The Kearns Mansion has been home to the Governor of Utah for more than six decades – and while that sounds like a lot, that’s still just roughly half of its life since it was first built by silver moguls Thomas and Jennie Kearns in 1902.
The French chateauesque façade is accentuated by a massive steep-slope roof that was once covered in clay tile before it was upgraded to standing seam copper. A historical monument with an international reputation for its fine woodwork and other aesthetic features, the 17,000-square-foot structure has withstood the test of time. But it has its scars.
In 1993, a fire sparked by a Christmas tree ripped through the upper level, gutting the main hall and damaging several rooms. An elaborate restoration process took three years and $8 million to complete. While the roof remained untouched by the flames, the heat and smoke damage compromised the rafters, making clay tiles too heavy to support.
City officials expected a lighter, more durable copper roof to provide a long-term solution, but intense weather interfered.
The Right Mix
Eager to stop persistent leaks that plagued the mansion for more than a decade, the city hired Entelen Contractors for window and roof replacements in 2021. After soliciting bids, Entelen chose CMR Construction & Roofing, a national commercial roofing company based in the Dallas Metroplex.
The CMR team conducted a thorough inspection of the roof and found the soldering seams were compromised, and a significant amount of caulking was visible due to numerous repairs and patches. They also found the 22-inch gutter system had drainage issues that forced water against the windows, causing further leaks.
Utah’s extreme temperature swings caused the expansion and contraction of the standing seam copper panels and other roofing materials to shift and crack, allowing moisture to pour through. CMR recommended a combination of rectangular and diamond copper shingles that would not only hold under Salt Lake City’s climate, but restore the mansion’s impressive look.
Skilled roofers and sheet metal specialists installed 90 squares of those rectangular and diamond copper tiles, including hand-fabricated, tapered diamond turrets. The total project was completed in 100 days, and the roof is expected to last for decades, giving the copper time to age and form a rich patina that will complement the mansion perfectly, officials said.
“We installed a beautiful roof on the Utah Governor’s Mansion that will last more than a century and provided an excellent experience from start to finish. That’s something to be proud of,” said Steve Soule, CEO of CMR Construction & Roofing.
Above and Beyond
The CMR team showcased its versatility and knack for high-quality workmanship throughout the project, but also proved a willingness to go above and beyond for the client. The project demanded highly-skilled roofing specialists and copper artisans to fabricate, install and solder the roof’s intricate details.
Due to its prior failure, the roof install required a complete redesign that carefully accounted for copper’s ability to withstand the elements and provide a long-term roofing solution. And it had to be done quickly, which was more difficult than usual due to the lead time for copper materials during the ongoing supply crunch. With sheets in stock, CMR was fortunate to avoid major delays, and could plan the sequencing and safety aspects of the job. As the primary residence and working office for the governor, the public building had to remain open throughout the duration of the project as well.
While experienced in working with copper, finding local suppliers and knowledgeable copper workers could have been problematic. However, CMR brought in experts from around the country – including the Northeast, where copper roofs are more common – to work on the mansion.
“CMR managed diverse crews of various skillsets masterfully against a tight schedule,” said Jonathan Burt, CFO of Entelen Design-Build. “They continuously held quality control inspections of their own work to ensure the work met the highest standards. Despite the incredible complexity of the mansion’s roof, CMR had the expertise to handle everything smoothly.”
The workmanship also caught the eye of roofing industry observers. The projected earned the 2022 North American Copper in Architecture Award from the Copper Development Association (CDA) not just for its beauty, but sustainability potential.
“Answering the growing demand to meet environmental goals using sustainable building materials, the 2022 winners demonstrate a perfect balance of maximizing green materials and longevity, creating architecture masterpieces for generations to come,” said Larry Peters, project manager and architectural applications specialist for the CDA.
CMR Construction & Roofing contributed to this report.
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