When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas this August, the Houston Hilton hotel was an especially busy place. Most of the hotel’s rooms were rented to the Red Cross volunteers who had come to help in the hurricane’s aftermath.
Unfortunately, like so many people and buildings in Houston, the Hilton was not immune to the wrath of Harvey. After the hurricane, the hotel’s roofing system leaked extensively.
Adding to the problem, the top floor of the 18-story building was being remodeled. Leaks were seeping onto sheet rock and preventing progress. Construction had to stop until the roof was repaired.
Galt Construction came to the rescue. Based in McKinney, Texas, Galt does roofing jobs across the country and has a base in Houston as well as in Dallas, Tulsa, New York, and Atlanta. Owners Bobby and Larry Norrell, a two-brother team with about 25 employees, received word that the Hilton needed help — fast.
The project was bid by Galt early in 2017, but at that time, not realizing the hurricane of all hurricanes was around the corner, the hotel put off the work. Fast forward to September. Understanding they were in a desperate situation after the 50 inches (127.0 cm) of rain that Hurricane Harvey had dropped on the hotel, Galt honored their bid price from nine months prior.
“The Hilton’s contractor called to let us know that water was pouring through the roof and they needed us to fix it within a few days — and finish within a few days,” chuckled Bobby Norell. “We of course wanted to help after the hurricane, so we quickly assembled a crew.”
Bobby said that the hardest part of the job was figuring out if and how they could even get into the area. Flooding still had roads shut down across the city. “It was a logistical nightmare,” he said.
But after some planning, Bobby and his crew were able to map out a navigable route and get on the road. Next stop, Houston.
Setting the Stage
A crew of three plus Bobby got to work immediately upon their arrival in Houston.
The hotel is quite large and there were many guests staying at the time of the project. The crew had to transport material, including the waterproofing material, basecoat, and topcoat, all in 5-gallon (18.9 L) buckets, to the service elevator and then carry it up to the roof. They took about 150 buckets up and down throughout the project. The lightest one was 60 pounds (27.2 kg).
The roof had a parapet wall around its perimeter with a height that met the minimum safety requirements, so fall safety was not an issue. Therefore, the crew did not need to wear harnesses, but they did wear 3M safety glasses and gloves, steel-toed boots and all personal protective equipment required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and they had Uline fire extinguishers on site.
Once they were set up, the crew first washed the surface using a 3,500-psi (24.1 MPa) pressure washer to remove all of the dirt on the 20,000-square-foot (1,858.1 m²) roof.
“I had not picked up a power washer in a long time,” said Bobby. “But we were short on crew so I was out there hauling material and power washing with them. I think the crew enjoyed seeing me sweating!”
When another three crew members arrived, Bobby headed to another job, knowing the project was in good hands.
A Successful Spread
With a clean roof, the crew was able to pinpoint any critical areas that needed to be re-flashed. They used American WeatherStar’s (AWS) Urethane Brush-Grade 522 to fix any problem areas, using it on all of the roof’s curves, transitions, and penetrations to repair tears or breaks. According to the product data sheet, the 522 is a “high solids, single component, moisture cure polyurethane elastomeric coating formulated to a thicker consistency than the Urethane 520 in order to bridge gaps for waterproofing situations.”
After letting the 522 dry for 24 hours, one crew member used a 40-inch (101.6 cm) super tank spreader from Rooftop Equipment Inc. to apply a basecoat, a silver-colored AWS Urethane 520. The tank spreader can be pushed or pulled while two more crew members follow, backrolling the coating for a smooth application. The coating is thick so using a spreader helped ensure a consistent application coverage.
At the same time, the rest of the crew staged the site, prepping the 5-gallon (18.9 L) buckets to load into the hopper by opening and stirring the coating.
After the basecoat dried for a day, the three-person application team put down the topcoat, AWS Silicone 410, which is white.
Although the team used the super tank spreader to apply both the base and top coats, because of the different consistencies of the coatings, they used two different tanks with different sized holes to ensure a consistent speed of application. “This makes it easier for the crew,” said Bobby. “They don’t have to change their speed or worry about pace.”
Houston’s humid climate helped the crew stay on track since urethane and silicone coatings cure faster in high humidity. A much needed reprieve from the rain also helped. The city had a few short rain showers over the course of the project, but they were minor and didn’t impact the coating process.
A Happy Hilton
Not only did Galt honor their original bid price, but the crew was able to complete all of the steps of the entire roof coating in less than a week. The result: a brilliant white, waterproof roof.
“Our crew worked hard to produce a watertight system in record time for the hotel,” said Bobby. “This allowed the contractor to resume construction with minimum downtime and ensure the Red Cross volunteers could continue to stay at the Hilton. We were proud to help the city of Houston in this small way.”
Take that, Harvey!