“Up on the Roof,” a classic Goffin and King song made popular by The Drifters, speaks of a peaceful, cool place far from the madding crowd: a description that in no way resembles the roofs of Hundred House this summer. In the midst of a full schedule of summer Buildings and Grounds tasks – including the never ending pursuit of greater sustained energy efficiency — the School began a multi-year project that will address the restoration and preservation of the century old roofs of Hundred House and the Schoolhouse. Starting with the most serious areas of degradation on Hundred House, the scorching hot roofs were crowded with slate roof specialists, carpenters, copper workers, masons, and scaffolding contractors.
The Monson slate, quarried over a hundred years ago in Monson, Maine, is some of the most durable slate available then or now, which is a good thing. When a problem with a sagging chimney was discovered two years ago on Hundred House, Tim Dumont, the director of Buildings and Grounds, hired restoration roof consultant Robert Fulmer of Building Envelope Consultants to provide a full assessment and recommendation. His report was both heartening and challenging. The Munson slate would last for another 100-150 years; however, the flashing along most of the roof lines and seams of Hundred House had failed, and the resulting leaks were the source for the serious water damage that B&G had been tracking and repairing for the past few years. In addition, a significant ice dam this past winter had severely damaged the roof and decorative railing above the entrance to the Headmaster’s House. It was time for action.
Once the students had cleared out of the dormitories for the summer, the scaffolding company arrived and built a complex structure, including full-access stairwells. The slate tiles were removed one by one and the durability of the slate proved itself in the limited amount of breakage. These tiles were carefully transported and stored in nearby parking spaces until they could be reinstalled. The only areas of severe breakage were on those tiles that had been tarred into place during previous repairs in order to quickly address leaks. Luckily the roofing company, Mahan Slate Roofs, also does demolition and reclamation and has a stockpile of Monson slate tiles to replace the inevitable losses.
With the slate tiles removed, it was possible for carpenters to gain access to and replace a number of rotted beams and make other necessary repairs to the sub-roof. Squirrel nests were eradicated and access points for the squirrel communities were blocked. Masons were put into action to repoint chimneys, and in some places where the mortar had disintegrated completely and brick rested on brick, full mortaring was required. Each step of the process required a carefully orchestrated plan to maximize efficiency and transitions the various contractors. The schedule required many of the contractors to begin work well before 8 a.m. and end their days after 6 p.m., working six or seven day weeks.
New copper flashing was applied to the seams; broken gutters were replaced and reinforced to withstand the weight of the winter melt. The tiles were returned, the seams were covered with copper sheets, and it was time to turn to painting and landscaping. The decorative dentil work that underlies the soffits required a special process to remove the many layers of over-painting to ensure a clean and stable application of new paint. The process included coating the dentil work with a corrosive material and then encasing it to ensure that the material fully penetrated the paint. Once the paint was removed the surface of the decoration was revealed. Despite its appearance as carved wood, the decorative element was manufactured out of terne steel, a common material used during the creation of fine architecture at the turn of the 19th century and popular, though often prohibitively expensive, today because of its longevity and durability.
Once the scaffolding is removed, the roofs should be ready to withstand the next 100 years of New England weather in as grand a fashion as they have withstood the previous century.