Revolutionary roofing

James R. Walls renovates the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution headquarters

  • Work on the library included upper and lower built-in gutters, copper wall cladding, cornices between dormers, 26 radius eyebrow dormer cornices, barrel roof covers, and new historically accurate windows and framing.Photo courtesy of James R. Walls Contracting Co. Inc., Clinton, Md.
  • One of many architectural copper elements fabricated in James R. Walls' off-site fabrication shop.Photo courtesy of James R. Walls Contracting Co. Inc., Clinton, Md.
  • One of many architectural copper elements fabricated in James R. Walls' off-site fabrication shop.Photo courtesy of James R. Walls Contracting Co. Inc., Clinton, Md.
  • A platform was erected and used to transport materials throughout the project's life. Photo courtesy of James R. Walls Contracting Co. Inc., Clinton, Md.
  • Library renovations in progress.Photo courtesy of James R. Walls Contracting Co. Inc., Clinton, Md.
  • Completed copper work on the library.Photo courtesy of James R. Walls Contracting Co. Inc., Clinton, Md.
  • James R. Walls maintained strict adherence to historical specifications.Photo courtesy of James R. Walls Contracting Co. Inc., Clinton, Md.
  • Custom-fabricated copper roof systems were installed on top of the barrel dormers.Photo courtesy of James R. Walls Contracting Co. Inc., Clinton, Md.

Founded Oct. 11, 1890, the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is a nonprofit, nonpolitical volunteer women's service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving U.S. history and securing the country's future through better education for children.

DAR members volunteer millions of service hours annually in their local communities, including supporting active duty military personnel and assisting veteran patients, awarding thousands of dollars in scholarships and financial aid each year to students, and supporting schools for underserved children with annual donations exceeding $1 million.

As one of the most inclusive genealogical societies in the U.S., DAR has admitted more than 930,000 members since its founding and boasts 177,000 current members in 3,000 chapters. Any woman 18 years or older who can prove lineal, bloodline descent from an ancestor who aided in achieving U.S. independence is eligible for membership.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., DAR's facilities encompass a city block consisting of a Constitutional Hall, administration section and library, the most architecturally ornate of the three sections.

Located one block from the White House, the DAR library houses one of the nation's premier genealogical libraries; one of the foremost collections of pre-industrial American decorative arts; the largest concert hall in Washington, D.C.; and an extensive collection of early American manuscripts and imprints.

Over the years, the library began experiencing water leaks into rooms containing irreplaceable documents. As a result, in June 2013, various building components were renovated. James R. Walls Contracting Co. Inc., Clinton, Md., was chosen by the project's roof consultant, Roof Consulting Services Inc., Richmond, Va., to execute the work.

Project overview

Housed in Memorial Continental Hall, the DAR library is an inviting place to conduct genealogical research. Those looking for more information about their ancestors may find it in this library that maintains an extensive array of genealogical resources, including more than 140,000 books and 250,000 research files, many of which are not available elsewhere.

The library is a three-story building with a 4,489-square-foot skylight and three-story atrium. Around the perimeters of each of the three floors are rooms that branch off the atrium. Each room and the hallways are decorated with antiques from the Revolutionary War period.

James R. Walls' work on the library included upper and lower built-in gutters; copper wall cladding; cornices between dormers; 26 radius eyebrow dormer cornices; barrel roof covers; and new historically accurate windows and framing. All exterior work on the roof was coordinated with the museum curator to protect all contents and antiquities.

Mobilization and demolition

James R. Walls' first task was mobilization for demolition. Crew members erected a platform and set up a hoist that was used throughout the project's life. Urban density limited storage space on the roof and ground. Adding to the material handling and storage challenge, James R. Walls had access to only one parking space, and street parking was difficult to obtain only one block from the White House.

Because of limited space, James R. Walls rented a crane for the first day and obtained a permit from city officials to close a street on a weekend to load materials and properly set up the job site. Workers used plywood to create a pathway and protect an upper low-slope roof system when they carried materials during demolition and re-roofing work.

Once setup was complete, the demolition team began removing the barrel tops from the eyebrow dormers, radius cornices on each barrel dormer face, upper built-in 416-linear-feet gutter and cornices below the upper built-in gutter.

Next, the team removed 500 copper wall cladding panels, the window flashings, the lower main built-in gutter and counterflashings in the 498-linear-foot stone parapet. In some areas, there only were 18 inches between the materials being removed and the balustrade. Workers had to carry materials from the demolition over the built-in gutters. Bigger pieces were passed up to the copper batten-seam roof, across a low-slope EPDM roof, down one level and taken to the hoist for loading.

