Ongoing maintenance takes the despair out of repair

by Joe Bollig

joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Do you worry about your house? Then consider the worries of Father Dan Gardner, pastor of All Saints Church here.

Father Gardner has 11 structures to worry about — all of them brick, and all of them aging. He knows all about building maintenance issues.

“The main concern would be the church towers at Sts. Cyril and Methodius,” said Father Gardner. “There are [steel] I-beams up there that are rusting. And one tower up there has a bell in it. If we don’t take care of that, probably in the next few years it won’t be there.”

Father Gardner is not alone, according to Leon Roberts, archdiocesan director of real estate and construction.

“We’ve got numerous facilities in the archdiocese — churches and schools — that are of masonry construction, and that are well in excess of 40 years old,” said Roberts. “They are approaching a period of time when they’ll need tuck pointing and repair work to keep mois- ture out and keep them in good, sound condition.”

The many brick and stone buildings of Catholic churches, schools, and rectories were built to last. But Mother Nature is cruel and Father Time is unrelenting. It’s not a matter of if all these buildings will need maintenance; it’s a matter of when.

With these concerns in mind, the archdiocese sponsored a “lunch-and- learn” seminar on Oct. 27 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kan. The session was attended by pastors, parish administrators, and directors of parish maintenance.

The main focus of the one-hour seminar was masonry restoration and maintenance. It was conducted by rep- resentatives of Building Restoration Corporation, which specializes in masonry, and PROSOCO, which specializes in building cleaning, water repellents and protectorants.

Generations of Catholics have made great sacrifices to build beautiful and enduring structures in the archdiocese, and a lot of sentiment is attached to even some very old church buildings. “[Parishioners like them] for their historic value, family connections and their beauty,” said John Wood, who represent- ed St. Charles Parish in Troy, St. Joseph Parish in Wathena, and St. Benedict Parish in Bendena.

But without ongoing maintenance and repair, even relatively recent build- ings are at risk.

“It can be expensive. But when repairs are done right, they will last a very long time,” said Wood. “The foundation of St. Benedict Church is well over 100 years old. When a building like that is built so soundly with good craftsmanship, the repairs we make today will make the build- ing last longer than a newer building.”

Scott Porter, parish administrator at St. Agnes Parish in Roeland Park, thought the most beneficial part of the seminar for him was the discussion on cleaning stone. This is particularly relevant to St. Agnes Parish, where all the buildings are limestone.

“I know for a fact that our finance council and pastor are aware of [the need for] care and upkeep of a parish this old,” said Porter. “There’s always something that needs to be done.”

Building maintenance can be expensive, but it’s a matter of pay now or pay a whole lot more later, according to Porter.

“Absolutely, you have to stay ahead of the game,” he said. “If you think it costs too much to fix now, wait until it really gets broken. The costs will be overwhelming — not can be, will be.”

Building maintenance and inspection are good investments for a parish or school, said Roberts.

“Here’s an example,” he said. “If a parish spends $500 for an annual roof inspection and another $1,000 to fix the flashing and sealants, you could extend the life of the roof five to seven years. Deferring the cost of $12 to $15 a square foot [for repair or replacement] is pretty significant.”

For assistance with choosing contractors, getting bids, or securing a building inspection, pastors and other parish leaders should contact Roberts at (913) 647- 0322.

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