August 2010

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The Dayton VA Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio, has provided health care to veterans for the past 141 years, making it one of the U.S.' three oldest veteran administration facilities. The center's Gothic-style chapel was constructed from 1868-70 and was the first religious structure in the U.S. funded by the federal government.

The chapel's original slate roof system featured a large cross with a star-studded border in light colors against a black background. The roof system was replaced many years ago with an asphalt shingle roof system; however, in 2009, the center asked PEDCO, a Cincinnati-based engineering and architecture firm, to replicate the original roof system's design using photos from the late 1800s.

"The old 1800s photos of the roof design were faded and required a great deal of work to configure a new roof layout that accurately would reflect the original roof," says Edward Groh, an architect for PEDCO.

Because the building's existing roof structure could not support the weight of slate, PEDCO specified installation of DaVinci synthetic slate roof tiles. Detroit Cornice & Slate Co. Inc., Ferndale, Mich., began installing the new roof system in November 2009 and finished in March.

The project posed a challenge for Detroit Cornice & Slate.

"During the past 122 years, Detroit Cornice has worked on a great variety of historical roof restoration projects all over the country," says Dawn Hesse, project manager for Detroit Cornice & Slate, "but this one was unique in that the only clue to the original pattern was a sepia-toned archive photo more than a century old.

"Working with a 7 1/2-inch exposure and 9-inch-wide field tiles, it was important that the vertical and horizontal band dimensions came out looking the same width," she continues. "The client also wanted the vertical line of the cross to be completely straight. However, it is not recommended to create a 'slot on slot' configuration with any roof system."

The company solved the problem by blending together different widths of DaVinci tiles in 6-, 9- and 12-inch sizes to come as close as possible to creating the cross while maintaining the warranty. The roofing crew followed a chalk outline of the pattern that was sketched on the roofing felt.

Hesse says teamwork was a crucial part of the project.

"Multiple layouts were created and reviewed by all members of the team," she says. "It was a time-consuming process that required patience and input from everyone involved. A variety of roofing tile colors, sizes and patterns were considered. Overall, the coordinated efforts needed to make this project happen were a key to its success."

To submit a photo for Close-up, e-mail or mail a photo to Professional Roofing Attn.: Close-up, 10255 W. Higgins Road, Suite 600, Rosemont, IL 60018. Submittals should include a photo, as well as a description or background for the photo. A $50 gift card will be awarded for the photo that is chosen to be featured in Close-up.

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