After the copper wall cladding panels were removed, James R. Walls found the existing wall was not concrete as anticipated. Instead, the wall was terracotta block with 1 1/2-inch parging. Within the parging, the wood was deteriorated, rotten and loose. Additionally, significant amounts of rotted and missing wood were discovered after the upper cornice and upper built-in gutters were removed.

After several discussions with the roof consultant, it was determined the best approach was to match the existing framing. To ensure the building's historical integrity, James R. Walls reframed the cornices and sheathed the walls with 3/4-inch-thick plywood, including the area down to the gutters.

Renovations begin

After the plywood was installed and the built-in gutters patched, James R. Walls began the library renovations. There was not sufficient funding to replace the copper batten-seam roof system, so James R. Walls devised a method using a lock strip to tie-in the areas to keep them watertight until the organization could secure proper funding during a later phase of work.

Grace Ice & Water Shield® was installed over all vertical structures, the lower and upper built-in gutters, and on the tops of all barrel roof covers.

Crew members fabricated a wide range of architectural copper elements—built-in gutters, window trims, counterflashings, 40 sections of straight cornices and radius cornices—in James R. Walls' off-site fabrication shop. Then, they assembled 14 pieces of radius window heads. Strict quality inspections assisted to align pieces properly; each piece took 12 hours to assemble. Workers then soldered clips to the backs of each window head to provide support when they were hung.

Additionally, the eyebrow dormer fabricator missed the scheduled delivery date, potentially delaying the project completion date significantly. To stay on schedule, James R. Walls had the fabricator ship the pieces that were completed, and the James R. Walls crew fabricated the remaining pieces.

Onward and upward

Work then began on the lowest built-in gutter, and the crew worked its way up. Space in the gutter was extremely limited and insufficient to install scuppers from inside the gutter, requiring installation from the building's exterior where tied-off workers carefully balanced a 12-inch water table before installation.

Next, the crew installed and caulked counterflashings for the gutters and balustrade. James R. Walls also installed counterflashings on the exterior walls' stone parapet, windowsill flashing and radius-head flashing. Then, workers used new blocking at the bottom of each window to raise the windows from 1 1/2 inches to 8 inches above the gutter to prevent water from entering the windows.

The crew fabricated and installed expansion joints in areas where there was no previous method to accommodate expansion and contraction. Workers installed copper surround on the inside before installing the new windows, then they installed copper wall cladding using 3/4-inch lock cleats spaced every 12 inches. Each cleat was fastened to plywood with two flathead screws. Panels were sized 24 by 28 inches, and 500 panels were installed.

Next, James R. Walls installed the radius window-head cornices and straight cornices between the radius window-head cornices. After the cornices were installed, the upper built-in gutter was installed and locked to the cornice.

Once the window preparations were complete, workers installed the windows. The window openings had temporarily been made watertight for about three months until the custom-made windows arrived. James R. Walls reused old hardware and trim to install the new windows because ordering new components would have necessitated another custom-order requiring at least four more months. James R. Walls trimmed the windows with trim salvaged during the demolition.

Next, custom-fabricated copper roof systems on top of the barrel dormers were installed, and James R. Walls tied the existing copper batten-seam roof system into the new upper built-in gutter and barrel-dormer tops. And finally, the crew replaced the roof drain in the gutter system.

A beautiful end

After diligently working for 11 months, James R. Walls completed its work on the DAR library in May 2014. James R. Walls maintained strict adherence to historical and quality specifications while working in a tightly constrained urban area with limited access, parking and space for materials and equipment.

"Factors that illustrate the technical complexity of this project include the need to respect historical integrity, assemble complex radius dormers, fabricate custom cornices, repair unknown hidden damage, install and rebuild frames for 26 custom-made windows, work within a constrained budget, execute the work in tightly enclosed work areas, and work with limited access and security requirements," says William Sanders, executive vice president for Roof Consulting Services. "James R. Walls accomplished it all within timelines and budget, and their work contributes aesthetically to an important area near the U.S.' Capitol."

For its exceptional craftsmanship and coordination of the DAR library project, James R. Walls received a 2015 Gold Circle Award in the Outstanding Workmanship: Steep-slope category.

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

Project name: National Society Daughters of the American Revolution headquarters
Project location: Washington, D.C.
Project duration: June 2013-May 2014
Roof system type: Copper
Roofing contractor: James R. Walls Contracting Co. Inc., Clinton, Md.
Gold Circle Awards: Outstanding Workmanship: Steep-slope


Be the first to comment. Please log in to leave a comment.