Going postal

RGT Enterprises performs successful roof system restorations on historic Milton Post Office

  • The 80-year-old patina copper roof system before replacementPhoto courtesy of RGT Enterprises Inc., West Hanover, Mass.
  • Pictured top to bottom: New 20-ounce double-locked standing-seam copper panels were formed on site; an aerial view of the completed copper roof systemPhotos courtesy of RGT Enterprises Inc., West Hanover, Mass.
  • Milton Post Office, Milton, Mass. Photo courtesy of RGT Enterprises Inc., West Hanover, Mass.

Birthplace to former President George H.W. Bush and architect Buckminster Fuller, Milton, Mass., is a town with 27,000 residents. Part of the greater Boston area, Milton has the highest percentage of residents per capita citing Irish heritage of any town in the U.S. In 2007, 2009 and 2011, Money magazine listed Milton seventh, fifth and second, respectively, on its annual list of Best Places to Live in the U.S.

Located at 499 Adams St. in East Milton Square is Milton's post office. Before being named East Milton Square, the area was nicknamed "Railway Village." The term was coined around 1826 when a 3 1/2-mile railroad connected granite quarries in the area; it was the first commercial railroad in the U.S. to transport granite. The granite industry, which attracted a large work force, developed the distinct neighborhood in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and it became known as East Milton. Now East Milton Square, the area boasts a large amount of granite in building foundations, walls, drive posts and buildings.

Built in 1936 on the former site of Granite Railway's headquarters, the post office is an East Milton Square landmark that was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. When the 80-year-old roof systems were in need of restoration, RGT Enterprises Inc., West Hanover, Mass., was selected to reroof the building using materials similar to those originally used in 1936.

"As a roofing contractor, the patina copper on the building always stood out to me every time I drove by," says Patrick Thurston, president of RGT Enterprises. "I always thought it would be nice to reroof the building, and it was great when we were given the opportunity."

First-class copper restoration

The steep-slope areas included 5,500 square feet of 20-ounce standing-seam copper panels. A five-person crew removed all existing copper panels, built-in gutter liners and flashing down to the existing wood deck. The panels were cut with grinders and removed by a forklift from the job site daily.

After removing the existing copper roof system, Tamko Building Products Inc.'s Moisture Guard Plus® self-adhering underlayment was applied to the wood deck and at all rooftop penetrations. Next, RGT Enterprises installed shop-fabricated built-in 20-ounce red copper gutter liners and soldered seams with starter strips at all eaves and rakes.

An on-site roll-machine was used to form new Drexel Metals Inc.'s 20-ounce double-locked standing-seam red copper panels to the required lengths—the longest panels were 21 feet and the shortest were 4 feet. Stainless-steel clips were placed every 12 inches along each seam.

Flat-size renovation

The low-slope areas included 3,200 square feet of existing EPDM membrane. The EPDM membrane was removed to the wood deck, and all existing base flashings, rooftop penetration flashings and copper wall caps were removed.

A layer of 1 1/2-inch-thick polyisocyanurate insulation boards were mechanically attached to the wood deck over the existing 3-inch-thick insulation followed by a layer of adhered 1/2-inch-thick Georgia-Pacific Gypsum's DensDeck® Prime Roof Boards. Next, a 60-mil-thick Sika Sarnafil white PVC membrane was fully adhered. New drains were installed at existing locations, and copper wall caps and cornice work completed the low-slope roof system.

Certified challenges

Logistically, reroofing a post office is difficult because of the high volume of constant pedestrian traffic entering and exiting the building, and the Milton post office was no exception.

"We've reroofed more than 100 post offices since the 1980s, and Milton was the busiest post office we've ever worked on," Thurston says. "In addition to the usual post office foot traffic, the building is located in a busy part of the town's square."

Pedestrian safety was achieved by installing scaffolding at entryways covered with platforms so post office customers could enter and exit the building. Material deliveries were scheduled for off-peak hours after lunchtime. The copper sheets, panels and stainless-steel caps were ordered well in advance to ensure an on-time delivery, and a crane lifted the materials to the roof.

To ensure their safety, workers wore personal fall-arrest systems while working on the steep-slope areas. Low-slope areas were marked with perimeter warning barriers, and a designated safety monitor was used to keep workers safe.

On-time delivery

Work began in April 2012 and was completed on time June 30, 2012. RGT Enterprises successfully restored the historic building's copper roof system to match its original design aesthetic and received kudos from the community.

"Every day, we had people approach our workers to tell them how happy they were to see copper going back on the roof as originally installed, and the historical society stopped by to commend us on the project," Thurston says. "That really made our work rewarding."

Chrystine Elle Hanus is Professional Roofing's associate editor and NRCA's director of communications.

Project name: Milton Post Office
Project location: Milton, Mass.
Project duration: April 2012–June 2012
Roof system types: Copper, PVC
Roofing contractor: RGT Enterprises Inc., West Hanover, Mass.
Product manufacturers: Drexel Metals Inc., Louisville, Ky.; Georgia-Pacific Gypsum, Atlanta; Sika Sarnafil, Canton, Mass.; Tamko Building Products Inc., Joplin, Mo.
Architect: McKinnell, McKinnell & Taylor Inc., Norwell, Mass.


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