Overlooking the shore of Corpus Christi Bay in Corpus Christi, Texas stands the historic First United Methodist Church with its towering steeple and monument to Jesus, his arms outstretched to the bay at the helm of a fishing boat. When the 53-year-old masonry and concrete church started to show signs of weathering, Western Specialty Contractors – San Antonio, Texas branch was called in to assess the damage and restore the landmark church’s facade.
Due to its limited accessibility, Western crews and facility engineer Manny Gallardo had to get creative with how they surveyed the damage to the church’s 150-foot-tall steeple.
“We used a telescope and stood across the street to try and view all of the different concrete spalls in the tower. We were actually able to gather a large amount of data by using a drone with a video camera to fly around the building and get a close-up of all the conditions,” said San Antonio Branch Manager Dan Wicht.
After the assessment was complete, Western determined that 100 percent of the mortar on the church’s brick facade (approx. 11,850 square feet) would need to be replaced, concrete would need to be repaired, and all sealants would need to be replaced with silicone. Additionally, the original steel brick ties supporting the masonry steeple had completely rusted away due to the salty air and were no longer providing support to the brick wall. Western crews would have to install 2,000 Helifix 316 stainless steel wall anchors to re-anchor the brick wall to the steeple’s substrate.
Due to limited access to the tower’s upper sections and the amount of time and money it would take just to gain access to the tower, church officials elected to use all top-of-the line materials to prolong the life of the steeple’s restoration work.
“The new anchors are made of all top-of-the-line stainless steel materials and are expected to have a lifespan of over 100 years, which is a must for a building located across the street from a bay,” said Wicht.
Once the tower was made structurally sound, Western crews performed a complete restoration on the church which included removing and replacing all exterior sealants, performing 7,500 square feet of tuckpointing, replacing any broken or cracked bricks and performing detailed concrete repairs. In order to maintain the church’s historical integrity, Western crews created custom mortar and concrete colors using Cathedral Stone Products, Inc. to match all new materials to the original work.
After the main restoration work was complete, Western crews took great care to power wash and clean the entire church’s facade using an electric power-washer with a max PSI of 1,600, so as to not damage the existing brick and concrete. Application of a protective sealant to the entire church completed the five-month restoration project for Western.
Engineering support on the project was provided by David Day with CASA Engineering of Harlingen, TX.