the 2017 Bronze Award in the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA) Quality Asphalt Roofing Case-Study (QARC) Awards Program. Each year, ARMA seeks out the most beautiful, affordable and reliable asphalt roofing systems in North America.

Award-winning projects are selected based on innovation, performance and beauty, and recognize projects that lead the way in areas like weather protection, green roofing or unique utilization of asphalt shingles in a roofing system. ARMA is currently accepting submissions for both low- and steep-slope roofing project installations completed in 2017 for its 2018 awards program. Roofing contractors can submit multiple projects through Dec. 31, and there is no fee to enter.

For more information about asphalt roofing systems, the QARC awards program and more, visit the website.

PHOTOS: JAROD TROW PHOTOGRAPHY

Patented Synthetic Roofing Shingles Offer Class IV Impact Rating

F-Wave Premium Synthetic ShinglesF-Wave Revia synthetic roofing shingles are patented, premium non-asphaltic shingles designed to be granule free with a single-piece construction. According to the manufacturer, the product is made from a proprietary blend of commercial-grade materials, offering high tear strength and UV resistance.

Revia shingles are durable and built to perform with a Class IV impact rating, 130-mph wind rating and Class A Fire Resistance. Easy to install and available in three classic profiles, Revia shingles are created with a colorization process designed to ensure beautiful curb appeal. Measuring 14 inches by 39 3/8 inches with a 6-inch exposure (60 shingles per square), it installs faster than traditional asphalt laminate shingles and synthetic roofing tiles.

Solar Mounting System Features Carbon Steel Finished Frame

The framing of the solar mounting system features a carbon steel finish that is hot dip galvanized per ASTM A 123.

The framing of the solar mounting system features a carbon steel finish that is hot dip galvanized per ASTM A 123.

PHP Systems/Design, a designer and manufacturer of rooftop pipe and equipment support systems, has introduced a solar mounting system.
 
The PHP Solar Panel Mounting System’s base material is made from injection molded high density/high impact polypropylene with UV-inhibitors and antioxidants. The framing features a carbon steel finish that is hot dip galvanized per ASTM A 123. This system addresses height, wind and heat concerns with regard to solar panel installations.
 
The PHP Solar Panel Mounting System is designed to support a variety of solar panels and can be used for any type of roof; from flat roofs to roofs sloped up to 2 in 12. Seismic and high wind applications are available for solar support applications. 

Concrete Tile Roofing Protects Canadian Hotel from the Elements

The Moose Hotel & Suites is located in Banff, Alberta, Canada. The resort sits at an elevation of 4,600 to 5,300 feet in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, about 80 miles west of Calgary.

The Moose Hotel & Suites is located in Banff, Alberta, Canada. The resort sits at an elevation of 4,600 to 5,300 feet in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, about 80 miles west of Calgary.

Banff, Alberta, Canada, sits at an elevation of 4,600 to 5,300 feet in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, about 80 miles west of Calgary. The small community (around 8,000 permanent residents) was established as a resort town almost immediately after its hot springs were discovered by Canadian Pacific Railway workers in 1883. The town, which is built in a valley surrounded by mountains, has been a popular tourist destination for more than a century and is known for skiing and, of course, the Banff Upper Hot Springs.

Because of its history of tourism, Banff offers comfortable lodging at every price point. Among the town’s options for accommodations are nine hotels owned and operated by Banff Lodging Co.; the company also has seven restaurants, two spas, and a ski school and rental shop. The Moose Hotel & Suites is the lodging company’s newest four-star property, having opened in July 2016.

Because Banff is a national park, the Moose Hotel & Suites project is significant because it is one of the largest hotel developments (174 rooms) since the Canadian federal government’s 1998 commercial growth cap, which has prevented many hospitality developments from being built. Despite being approved, the Moose Hotel & Suites still was required to adhere to Banff’s design guidelines. The guidelines state they were enacted “to prevent any monstrosities being put there to destroy the general beauty of the park.”

