When the architectural icon of Burke County, N.C., needed major restoration and coating work completed on its historical cupola and roof, veteran local coatings applicator Jeff Mackay of Mackay Painting and Finishing was the easy choice for the job.
Having worked on the courthouse on various other projects beginning in 1994, Mackay had a tight eight-week schedule to repair rotted columns and spindles, apply Hydro-Stop waterproofing system to the columns and paint to the spindles, and then transport them all back to the jobsite for re-installation. And all of this was done during one of the county’s wettest summers on record prior to the Morganton Fair in early September, a popular community event held annually on the courthouse grounds.
The Old Burke County Courthouse, which was built in 1835, has been a regular fixture in local logos and seals as well a tourist draw for the town of Morganton. But the atmospheric extremes of Southern weather had taken a toll on the elaborate cupola, and according to Mackay, “it had gotten so rusted that a three-foot finial [0.9 m] was blown off by the wind and, as a result, the whole roof structure needed stabilization, rust protection, and ultimately a warranty.” Mackay had noticed issues with the structure back in 2010 while doing other work on site, but it wasn’t until the finial took flight that the city took notice and requested bids for the project.
Thanks to his competitive pricing and experience with Quest Construction Products’ Hydro-Stop, Mackay was selected. Work began soon after but not without a few workarounds due to the age and historic nature of the building.
The team of up to eight full-time workers was originally thinking of using scaffolding, but that had to be nixed because of the weight on the roof structure. Instead, lifts needed to be used. In terms of finished aesthetics, the outward appearance of the structure could not change. Environmental concerns were minimal other than the need to dispose of paint chips on a daily basis. All of that meant that it would be a fairly straightforward process.
Setup began with transporting the 120-foot (37 m) booms to the property and maneuvering into place. The crew then installed 1/4-inch (0.6 cm) aircraft cable around the structure’s rooftop to tie off safety harnesses. After ensuring that all members of the team were safely secured, the next step was to remove the eight 12-foot (4 m) wood columns and 100 wood spindles, which were then taken to Mackay’s 7,000-square-foot (650 m²) finishing shop for refurbishing. What was left was painted galvanized metal above the roofline that was badly flaking, rusted, and pitted, while below the roofline, the stucco and wood were in fair to good condition.
The crew pressure-washed the entire structure to remove loose, peeling paint, and then further removed loose paint with hand tools before priming the substrate. The crew applied Hydro-Stop Uni Base primer and Hydro-Stop Foundation Coat, which was embedded with mesh fabric while still wet. Then, they applied a coat of Hydro-Stop Foundation Coat to the roof and horizontal decking surfaces and, when dry, applied a topcoat consisting of two coats of Hydro-Stop Premium Finish Coat. They gave all vertical surfaces above and below the roofline a final treatment of Hydro-Stop Premium Flexcoat.
Nearly the entire application process was done by hand with brushes applied on horizontal services at a thickness of 45—50 mils (1,143—1,270 microns) and on vertical surfaces between 15—20 mils (381—508 microns).
Mackay’s local finishing shop proved to be an invaluable asset due to the number of pieces from the project that needed to be refinished and treated. Everything from the wooden spindles to the metal finials was transported and restored by hand, with the spindles being waterproofed with Hydro-Stop and the finials rust-treated. Mackay noted, “It was the perfect combination of shop and field services.”
Mackay also happily added that Quest Construction Products team was very hands-on both for the warranty process and to ensure the applicators had all of the input needed to do the job right. Local representative Alan Greer regularly found himself up on the lifts throughout the project, ultimately granting the 10-year warranty that includes both material and labor. (The warranty can be extended another 10 years with a simple power-wash and additional coat of Hydro-Stop.)
“We do a lot of work with restoring historic structures, including the roof of the Alamo,” explained Kim Bistromowitz, marketing communications manager at Quest Construction Products, LLC, parent company of the Hydro-Stop line of products. “We do new construction as well but shine in historic preservation and have a successful track record with coating historic structures. It’s not a part of the industry that you want to take a risk on.”
Greer met Mackay on the smaller courthouse renovation project and was happy to work with the team again when the structure needed major work. “I trust Jeff and I trust the quality of work. Our whole approach is as a team: the contractor, the products from Quest, and the client; without all three it falls over,” he noted. “Great communication was key, and any time I showed up, [Mackay’s] guys were focusing on what needed to be done, and if there was a question, they didn’t hesitate to call me,” he concluded, “When a team meshes, it’s just easy for everybody.”
Mackay Painting and Finishing has extensive experience with other historical buildings, including the town’s city hall (a converted textile mill); The Tate House, a mansion built circa 1850 and then repurposed into a bank; as well as various projects on historical churches and steeples. Mackay regularly gives presentations on the project, including a recent meeting with the local historical society, and he looks forward to future projects with Quest products in the future.
Overall, for Mackay and his crew, this was just another project in a long line of historically important jobs.
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