Schooled in roofing

L.E. Schwartz & Son helps renovate Agnes Scott College's main hall in Georgia

  • Completed counterflashing
  • New weathervane atop the bell tower
  • Low slope to slate transition
  • A customized strainer prevents large debris from entering the downspout
  • Refurbished spire on top of the turret

In 1889, Agnes Scott College, Decatur, Ga., was established with a mission to educate women for the betterment of their families. That mission has since evolved into a commitment to educate students from around the world to “think deeply, live honorably, and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times.”

Built in 1891, the college’s Main Hall was the first building constructed on campus. A modern building at the time with running water and electricity, the hall had 50 sleeping rooms, classrooms, laboratories, a chapel and dining room. A fourth floor housed the music department and, later, the art department.

In 1941, a fire sprinkler system was added. In 1943, an elevator was installed along with hardwood floors. In 1951, lightning struck the bell tower, requiring a renovation, and in 1985, a new bell tower was installed. After launching a $31.8 million “Campaign for Main” fundraiser to secure funds needed for a LEED®-certified and comprehensive building restoration, in 2018, the building’s foundation was stabilized.

Phase two of restoration work included updating historical features, window replacements, tuck-pointing and new roof systems. L.E. Schwartz & Son Inc., Macon, Ga., was invited by the project’s general contractor, Holder Construction Co., Atlanta, to bid on the roofing work and subsequently was selected to install a steep-slope slate roof system, low-slope polymer-modified bitumen roof system and associated copper work.

“We have done several roofing projects for Agnes Scott College over the years,” says Michael Kruger, vice president of L.E. Schwartz & Son. “When the college was ready to replace the roof systems on Main Hall, it asked Holder Construction to reach out to us.”

PROJECT NAME: Agnes Scott College Main Hall
PROJECT DURATION: June 15, 2020-May 25, 2021
ROOF SYSTEM TYPES: Copper, polymer-modified bitumen and slate
ROOFING CONTRACTOR: L.E. Schwartz & Son Inc., Macon, Ga.
ROOFING MANUFACTURERS: Georgia-Pacific Building Products, Atlanta; Mid-States Asphalt, Tuscaloosa, Ala.; PAC-CLAD® | Petersen, a Carlisle Company, Elk Grove Village, Ill.; SOPREMA,® Wadsworth, Ohio; Vermont Slate Co., Savannah, Ga.

Prep work

In June 2020, the L.E. Schwartz & Son team began work on Agnes Scott College’s 129-year-old marquee building. Located in the middle of the campus, the Main Hall currently houses dorm rooms on three floors and executive administrative offices on one floor.

During the project’s planning phase, the team discovered asbestos in the mastic flashing at most locations where the slate meets the brick.

“Before we could replace the roof in these areas, our team was charged with the abatement of hazardous materials,” Kruger says. “All safety precautions were taken, including erecting scaffolding, having all our employees wear appropriate PPE and being tied-off at all times, and disposing all asbestos-containing materials in the proper manner.”


The next phase of restoration work on Agnes Scott College’s Main Hall will encompass renovations to student living spaces and administrative offices, including new furniture, fixtures and lighting; updated plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems; new audiovisual equipment; and preserving the bell tower that will include the digitization and display of hundreds of student signatures to adorn the walls.


Once the building was prepped and safe for work, team members removed the existing slate on the 15,000-square-foot 12:12 slope roof down to the wood plank deck. Workers replaced damaged wood and then applied Mid-States Asphalt QUIK-Stick HT self-adhering underlayment followed by Vermont Slate in Dover Black.

In addition, the team removed all downspouts, chimney caps, wall flashing, edge metal and internal gutters and replaced them with custom-fabricated 20-ounce copper.

“Complicated flashing and gutter conditions are some of the most critical areas of a roof,” says Larry Peters, project manager for the Copper Development Association. “The L.E. Schwartz & Son team was quick to reach out to our association to help work through complicated conditions often unforeseen during an initial survey and only apparent when older materials are removed.”

