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THE MAPLE STREET CHAPEL

Steeple Repairs

Background

In May 2010, we got the idea to have a preventative-maintenance inspection of the steeple.  No special reason, no known problems.  It just had been at least 20 years since someone had really had a good look at it, and we wanted to prevent any serious problems from developing.

The Inspection

Inspired Heights, located in Rockford, was the only logical choice for this inspection and for the repair work.  They are the only place specializing in church steeples that we know of that is located in the midwest (Most are on the New England area.).

The inspection was done in the traditional old way of coming out the door on the south side of the belfry and climbing the small ladder  back in to the bell area.

From that point up, there is a ladder that brings you through a hole in the belfry ceiling above the bell, which runs all the way up inside.

The inspection found serious issues, but not a crisis situation.

1) The floor under the bell allows water to come in.  This is soaking the beams that
     support the bell.

2) Several openings are allowing birds to nest inside.  Nesting material tends hold water
     against the wood.
     One of these holes is in the middle of the spire, on the east side.  This is an access
     hole for work to be done on the outside (a point to hang from), but the hole is not
     safe enough to use, and its cover fits poorly and is the main bird access point.
     These pictures show the hole in our steeple, and another steeple and how it is used.

   

3) The wheel that turns the bell needs restoration.  The rope needs to be replaced.

Here are some pictures from the inspection that show the above conditions:

Bell wheel & support beam

Nesting material on floor inside spire

Deterioration of bell support beam

 

The Cost

Our initial estimates include a lot of charges for time and material as needed:

1) Coat the floor under the bell with a rubbery roof coating to seal out water and protect
    the exposed beams, and install a trap door and ladder to eliminate having to go out on
    the roof  -  $4,000

2) New access door in the side of the steeple (This is a priority from the point of view
    of maintenance, as this access point is a requirement.)  -  $3,000

3) Seal other holes that allow bird access  -  on a time & material basis

4) Bell  -  Restoration of wood wheel, replacement of rope, adjustment of bell clapper,
    and improvement of rope pulleys for easier movement  -  on a time & material basis

5) Ensure that boards in openings of belfry are solid enough to provide some safety
    protection from falling  -  on a time & material basis

6) Solid vented door for belfry ceiling opening  -  $500

There were a lot of unknown factors in this cost.  The final cost was $11,170.

The Actual Maintenance Work

Initial work was done November 17-29, 2010.  But because of the cold temperatures, restoration of the bell wheel and application of sealing epoxies was deferred until 2011.

 

The first and most visible step was to cut a hole in the belfry floor (at the bottom of the bell) and make a ladder so you could go up into the belfry without having to climb out onto the roof, which is a major improvement in safety.

     

             This trap door and the ladder below it..........      make it no longer necessary to climb out onto the roof.

The access hole in the ceiling of the belfry used to be open, allowing birds to fly in.  A screen had been nailed over it, but removal and replacement of the screen was destructive, so a vented door was made, for easy opening and closing.

Work was done around the access hole at the middle of the east side of the spire is being rebuilt to reestablish it as a safe worker's access point and seal it against entry by birds.

Even though we will no longer climb out the door on the south side of the steeple, it will still be used to access the spotlight.  The old door did not seal well, and since it had no aesthetic value, it was easier to replace it.

Work was done on the bell  -  replacement of the rope, realignment of the bell clapper, and improvement of the rope's path to make it easier to ring the bell.  In the spring, restoration will be done on the wheel that the rope turns to ring the bell.

                       

  Inspired Heights owner Tony Stratton (right)                                             Ken Bohl went up
         and assistant Chris Flannagan (left)                                                    to inspect the work.

Work was completed July 1-13, 2011.

The wheel that turns the bell is made of many pieces of wood bolted together.  Some of the wood had deteriorated, and some of the bolts had become loose, leaving the wheel a little weak for the heavy task of turning the  800-pound bell.  Wood epoxy was used to replace wood that had decayed or worn away, and the bolts were tightened up.

The floor under the bell had been allowing water to come in, which was soaking the beams that support the bell.  The entire surface was painted with a waterproof coating.

                       

  Notice how tight all the wood joints are.                                          The coating protects the surface.