In fact, the guidelines require that all developments, particularly hotels, enhance views to the mountains surrounding Banff. “They want visitors to realize they’re really in the mountains and not just anywhere in a hotel room,” explains Ted Darch, owner of Calgary-based E.J. Darch Architect Ltd., the architect on the Moose Hotel & Suites project. “We wanted to take advantage of the views, so designing the hotel to resemble a village with a courtyard in the middle allowed us to capture the drama of the mountains. You’ll see the reviews on TripAdvisor mention this.”

Darch has been working on Banff Lodging’s projects since the mid-1980s. The concept for the Moose Hotel & Suites evolved over a number of years as Banff Lodging acquired the property for the hotel and Darch worked on other projects for the company. Similarly, Banff Lodging chose the Moose Hotel & Suites’ roofing contractor because of a long-standing relationship.

“We’ve done work with Banff Lodging for about 10 years on most all its other facilities,” explains Brock Hanson, president and CEO of Banff-based Rocky Mountain Sundeck & Roof. “This was a pinnacle Banff job that doesn’t occur often due to the building guidelines. Having this project in our backyard was just fantastic to be a part of.”

Constructed to Withstand the Elements

The new hotel had to meet Banff’s strict design guidelines. It also had to withstand the subarctic climate (winters as cold as -40 F and short and cool summers, as well as 15 to 40 inches of precipitation, typically snow, per year). The Moose Hotel & Suites features spray foam at R-20 in the walls and R-40 in the roof. The spray-foam insulation not only keeps guests and staff warm during Banff ’s long winters, but also protects the building against air and moisture infiltration.

The Moose Hotel & Suites was required to adhere to Banff’s design guidelines, which were developed “to prevent any monstrosities being put there to destroy the general beauty of the park.”

The Moose Hotel & Suites was required to adhere to Banff’s design guidelines, which were developed “to prevent any monstrosities being put there to destroy the general beauty of the park.”


Darch had specified concrete tile roofing on a Banff Lodging hotel previously, but Hanson recommended a new supplier with whom he had previously worked. Darch met with a salesperson from the roofing manufacturer to discuss its concrete tile product. After he checked some samples, Darch was convinced this was the right product for the project.

The distinctive concrete tile was chosen for its energy efficiency and durability. It resembles natural slate to complement the design of the rustic mountain lodge. Because it is concrete, the tile is able to withstand the subarctic region’s extreme weather and withstands flying embers in case of forest fires. “We learned a big lesson about fire recently in Fort McMurray, north of Edmonton, Alberta,” Darch notes. “They had a terrible fire last summer that destroyed something like 2,000 houses. They’re in the forest and Banff is in the forest, so fire resistance was important.”

Concrete Tile Roofing

The tiles’ aesthetic also appealed to Darch; he especially liked that he was able to choose a bright red (Mission Red) for the roof. “From the architectural perspective, what is really nice is the color possibilities and to make the roof color part of the overall scheme of things is great,” he says. “Other roofing options were nice but they didn’t have the snap that the red tile does.”

Photos courtesy of Boral Roofing.

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Mobile App Displays Spanish Roofing Installation Instructions

CertainTeed Corp. has updated its Shingle Applicator’s Manual (SAM) mobile app to now display residential roofing installation instructions in Spanish. The SAM app, currently available for iOS and Android mobile devices, provides contractors with the official manufacturer installation instructions and reference videos for CertainTeed’s steep-slope roofing products, as well as information about safety, roof tear-off, shingle underlayments and installing shingles on specially shaped roofs. Users can easily change the language version by swiping a button located on the app’s home screen.

Learn How to Address Roof Algae with ARMA’s New Video

Many homes and steep-slope buildings have dark streaks or discoloration on their roofs, but it can be difficult for an owner to know what it is and what to do about it.

The Washington, D.C.-based Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA) has produced a new, short, step-by-step animated video about roof algae for homeowners and building owners alike.

