Weather stalls Courthouse restoration

Friday, January 8, 2010
Rally Hill-area resident Ricky Begley of Charlie Irwin Paining, Franklin, waves from a lift bucket so he and coworkers can pressure wash the south-facing clock tower over the County Courthouse.

Restoration of the roof, crown and clock towers over Marshall County's Courthouse has come to a halt because it's too cold to apply a special paint with sealant properties, according to contractors' reports to the architect-engineer overseeing the project.

Application of the white protective coating for the man-made stone blocks of concrete must be done when temperatures are 45 degrees and rising, Project Manager Billy Gatlin of D.F. Chase Construction said. Meanwhile, a corner block atop the northwest corner of the building fell to the ground on Dec. 15.

Both weather-related events stopped work before temperatures here went below freezing.

"I don't think we've had a non-freezing day since we've been here," Gatlin told architect James Kennon and other officials monitoring the project for the county including Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett and Building Codes Manager Don Nelson. "If we could get two to three days ... we could put it on."

The paint seals out moisture, but allows evaporation from the rock.

The special paint is being kept in a heated room. It's been seen as a way to stop leaks into the building. A new roof should too, but as work has proceeded, Nelson has concluded that the leaking is "pretty much the same," and that's prompted Gatlin's opinion that leaks aren't at the roof.

"I'm guessing it's at the ledge," Gatlin said.

The effect of moisture in stone and its mortar was found while pointing the rocks.

Mortar had been removed and replaced with caulk, Kennon said of a previous restoration while reporting to the County Commission Building Committee on Tuesday night.

D.F. Chase Superintendent Robert Dexter said, "There wasn't real anchoring.

"It looks like the stone was covered with mud on the backside," Dexter said, using a term for concrete. "Over time, with water getting in, freezing and thawing ... it eventually fell out."

"The really scary thing," Kennon said, "was that the only thing holding it in was caulk.

"We should all count our blessings that no one was under the stone," the architect said.

The molecular bonding coat of special paint is to help prevent that in the future, but the substance is "finicky" about how it's applied, Gatlin said. "The dew point has to be pretty much non-existent."

Changes in the restoration project's schedule have extended the original completion date from Jan. 20 to Feb. 16, however "The value of the contract has not changed," Kennon said.

As for the cost of what's become known as Phase 1 of the Courthouse restoration, County Budget Director Freda Terry said, "The whole contract ... is $410,770."