Since its construction in 1956, Kirk in the Hills of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., had never been placed on a regular and thorough maintenance program. As a result, a leak in the church's bell tower went undetected for years. Water entered the tower's wall system, consisting of structural brick (four or five wythes thick, depending on location) and decorative limestone facing. Aggravated by Michigan's freeze-thaw cycling, water that had gotten behind the limestone was forcing the stone facing outward--by 1 inch to as much as 3 inches in some cases.
One of the masonry contractor's first challenges was to tie up the church bells. Access to the tower was another challenge. The contractor started tube-and-clamp scaffolding more than 100 feet from the ground. Steel I-beams inserted through the bell tower windows cantilevered out and supported the scaffolding. But the biggest challenge was how to keep track of the dismantled stones (which weighed 500 to 1,800 pounds on average), each of which had suffered varying degrees of deterioration. The solution: Take photographs of each of the bell tower's elevations and have the photos enlarged to 3x3-foot posters; then assign each stone a code number, depending on the amount of restoration work required. The stones were divided into three categories: (1) Undamaged stones that needed to be reattached; (2) Damaged stones the contractor's stone masons could patch or refabricate on-site; and (3) Stones too damaged to be repaired on-site and too intricate for the contractor's stone masons to recarve--these stones were sent to a stone company for refabrication.
The contractor converted part of the church parking lot into a stone yard. After removal, the stones were grouped by elevation and arranged on the ground in the same order they occupied on the bell tower. In the stone yard, stone masons repaired some of the stones using a custom-formulated patching material, designed to match the colors and textures of the original stone. As the stones were being repaired and refabricated, a crew of three bricklayers restored the deteriorated brick backup. The nearly $400,000 masonry job was finished one week ahead of schedule.