This video explains:

  • What are those dark streaks on my roof?
  • What is algae discoloration?
  • Will it damage my roof?
  • How do I lighten it?
  • Can I prevent it from growing?

A Historic Mountain Home Gets a Modern Roof to Resist the Elements

The owners of a historic home in Evergreen, Colorado, made a stone-coated metal shake roof system a key part of their renovation project.

The owners of a historic home in Evergreen, Colorado, made a stone-coated metal shake roof system a key part of their renovation project.

In the Colorado Rocky Mountains just west of Denver lies a town called Evergreen. At an elevation of more than 7,000 feet, the community of about 10,000 people is awash in the beauty and serenity of the mountains while still being close to booming metro Denver and all its urban attractions.

It’s easy to see why many would consider Evergreen a perfect place to call home. For Jay Jackson, a local resident who grew up in Evergreen, there were plenty of reasons to stay. The views and the fresh mountain air are hard to walk away from. Even sweeter for Jackson was the fact that the historic house he had long considered his favorite in Evergreen went up for sale, and he was able to buy it and make it his own.

The house was a classic and a cornerstone to the history of the town. Its design hearkened back to Evergreen’s roots as a popular resort town in the 1920s and 1930s. The house was built next to the luxury Troutsdale Hotel, which was a magnet for high-end guests in the old days.

Although beautifully designed and filled with history, the house definitely needed some work. Still, Jackson and his wife, Corinne, really wanted to be respectful to its original intent while bringing it up to modern living standards.

Expert Help

The roof was a major part of the renovation that needed to take place on the house. The original wood shake roof had begun to warp and was showing some leaks. The Jacksons knew it needed to be replaced, but they wanted to do it in a way that is respectful to the home’s legacy and history.

To tackle a project of this magnitude, the Jacksons turned to Denver-based Horn Brothers Roofing, a full-service roofing company that specializes in roofing systems for homes of all sizes, as well as commercial buildings, restaurants, churches and HOAs. The firm does a lot of work in the mountain communities near Denver and was given a convincing referral by someone close to the owners.

“We were contacted by the homeowners because we had a great reputation in the Evergreen area and had installed a stone-coated steel roof on the owner’s parents’ house several years prior,” recalls Matthew Williams, territory sales with Horn Brothers Roofing. “The parents were extremely pleased with their roof, so we got the call.”

Fire and Ice

Living in the mountains means dealing with all manner of elements, from wildly changing temperatures; high winds; and the harsh, UV-filled sunlight found at high elevations. For example, having a steep-slope roof at this elevation means controlling snow and ice buildup is vital. An ice and water shield was used over the entire roof. But the element that was perhaps most prominent on the mind of the Jacksons was fire.

The stone-coated metal roofing system is designed to give the appearance of wood shake but has a Class A fire rating, a 2 1/2-inch hailstone warranty and a 120-mph wind warranty.

The stone-coated metal roofing system is designed to give the appearance of wood shake but has a Class A fire rating, a 2 1/2-inch hailstone warranty and a 120-mph wind warranty.

Wildfires are a scary reality in the mountains, and the fact that the home’s remote location makes it difficult for firefighters to access was definitely on the minds of the Jacksons and the renovation team. This is multiplied by the fact that Jackson had actually worked as a wild land and structural firefighter. “The homeowner is a fire captain and the home has a very narrow bridge for access, so a Class A fire rating was vitally important,” Williams says. “Access for emergency vehicles is limited and the location in the mountains makes the home susceptible to wildfires.”

Through firsthand experience, Jackson knew the damage that wildfires can wreak on wood shake shingles. A Canyon Shake stone-coated metal roofing system was chosen to stand up to the elements and protect against fire. This type of roof gives the rustic appearance of wood shake but has a Class A fire rating, a 2 1/2-inch hailstone warranty and a 120-mph wind warranty.

