Most people who lead and attend the nation’s many houses of worship will tell you that their ministries are defined by their people and their missions. But when you read the history of congregations, particularly the ones with long histories, the buildings that house the ministries tend to be featured prominently.
The fact is, without the buildings it would be difficult, if not impossible, to carry on the good work done by these congregations. So the buildings, which visibly and tangibly represent the congregations, tend to help define the fellowships that exist - not so much in brick and mortar, but by virtue of the things that go on within their walls and beneath their roofs.
One congregation with a long and storied history is the Tabernacle Baptist Church of Carrollton, Ga. It was founded in 1889 by fewer than 20 people. They called their first pastor in the fall of 1900 and dedicated their first building in 1901. Their first building housed 400 and their second, built between 1912 and 1915, had a capacity of 1,400, which was large enough to house the entire population of Carrollton at that time. In 1989 the congregation moved to its present location and now boasts a membership of over 2,600.
Around three years ago Ben Hill Roofing and Siding Company Inc. of Douglasville, Ga., began overseeing leak repairs at the church. According to the facilities manager at Tabernacle Baptist, Mike Bradley, the leaks were everywhere and had not been properly addressed before that time. Bradley described efforts to deal with the leaks when he first arrived on the job as plastic trash cans carefully placed to collect rainwater between the roof deck and the ceilings beneath. The leaks were remediated by the Ben Hill Roofing team until a hailstorm hastened the need for the full replacement of the entire roofing system.
Investigation of damages as part of the insurance claims process following the hailstorm led to the discovery that phenolic foam roof insulation (PFRI) was used in both the steep-slope and low-slope areas of the roof. PFRI, installed in North America from the early 1980s through the early 1990s, was found to have properties that led to the corrosion of metal roof decks and fasteners. A class-action lawsuit settlement pays certain building owners to inspect the roofing systems, remediate or replace portions of corroded roof deck, and replace the roofing system on a pro-rated basis. The claims process as part of the class-action lawsuit settlement was undertaken by the leaders of the Tabernacle Baptist Church.
Constructed in the late 1980s, the buildings of Tabernacle Baptist Church would have been among the last built with roofing systems containing PFRI. This project will likely be among the last of the claims covered under the several PFRI settlements that were established in the early 2000s.
Following a lengthy bidding process, Ben Hill Roofing was selected as the contractor to perform the retrofit roofing work. Ben Hill Roofing’s owner, David Welch, was determined to win the bid. Besides working on the church for the past three years, the church is situated is on a main highway near Welch’s home. The bid was a team effort by Welch and the company’s commercial roofing estimator, Roger Gray. The project was overseen by Gary Woodall, vice president of production, and Jeff McIntyre was the full-time superintendent.
The Roofing SystemsThe existing steep-slope roofs consisted of a steel deck under two layers of 5/8-inch gypsum board (mechanically fastened individually), a layer of PFRI, followed by two more layers of gypsum board. Asphalt shingles covered the system and were installed with specialty fasteners into the gypsum boards. The existing low-slope roofs were modified asphalt over tapered insulation systems.
The specification called for the removal of the entire system down to the deck followed by an inspection and remediation of the roof deck as required by the PFRI settlement. Adding quite a thrill to the tear-off, the steel deck was installed vertically. The Ben Hill Roofing team utilized full fall-arrest systems but still had to take great care as they learned how to walk the slippery sloped deck.
The roof deck remediation called for the use of an epoxy sealant on portions of the deck where a specific type of surface corrosion was visible. These surfaces had to be brushed and cleaned prior to application of the epoxy. The epoxy was supplied by the manufacturer of the PFRI, who also provided specifications for its use. The roof decking that was too corroded to be remediated in this manner had to be removed and replaced with new decking.
Prior to removal of the roofing systems it was impossible to predict how much decking would need to be remediated or replaced. As it turned out the steep-slope portions of the roof had relatively minor incidents of corroded metal decking. The low-slope portion, however, required considerable remediation work on the steel decks due to corrosion from the PFRI.
The specifications for replacement of the 46,000-square-foot steep-slope systems called for 3 inches of a ventilated nail-base polyiso roof insulation and CertainTeed Landmark designer shingles.
At the pre-construction meeting Welch proposed alternatives to the nail-base based on experience he had on another church project with an insulated deck and asphalt shingles. On that project, a single layer of ventilated nail-base roof insulation was used. The felt and shingles began buckling at the beginning of the first heating season. Ben Hill Roofing also performs infrared roof scanning services and discovered on this church that the majority of the buckling occurred at the joints between the insulation adjacent to laps in the metal decking.
The infrared scan (Figure 1) taken of a church building (not Tabernacle Baptist Church) with one layer of ventilated nail-base polyiso insulation shows how heat escapes. The infrared scan of the steep-slope portion of the Tabernacle Baptist Church building (Figure 2) shows a how a double layer of roof insulation performs. It should be noted that infrared scans are subject to interpretation by trained experts and that the two graphics shown here do not depict a direct comparison since the buildings are similar but different.
Welch presented several options for the insulation and nailable substrate. The system selected was 1 inch of polyiso roof insulation to the roof deck followed by 1 inch of 1.5-pound-density EPS roof insulation over which 1-inch-by-4-inch strips were fastened vertically followed by a single-layer of 7/16-inch OSB. The staggered joints should provide a tighter system providing a superior air barrier. To ensure a first-rate dry-in during the difficult tear-off, a Ben Hill Roofing-branded synthetic felt was used in lieu of conventional asphalt felt.
The 16,000-square-foot low-slope roofing was the smaller part of the project but proved sufficiently challenging. The original specification called for tearing down to the deck with the required inspection and remediation or replacement. This was followed by tapered roof insulation and a 60-mil fully adhered TPO membrane. The original specification called for a 45-mil mechanically-attached membrane. With production scheduled for less than 1,500 square feet per day, the process was slow. Keeping the bright white membrane clean proved nearly impossible so a full pressure washing followed the completion of each section.
The work progressed in the spring of 2010 and proceeded until nearly the end of summer. The main challenges presented by this particular summer included more days above 90 degrees than most folks around this part of north Georgia can remember. In spite of lower-than-normal rainfall, the summer was plagued with “pop-up” showers that came all times of day and night. This kind of weather can be difficult to predict and even more difficult to schedule around.
The other challenge came by the very nature of Tabernacle Baptist church. This is indeed a vibrant congregation with numerous activities occurring throughout the week. Of note, the Vacation Bible School program caused the work to shut down completely for weeks to ensure safety of the many small congregants in attendance. Speaking of safety, the talented professionals of Ben Hill Roofing completed the Tabernacle Baptist Church project 100 percent accident and injury free.
On completion of the Tabernacle Baptist Church re-roof project it is safe to say that the congregation will enjoy a very nice looking roof that will provide them with many years of protection from the elements. As usual, most folks in the pews will not think too much of the roof, but that is the way it should be. And a facilities staff will not likely think of it too much now that they do not have to look up to stained ceiling tiles and wonder where will be the best place to put the plastic trash cans.
Some contractors who perform work on houses of worship will tell you it is no different than any other work they do. But others take a great deal of pride as they realize that the work they perform may become a significant part of a congregation’s ministry and maybe even their history. A higher calling indeed.