To reframe the internal gutters, the on-site team removed segments daily, exposing the building to the elements. Once new framing was in place, workers custom fabricated and installed the new pieces as quickly as possible to keep the building dry.

L.E. Schwartz & Son craftsmen also custom fabricated the copper crickets on-site and hand cut the hexagon-shaped slate installed above the windows.

“The specialty metals and all the customsized copper flashings and gutters were coordinated by our on-site team and fabricated by our lead fabricator, Jim McDonald,” Kruger says.

Low-slope and challenges

On the 5,000-square-foot low-slope roof areas, workers removed the existing EPDM roof system down to the wood deck. Next, team members mechanically fastened SOPREMA® SOPRA-ISO® polyisocyanurate insulation and ½-inch-thick Georgia-Pacific DensDeck® Prime Roof Boards followed by SOPRALENE® 250 FR GR polymer-modified bitumen applied with SOPREMA COLPLY® Adhesive. The team also installed Petersen .050-inch-thick corrugated aluminum panels in the mechanical wells.

Working on a building more than 100 years old presented challenges, such as limited access and rooftop space, but the most unique challenges were updating the cornice and bell towers, including replicating the existing weathervane.

“The cornice was assumed to be wood when the project started,” Kruger explains.

“However, once scaffolding was erected, it became apparent the cornice was metal and had to be replaced entirely.”

Rebuilding the copper weathervane at the top of the bell tower was a significant undertaking.

“The lettering and arrows were built using ½-inch copper bar, and the body was solid copper pipe and included a lightning protection rod as part of the assembly,” Kruger says. “Our in-house craftsman, James Melvin, has more than 40 years of experience and hand-built the new copper weathervane.”

Making sure the weathervane was functional was another obstacle.

“Our in-house sheet-metal fabrication team worked out all the design parameters before sending it to the job site to be erected 130 feet high at the pinnacle of the building,” Kruger explains. “Every detail was carefully considered by the on-site team headed by Superintendent Sean Willis, Craftsman Juan Huerta and Project Manager Nick Riner.”

A hall of fame

In May 2021, the L.E. Schwartz & Son team completed work on Agnes Scott College’s Main Hall.

“The team was challenged with reworking a uniquely designed roof while maintaining its quality and practicality,” says Doug Hunter, executive vice president of Holder Construction. “Because of its expertise and attention to detail, L.E. Schwartz & Son was able to deliver a modern roof that was watertight and maintained the original design intent.”

Although the project was delayed a few weeks after discovering building conditions unknown at the start of the project, the delay was limited thanks to intricate planning and coordination of three crews.

“The most rewarding part of this project was to see how well the team worked together to get the job done,” Kruger says. “The communication between our employees, the architect, general contractor and other trades was as good as it gets. Everyone was moving in the same direction with the same goal, providing the college with a long-term, beautiful roof system on its Main Hall. Seeing the result of all that hard work makes us so proud of everyone involved.”

L.E. Schwartz & Son’s client was delighted with the project’s result.

“The roof system replacements were especially complicated with multiple materials ranging from slate to copper and various severe slopes,” says David Marder, director of facilities for Agnes Scott College. “It is an extremely visible project for the people of Decatur, and the L.E. Schwartz & Son team did a magnificent job at maintaining the original beauty of the building while integrating new roofing materials and features that will endure the test of time.”

For its work on Agnes Scott College’s Main Hall, L.E. Schwartz & Son received a 2022 Gold Circle Award from the Roofing Alliance in the Outstanding Workmanship category.

“When I started my career at L.E. Schwartz & Son in 2004, the first project I worked on was at Agnes Scott College,” Kruger says. “Now, having our company win a Gold Circle Award for a building on that campus is rewarding.”

CHRYSTINE ELLE HANUS is Professional Roofing's associate editor and an NRCA director of communications.



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