Rutgers' ambiance

A historical mansion is renovated to match its 1852 design


Attending college gives students the opportunity to try new experiences, consider different ways of thinking and expand their minds. And to spur students' development, colleges and universities try to create attractive, stimulating atmospheres. Although many schools' modern campus designs represent progressive thought, historical buildings equally are part of campuses' architectural features. The Bishop House at New Brunswick-based Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is one historical building that contributes to the university's offerings.

The Bishop House was built in 1852 and acquired by Rutgers in 1925. In 2002, plans were created to restore the building's exterior to the original design. Roofing work was phase one of the restoration project. The more than 30-year-old asphalt shingles, built-in gutters and low-slope roof systems had exceeded their service lives.

The Copper Development Association (CDA); Cedar Shake & Shingle Bureau; and architectural firm Elkin/Sobolta & Associates, Rutherford, N.J., created a combined list of roofing contracting companies that could restore the Bishop House. Elkin/Sobolta & Associates requested lists of companies from the Cedar Shake & Shingle Bureau and CDA because of the vast amount of carpentry, wood shingle and copper work the project would involve. Pieros Construction Co. Inc., Somerville, N.J., was included on the lists and awarded the project.

Pieros Construction was asked to restore the building's roof systems, a chimney and built-in gutters. The company also was asked to build a wood-framed cupola. The Bishop House's original cupola had fallen to disrepair; it was removed from the building in the late 1950s and never replaced. Pieros Construction employed P.S. Construction, Kintnersville, Pa., to help construct the cupola. Pieros Construction then installed the cupola's roof system and fastened the cupola to the Bishop House.

Timing and safety

Meetings about the project began Oct. 8, 2002, and roofing work started nine days later. Pieros Construction was told work had to be finished by Dec. 11, 2002, when students' final examinations began. To finish work by this date, Pieros Construction had to overcome several obstacles.

Richard Pieros, president of Pieros Construction, says: "The weather turned unusually cold and wet. We even got a few early snowstorms. To make up for lost time, the crew worked on Saturdays and Sundays."

Throughout the project, work could not begin until 8:30 a.m. because the university did not want to disturb students too early in the morning. In addition to not disrupting students' sleep, Pieros Construction also had to ensure pedestrians' safety. The staging area, therefore, was fenced off. At the end of each day, the portable fencing was resituated as work progressed around the Bishop House.

To protect themselves, roofing workers wore harnesses during steep-slope roofing work in roof areas that were not directly above low-slope areas. Roof slopes varied from 8-in-12 to 12-in-12 (34 degrees to 45 degrees).

Roofing work

The original 50-square (465-m²) wood shingle roof system built in 1852 had been removed and replaced in the 1950s with a 1/2-inch (13-mm) construction-grade plywood over the original lath, as well as asphalt shingles and tin gutter linings. Roofing workers tore off the 1950s roof system in one day. The workers installed a temporary GAF Materials self-adhered membrane to protect the building during replacement work.

A major consideration for the roof system was ventilation. The architect designed a ventilation system using two layers of 1- by 4-inch (25- by 102-mm) cedar lath installed perpendicularly to one another.

Pieros explains: "The vertical lath was installed parallel to the roof slope, providing venting spaces 16 inches (406 mm) on center. Round aluminum louvered screen vents were installed in the eaves, and rakes were installed in each of these spaces. The horizontal lath then was installed and used as the nailer for the wood shingles. A Cor-A-Vent ridge vent was used to provide additional ventilation."

A five- to 10-member crew then installed 24-inch (610-mm) Certi-Guard® western red cedar shingles, which are guaranteed by the Cedar Shake & Shingle Bureau.

Pieros Construction showed additional technical skills by fabricating and installing copper on various roof areas. Gutters were lined with 24-ounce (680-g) red copper, and valleys and flashings feature 16-ounce (454-g) red copper. Four eyebrow dormers on the cupola and a sloped round roof area feature 20-ounce (567-g) red copper. A hydraulic boom lift was used to complete the gutter, rake and fascia work.

Materials, especially the 24-ounce (680-g) copper and Certi-Guard shingles, weren't always in stock. On days materials were not available, roofing workers were assigned other duties to keep the project on schedule.

Other work

Crew members were asked to rebuild a chimney that had been demolished below the roof line. Weekly meetings attended by Rutgers' project manager, Elkin/Sobolta & Associates' architects, Pieros Construction's project managers and the subcontractor's representatives were held to monitor the chimney replacement work progress. Elevation and design decisions were made by comparing the replacement work with old pictures of the building.

"At times, the entire group would go outside and hold up old pictures to determine the new chimney height based on reference points determined from the ground," Pieros adds.

Crew members also were involved with the highlight of the project—building the 16- by 16-foot (5- by 5-m) cupola. The new cupola sits on top of a 50-foot- (15-m-) high tower section of the building.

To save time and ensure the cupola was built in a safe location, Pieros Construction and P.S. Construction decided to build the cupola on the ground and hoist it to the roof. The cupola features four copper eyebrow dormers, copper built-in gutters, a copper finial and a 16-foot (5-m) radius hip roof system with wood shingles.

The low-slope roof system and wood structure that replaced the original cupola were removed. Anchor bolts were to be installed in the building's original brick construction to hold new wood plates to fasten to the new cupola. After demolition, those involved with the project determined the building's old bricks and mortar were deteriorated and would not sufficiently hold the new anchor bolts.

A new plan, therefore, was created. HILTI Co., Tulsa, Okla., was asked to test and select fasteners. Pieros Construction and P.S. Construction worked together to drill holes into the bricks, install screen tubes filled with anchor adhesive and install 3/8-inch (10-mm) threaded rods as the new anchor bolts.

The cupola, which was raised by a 100-ton (91-Mg) crane, weighs 7,100 pounds (3221 kg). The cupola was built in two weeks.

With the cupola secured on the Bishop House, phase one of the restoration project was finished. Pieros Construction completed all major roofing work by its deadline and returned this spring to finish minor details, such as designing and installing three clay chimney pots and applying stucco on the new chimney.

Additional roofing work also was completed during spring. After main exterior renovations were completed on the Bishop House, Pieros Construction was asked to install flat-seam copper roof systems on the building. Low-slope roof areas were covered with 20-ounce (567-g) flat-seam, soldered copper.

Removing failed roof systems, building the cupola, installing copper and rebuilding a chimney enhanced the Bishop House's appeal. But Pieros Construction did more than make a building look better. The company restored the Bishop House to its original 1852 design, enhancing Rutgers' architectural appeal and demonstrating the university's commitment to education.

Kate Gawlik is associate editor of Professional Roofing magazine.



Project name: The Bishop House

Project location: New Brunswick, N.J.

Project duration: October 2002-December 2002

Roof system types: Cedar shingles and flat-seam copper

Roofing contractor: Pieros Construction Co. Inc., Somerville, N.J.

Architect: Elkin/Sobolta & Associates, Rutherford, N.J.

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