Overcoming outside challenges

August 29, 2002
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The restoration of the First United Methodist Church in Birmingham, AL, was met with a few unforeseen challenges. Black soot from the early 1900s steel industry had accumulated over 100 years and covered the sandstone facade of the city's oldest Methodist church. In fact, it had looked black for so long, some members of the congregation were opposed to having it cleaned. Masonry Arts, Inc. of Birmingham - contracted by Church conservators - assisted in explaining the restoration process to the congregation.

"I am pretty sure that there were nearly no church members who saw the building in its original condition," said Creig Stanfield of Masonry Arts. "A lot of people were resistant to the change because a black church was all they knew."

Once the congregation agreed to the cleaning, the stains were cleaned with ProSoCo Enviro Klean Restoration Cleaner. A crew of four people cleaned the 31,000-square-foot church in sections 7 to 10 feet wide and 15 feet tall. The cleaner was brushed on and allowed to dwell for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinsed at 700 psi with heated water.

During the restoration process, the weather became a problem in trying to clean the building.

"We started to clean the church during the summer, when the city was in the middle of a drought, and the city had a ban on unnecessary watering," said Stanfield. "The police shut us down for several weeks, which went on into the fall."

Once the ban was lifted, the crew went back to work, but not without another obstacle. This time, the city was hit with very cold temperatures.

"When we were able to get back to work, the cold slowed the chemical process of cleaning the stone," said Stanfield.

When the cold air subsided, they went back to work and were met with no other challenges for the rest of the cleaning process.

"After we cleaned the building, we went back and sealed the veneer with ProSoCo Sure Klean Weather Seal H40 and had no problems," said Stanfield.

After the building was cleaned and sealed, the appearance of the sandstone underneath the soot made it all worthwhile.

"The stone now exhibits its original natural range of colors and is beautiful," said Stanfield. "The church's motto for the project of 'Let All That is Old, Be New Again' sums up the project nicely."


First United Methodist Church, Birmingham, AL

Contractor: Masonry Arts, Inc., Birmingham, AL
Stone Restoration Products: ProSoCo, Lawrence, KS

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