St. Mark's Church, Catonsville, Md., built in 1888, is a treasured place for many in the community. Generations of families have called the church home and came to appreciate the rustic charm of the structure.

With a footprint of 80 ft x 200 ft, the two-story building is constructed of granite and masonry -- typical of the era in which it was built. The structure is trimmed with wooden doors and windows, as well as wooden soffits, which soften the look of the concrete and stone. Throughout the structure's history, side naves and a front foyer were added using brick masonry. Today, coated stucco covers the side naves and an ornamental stucco coating surrounds the entire building -- covering the original brick.

Despite its elegance and charm, age had taken a toll on this historic treasure. With no significant maintenance or repair completed in its history, St. Mark's Church was in desperate need of some care.

Many problems

Recognizing the need to preserve this beloved structure, the Archdiocese of Baltimore contacted a well-known restoration contractor who had performed similar repair projects for it -- Structural Preservation Systems (SPS). A scope of work was presented to the contractor for replacement of the gable coping stones, random stone pointing, repair and coating of the ornamental limestone stucco, and crack repairs.

The first task for the contractor was a visual inspection, which included walking around the structure at ground level with binoculars to check mortar joints, condition of the faux limestone covering the masonry façade, and condition of the gable coping stones. SPS scraped the mortar joints and used sounding techniques to determine their condition.

They utilized a high-reach man-lift to survey areas that were not readily visible from the ground. This task included more tapping and sounding, as well as a significant review of the coping stones. Interestingly enough, in contrast to the proposed project scope of work, SPS determined that the coping stones were in good condition.

However, the inspection identified a need for a great deal of tuck pointing on the masonry. Repairs also were needed for certain portions of the woodwork, and significant patching was necessary for the limestone. SPS determined that there was much more deterioration in the mortar joints and ornamental stucco repair work than originally scoped, whereas the blue stone for the coping was not as deteriorated as initially thought.

The good news, however, was that the contractor determined that the deterioration was caused by age. No defects in materials were recognized; rather, it was simply an old building that had not been maintained.