Concrete Restoration

Award of Merit for Historic Gothic Church Repair in Palo Alto, California

by Marcus Dodson, editor & publisher

The San Francisco, California, branch of Western™ Specialty Contractors, partnered with Sika® Corp., were recently honored with a 2020 International Concrete Restoration Institute (ICRI) Award of Merit in the special projects category for the restoration of the First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto, California.  The ICRI conducts an awards program each year to honor and recognize outstanding projects in the concrete repair industry.  Judging is based on uniqueness, use of state-of-the-art methods and materials, functionality, value engineering, and aesthetics.  Entries are received from around the world, and the winning projects are honored each year at the ICRI Fall Convention.  

         Established in 1894, the congregation of the First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto realized in 1957 that it needed a larger, more modern building for services and events.  Construction on a new contemporary Gothic-style church included 19 poured-in-place concrete columns that extend from beneath the basement level upward, and meet 73’ above the main aisle.  The roof panels were precast and 1,500 small stained-glass windows were installed throughout. 

         Due to weathering and aging, the church was recently experiencing water leaks in more than 50 different locations.  It was determined that the leaks were caused by failure of the wet seals around the stained-glass windows, as well as from cracking and spalling of the building’s concrete façade caused primarily by insufficient concrete cover over the steel reinforcement.  The roof membrane under the tile was also failing.  The congregation agreed to take steps to repair the church to mitigate further damage.

         Western Specialty Contractors’ crew, partnered with Sika Corp., a supplier of specialty chemical products and industrial materials for the construction industry, was faced with several challenges on the project.  First, the crew had to assemble an engineered frame scaffolding system, instead of using lifts to access the façade.  The next challenge was maintaining the established color pattern when ordering and replacing broken and cracked windows.  Also, the silicone sealant on hundreds of windows on the concrete roof had to be replaced.

         The façade had many spalled areas less than 1” deep in thickness that were addressed with the proper preparation and an application of a high-performance mortar.  Deeper spalls were repaired with a form-and-pour method.  The concrete roof tiles were also removed and, prior to replacement, a rubber roofing and waterproofing system was applied.  Façade cracks that were visible throughout the structure were addressed with routing and caulking, using a urethane sealant.  To complete the project, the building was thoroughly cleaned and an elastomeric façade coating was applied.

         With all the challenges faced in completing the project, in the end, Western was able to restore the beloved church’s sanctuary to its former glory, with much appreciation from the congregation.  “These types of unique repair and restoration projects don’t come around frequently to contractors and manufacturers.  When a successful repair leaves a client thankful and satisfied, it makes for a very memorable project.  The First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto restoration was one of these projects,” said Jon Carden, Western San Francisco branch manager.  “We were honored to work alongside Sika on this challenging restoration, and thankful to the ICRI for recognizing our expertise and hard work.”

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