D. C. Taylor Co. Reroofs 100-Year-Old Building

August 6, 2019

When it was built in 1918, it was one of the three tallest buildings in Cedar Rapids, IA. With just eight stories, the Higley building (situated at the corner of 3rd Avenue and 2nd Street SE) no longer holds that title, but still stands proudly in the city’s thriving downtown. While the building remains in good condition, the time had come to install a new roof.

At approximately 25 years old, the roof membrane was past its useful life. Despite a coating application several years back buying the building owners some more time, the membrane was now sufficiently deteriorated. The facility was beginning to experience more frequent roof leaks.

A D. C. Taylor Co. crew of five arrived in late September to tear off and dispose of perimeter edge metal, reset or replace tented fasteners found in seams of insulation attachment, and remove and replace wet insulation. New 60-mil TPO roof membrane was installed along with 60-mil TPO roof membrane flashings. Edge metal was replaced, and 100 lineal feet of walk pad was installed. “When roof membrane gets a little frost on it, it’s slippery,” says Roy Rambo, Project Manager, D. C. Taylor Co., Cedar Rapids, IA. “The walk pad increases traction.” It was installed straight out from the roof access to the rooftop mechanical unit and surrounding it. The 6,800 square foot project was completed in two weeks.

A Customized Project to Fit the Customer’s Budget

Both the project scope and execution were carefully planned to stay within the building owner’s budget. Three strategies were deployed to deliver an economical project. The first was the use of the internal elevator for roof access, tear-roof removal, equipment staging, and material loading. The crew loaded and unloaded materials early in the morning and after the workday was over to avoid disrupting tenants. The old carpet was put down and the walls were covered, prepping the elevator so no damage or wear was caused.

The next money-saving strategy was to keep existing insulation in place whenever possible. “We only replaced insulation if it was wet or damaged. It was minimal,” explains Rambo. “That drove down project costs considerably.” Only about 600 square feet was removed and replaced with 1-inch polyisocyanurate insulation.

Lastly, the new membrane was mechanically fastened. This attachment method is less costly than adhesive, which would have also required insulation board.

Unique Challenges Roofing a Downtown Building

Urban roofing projects always pose logistical challenges. Limited staging areas, traffic congestion, and no parking require more detailed project planning.

Fortunately, there was no need to rent a crane, because D. C. Taylor Co. was able to use the internal elevator. A crane would have tied up traffic downtown when the old membrane and new roofing materials were loaded on and off every other day. Use of a crane would have also necessitated a permit from the city to block part of the street, and subcontracting professionals to barricade the street and redirect traffic – both of which would have added to project costs.

Because of limited space on the ground for equipment and material staging, D. C. Taylor Co. used the roof. The customer requested parking meters in front of the building be bagged off (i.e. disabled) so D. C. Taylor Co. could park trucks in front of the building entrance for convenience.

Executing a Strict Safety Program

“It was a lot of perimeter edge work,” said Mike Stickney, Vice President National Account Manager, D. C. Taylor Co., Cedar Rapids, IA. “We had a strict safety protocol.”

Because no crane was used for the project, the crew was not able to tie off to the mobile fall protection cart (which has to be hoisted onto the roof). A carefully devised fall protection plan was put in place prior to the project start. A combination of active and passive fall protection strategies was applied. The crew used a single point anchor, horizontal lifeline, cable and flag stands, a self-retracting lifeline, and guard rail. Personal protective equipment (PPE) included personal fall arrest harnesses and fall restraint lanyards.

The location of the penthouse created a tight squeeze with no choice but to be close to the roof edge. Guard rail was the first fall protection deployed. Once set up, a safe narrow walkway was in place between the edge of the roof and the penthouse wall.

On the smaller roof area accessed via this guard rail walkway, a single point anchor was established for fall arrest with a self-retracting lifeline. Warning flags six feet from the roof edge were also used.

A horizontal lifeline and flag stands were set up on the main field of the roof. Cable stands were placed 10 feet from the edge and flags hung at a height of 39-42 inches. Anchors were screwed into the deck. Crew roofed up to and around the anchors, then pulled the anchor once done on the exposed edge side and finished the area. The anchors were set more than six feet away from the edge so there was no violation of leading edge.

“The crew started each workday with stretches to prevent injury and followed the fall protection plan to the letter,” explained Kirk Dighton, Safety Manager, D. C. Taylor Co., Cedar Rapids, IA.

Delivering Progress Reports Daily

Each day in the morning and evening as the facility manager unlocked and locked the door for Project Supervisor Matt Techau and his four-man crew, there was an exchange of information. This daily communication kept everyone up-to-date on project progress, expectations, and satisfaction.

When completed in October (just two weeks after the project start), D. C. Taylor Co. had given the 100-year-old Higley Building a new roof that would have made its original builder proud.