Avoiding Dry Rot in Ministry

Turnaround, Salvation Army Bldg, Fort Collins
The Salvation Army Building, Fort Collins, Colorado (circa 1970)

When working as an engineer in Fort Collins, our firm was hired to do some renovation work on a historic downtown building. At the time, this red brick building housed the Salvation Army ministry (pictured above). The edifice consisted of a basement and three upper levels. The nearly 100-year-old structure possessed character and distinctive architectural features.

One of the distressing features of the building was a noticeable sag in the floors in the center of the structure.  If you placed a bowling ball on the floor, it would rapidly roll toward the center of the building and eventually settle there. The cause of that problem became the focus of the early part of the structural investigation.

The center of the building was supported by six massive 10” x 10” wooden columns. We discovered that in the basement these columns were partially encased in concrete in order to protect the lumber from careless equipment handlers.  The concrete, designed to protect the lumber, actually aided in rotting these massive timbers. The concrete sealed the wood from fresh air and caused the wood to dry rot.  These vital structural members were so rotten that we could push a pencil all the way to the center of the 10 x 10’s without difficulty.  (That certainly gives one great confidence with two floors and a roof suspended overhead!)  When the contractors jacked up the building to replace these aging behemoths, they needed to use two 100 ton jacks to lift the floors to the proper height.

I want you to catch this thought… (more…)

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