Renovations at St. Patrick’s Monastery

posted on 01/05/10 06:42 pm by Fr. Mark Miller, C.Ss.R.  

I thought I would take the opportunity of this issue of Community Connections to continue to update all of you about the renovations at St. Patrick’s Monastery. As most of you know, we began last fall because we needed a new heating system. The over-100-year-old pipes would no longer do. We prepared to install a heating/air conditioning system that would allow individual control in each room. However, as always happens with older buildings, we discovered from the uneven floors that the interior foundations were slowly sinking, and at different rates. So, we had to shore up these foundations. The soil samples from the St. Pat’s Project, since abandoned, allowed us to plan to replace the granite support blocks under each of the nine foundation pillars with much larger ones.

However, when the first seven holes were opened up, several of them collected a significant amount of water which suggested that the soil conditions were not what we expected. The foundations project was put on hold until we could get proper soil tests and engineering projections.

To make a long story a bit shorter, we now have all the pertinent information and so the plans have changed. First of all, we cannot use large support blocks as they will continue to sink slowly. Thus, the engineers have suggested a helical screw system. Each foundation will have five helical screws drilled 33 ft into the soil below them. These will be connected by a steel plate and a concrete cast; the steel foundation poles will go on top.

However, (there are going to be a few ‘howevers’ before this story is finished!), the wooden beams that provide support for the interior have also been found to be inadequate (due to cracking/stress). Therefore, we also have to put two steel I-beams in their places across the entire ceiling of the basement. Then we will have to check the bearing walls on the next three floors to ensure stability.

One of the concerns that this new approach raises is that we do not overload the interior floors with too much weight, especially near the outer walls. The foundation of the outer walls is stable, but the new stability inside means that we cannot make presumptions about the outer foundations. (We could spend half a million dollars in order to be absolutely sure by placing helical screw foundations under these foundations; but if we are careful with our renovations, this will not be necessary.)

However, the water under the concrete in the basement has created another problem, namely the mould and mustiness in the basement which suction fans only mask. Hence, we now need to jackhammer out the concrete floor, put in a rock filler that will drain properly, add a drainage system connected to a sump pump, and then put down a new concrete floor.

The timeline for this work is, hopefully, to have the majority of the foundations work done by July and the basement ready by the middle of September. We don’t have all the cost figures in, but you can guess that there will be a substantial increase in the price. Nonetheless, we have good engineering and soil reports and we are as certain as we can be that this will solve the problems of the interior foundations as well as the mould and dampness.

The other contract—the one for the heating and air conditioning system—is also about to go forward. It has been on hold while we get plans and then building permits for the mechanical rooms for the furnaces and hot-water tanks. The mechanical room for the two top floors will be put in the sacristy beside the chapel, with work to begin hopefully during the last week of April (building permit from the city permitting). The mechanical room for the basement and main floor will be under the steps going into the basement from beside the kitchen. The timeline for this project will see the heating and air conditioning system for the two top floors in place by July 15th and the rest by Sept. 15th. Once the systems are up and running, the old boilers, the iron heating registers and visible pipes will be removed.

There will be considerable noise in the basement during some of this time (especially when the jackhammers are put to work). And the engineer also wishes to remove the flooring on a section of the second-floor corridor to find out if we have concrete insulation that can be replaced by lighter fiberglass. That should take a day and require plywood covers until we get moving on the next part of the renovation plan.

Then the next part, the actual work on rooms, etc. Well, the Renovations Committee is about to start work with the architect so that we can figure out what we need to do to get the house to a reasonable living standard. Timelines and, indeed, exact plans are a work-in-progress. Stay tuned!

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