The 121-year-old St. James Episcopal Church is one building in which the citizens of La Grange, Texas - population 4,478 - take pride. Declared a Texas State Historic Landmark in 1964, the looming maroon-and-cream-colored church is a local architectural treasure.
"Everyone in town knows our church," says Gene Holt, Junior Warden of Grounds and Building at St. James Episcopal. "It's right across from the only grocery store in town, so it's seen by everybody every day." Given the age of the church, building maintenance is both a high priority and a perpetual process, and it is conducted with the whole town watching. One of the ongoing maintenance concerns over the years has been the church's large, multi-section roof. Because of the sheer expense of replacing it, the congregation used to have the roof repaired section-by-section whenever leakage or other roof deterioration issues would occur. However, when the roof section over the church preschool and priest's office began showing serious signs of deterioration last fall, Holt decided it was time to stop the piecemeal approach to roof maintenance. He decided the whole roof was in need of attention.
"That section of the roof had completely worn out," he says. "I decided we'd just have to bite the bullet and reroof the whole thing. It looked like we had five different-aged roof sections. Some of it was just absolutely shot. There were some spots up there just as big as washtubs, where the shingles had worn down to the asphalt."
The Contractor and the ShingleFour local roofing contractors bid on the reroof job, with John Haworth Roofing, of La Grange, winning the contract. The choice of color was a crucial one, as church members wanted to avoid anything that would clash with other elements of the church's exterior. John Haworth, owner of Haworth Roofing, convinced the congregation that Hatteras® premium shingles by CertainTeed in the Lighthouse Red color would be the optimum choice. The color of the Hatteras shingle was judged to be the best match and its 40-year warranty exceeded that of the other shingle choices. Due to the extreme summer heat and occasional tropical storms in East Texas, shingle durability, wind resistance and longevity are important factors, says Holt, a former realtor.
"This Texas sun will take a 30-year shingle and turn it into a 21-year shingle," he says. "A 20-year shingle will make it 12 years, and then, it's just gone. I'm 69 years old, and I wanted to have shingles on that church roof that would outlive me."
The massive roof called for 182 squares of Hatteras shingles. The Haworth Roofing crew of six began work in late December 2005. The previous shingles, a 20-year three-tab style that had been on the roof for 17 years, were in "really bad shape" and had started to crimp, Haworth says.
The crew removed the dilapidated shingles and installed the new shingles directly onto the roof deck. Copper flashing was installed in the roof valleys to provide ample protection against rain damage. The steep 14/12 slope of the roof also forced crew members to watch their step and take other safety precautions, Haworth says.
"We had to put toeboards up and just take our time to keep people from getting hurt," he says.
The Bell TowerThe biggest challenge for the roofing crew, however, was shingling the church's bell tower, which has an even steeper 21/12 pitch and stands about 85 feet from ground level. This part of the project took some planning, Haworth says.
"We had to rent a crane and get two of our workers up there in a basket putting shingles on the tower two sections at a time," he says. "We saved that part for last because we were trying to figure out how we were going to do it. We thought we might have to set up scaffolding."
The roofing crew was successful in its efforts, though, and finished the project without incident in two weeks. Positive reactions from passersby have led to more jobs for the crew over the past couple months, Haworth says.
The parishioners of St. James Episcopal love the look of their church's new roof. Holt recalls going to church the Sunday following the project's completion and getting a kick out of the congregation's collective reaction.
"I went to church that Sunday, and people were just outside the church, shaking their heads ‘yes,'" he says. "They're so pleased with the new roof. Haworth Roofing did a fantastic job. It's absolutely beautiful."