Photos: Heather Lyons Coffman

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Project Profiles: Historic Preservation

CATHEDRAL OF ST. PAUL, BIRMINGHAM, ALA.

Team

ROOFING CONTRACTOR: Midland Engineering Co., South
Bend, Ind.
ARCHITECT: ArchitectureWorks LLP, Birmingham
GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Hoar Construction LLC, Birmingham,
MASONRY CONTRACTOR: Ziolkowski Construction Inc., South Bend

The cathedral’s intricate slate tile patterns incorporated three slate colors and square and deep bevel cut tiles.

The cathedral’s intricate slate tile patterns incorporated three slate colors and square and deep bevel cut tiles.

Roof Materials

The Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham required the cathedral’s new roof system be a historically accurate reproduction of the original in materials, design and craftsmanship. The cathedral’s intricate slate tile patterns incorporated three slate colors and square and deep bevel cut tiles. Six large slate crosses and multiple accent patterns, barely visible on the faded original roof, required exacting measurements prior to tear-off and a high level of precision to recreate and maintain over such a large field and on octagonal steeples.

Because of metal thinning brought on by their advanced age, every copper architectural and functional feature in the existing roof system had to be carefully removed and shipped to Midland Engineering’s South Bend facility to be historically replicated in its metal shop. This included seven ornate crosses (up to 17-feet tall), finials, turret caps and more. There were more than four dozen components, for which no original prints existed, as well as over 500 feet each of custom copper cornices and radius gutters with matching straps. More than 20,000 square feet of 16- and 20-ounce copper was utilized for fabrication of architectural elements and flashing.

Midland Engineering was asked to make improvements to the original roof system to improve attic ventilation while maintaining the Gothic Revival period look. To accomplish this, the crew integrated bronze screen (invisible from the ground) into the original copper cornice and eave design to provide improved cold air intake while new louvered copper dormers replaced the original painted roof ventilator.

An updated lightning protection system was incorporated into the new roof design, hidden within many of the new copper crosses and other architectural elements. The system was fabricated in Midland Engineering’s shop to maintain the Gothic Revival look.

The metal shop also clad 10 previously painted windows and mullions in copper, effectively eliminating frequent and costly maintenance. These windows, reachable only by crane at considerable expense, formerly required painting and other maintenance every five to seven years.

About 6,500 square feet of lead-coated copper, which patinas to a limestone color, was utilized to cap all limestone exposed to weather, reducing ongoing maintenance of limestone joints.

Extensive termite damage to structural framing required repair prior to installation of the new roofing system. Upon removal of the original slate roof and completion of the structural repairs, the new roof was dried-in and installation of the new slate roof began. The historically accurate replacements of the original copper architectural features were installed according to schedule.

SLATE SUPPLIER: North Country Slate
COPPER SUPPLIER: Hussey Copper

Roof Report

The Cathedral of St. Paul is the centerpiece of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Birmingham. Completed in 1893 at a cost of $90,000, the cathedral is widely considered to be a handsome example of the American Neo-Gothic variant of the Gothic Revival style. The cathedral measures 96-feet wide by 140-feet long and encompasses more than 60,000 square feet. It features twin octagonal steeples, rising 183-feet high.

Work schedules on this project were a challenge. The contract required parishioner and clergy access to the church must be maintained 24 hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the eight-month duration of the project. Further, because of the noise inherent in roof construction, work schedules had to be planned around regular church services and events and rescheduled several times a month for funerals and other unscheduled events.

“We could not have been more pleased with the work accomplished by the team from Midland Engineering,” says Very Rev. Kevin M. Bazzel, V.G., J.C.L., rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul. “It is a marvel to us to be able to see the church in its original glory, and all of this thanks to Midland!”

The National Roofing Contractors Association, Rosemont, Ill., awarded Midland Engineering the prestigious Gold Circle Award in 2016. Midland was recognized in the Outstanding Workmanship—Steep-slope Category.

Photo: Rob Culpepper

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