A piece of American history

Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal restores a historic copper roof

  • The existing copper roof before work beganPhoto courtesy of Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal Inc., Louisville, Ky.
  • The finished installationPhoto courtesy of Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal Inc., Louisville, Ky.
  • Donald Long, Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal's foreman, helped hand-craft the cupola's new finial and weather vanePhoto courtesy of Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal Inc., Louisville, Ky.
  • Fabrication of a columnPhoto courtesy of Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal Inc., Louisville, Ky.
  • Scaffolding erected from the main roof deck to the top of the cupolaPhoto courtesy of Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal Inc., Louisville, Ky.

In downtown Newnan, Ga., Coweta County Courthouse's copper domed bell tower is difficult to miss, rising more than 100 feet with clocks on all four sides. The neoclassical revival-style courthouse, designed by J.W. Golucke and built in 1904, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

The building became vacant in 2006 when the Superior Court moved to the newly constructed Coweta County Justice Center. Coweta County voters approved a sixth special-purpose local-option sales tax that included the courthouse's restoration. Lord, Aeck & Sargent Architecture, Atlanta, was hired to lead the Coweta County Courthouse renovations and restore the building to its original beauty.

Headley Construction Corp., Newnan, was hired as the project's general contractor. In October 2008, Headley Construction contacted Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal Inc., Louisville, Ky., and asked the company to submit a bid to restore the courthouse's exterior walls, ceiling, copper dome roof and cupola. Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal was awarded the project, and work began immediately.

Puzzle pieces

To perform work at Coweta County Courthouse, Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal planned to erect scaffolding from the main roof to the top of the cupola. However, a structural engineer first was consulted to confirm the structural capacity of the building's roof and its ability to withstand more than 25,000 pounds of scaffolding. Unfortunately, the engineer discovered a problem.

"The cupola had deteriorated and compressed and was leaking," says Timothy Steinrock, Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal's president. "This was overcome by substantial reconstruction of primary supports in the cupola—a series of custom-constructed beams were put in place by Headley Construction."

After the supports were reconstructed, which delayed the project about 6 months, freestanding scaffolding was erected from the main roof deck 80 feet to the top of the cupola. Three Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal crew members began removing the 16- and 20-ounce copper skin of Coweta County Courthouse's walls, ceiling and roof. Following removal, crew members immediately installed Carlisle Residential Water & Ice Protection 300HT membrane.

"Most of the roofing pieces and ornamental details were removed and lowered to the ground by hand," says Jack Pyburn, Lord, Aeck & Sargent Architecture's principal. "The dismantled pieces then were transported to Louisville, where they were reproduced in Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal's sheet metal shop."

Two Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal workers fabricated all decorative and structural copper pieces in 20-ounce copper with soldered seams, including the columns, cupola, dental blocking, antefixae, urn, clock, scroll and weather vane. The finished pieces then were driven back to Newnan to be installed on the courthouse with stainless-steel countersunk screws. Cleats were spaced 12 inches on center.

"Thousands of individual hand-cut pieces were assembled and installed to replicate the original details," Pyburn says. "The process required extreme organization and recordkeeping. Roofing and ornamental pieces were catalogued, and their placement was marked properly so the newly fabricated elements fit like pieces in a puzzle."

All the removed original copper was donated to Coweta County for fundraising purposes.

A cleaning solution

In addition to the complex copper installation, Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal was asked to perform another difficult task: Devise a cleaning solution to restore the luster of the building's 1,580 feet of built-in gutters around the main building's lower perimeter.

"The process involved restoring and repairing the original copper on the main building's lower perimeter to address more than 100 years' accumulation of oxidation, minerals, tar and caulking," Steinrock says. "We removed the elements with high-speed nylon buffers and hand sanding."

The company replaced loose or missing fasteners, as well as any missing pieces, and incorporated drip edging to prevent additional staining problems.

"Last, we employed a three-step chemical process to give the bright copper an aged appearance," Steinrock says. "First, we buffed the copper and wiped it down with water. With sponges, we applied a product to turn the copper from medium to dark brown and then applied a solution to bring out some green. We had a drip platform under the man-lift to catch any chemical drips."

Craftsmanship and ingenuity

Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal completed work on Coweta County Courthouse in May 2010.

Despite the unexpected delay caused by the cupola's structural problems, the project was a great success, and Coweta County Courthouse's detailed copper roof is a testament to Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal's hard work. For its work on the courthouse, the company won NRCA's 2011 Gold Circle Award for Outstanding Workmanship—Steep-slope; Lord, Aeck & Sargent Architecture nominated the company for the award.

"We believe this project illustrates the continued importance of American craftsmanship and ingenuity as Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal discovered human hands often were the most essential tools in crafting and cleaning many of the building's details," Pyburn says. "We know the company enjoyed the challenges this project presented and valued the opportunity to help preserve America's architectural history."

Steinrock agrees: "The job's level of detail and historical significance were unique, and the community recognition and involvement, as well as winning the Gold Circle Award, were rewarding."

Ashley St. John is Professional Roofing's associate editor.

Project name: Coweta County Courthouse
Project location: Newnan, Ga.
Project duration: October 2008-May 2010
Roof system type: Copper
Roofing contractor: Steinrock Roofing & Sheet Metal Inc., Louisville, Ky.
Roofing manufacturer: Carlisle Residential, a division of Carlisle Construction Materials, Carlisle, Pa.
Gold Circle Award category: Outstanding Workmanship—Steep-slope


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