Sanctuary Ceiling History
As you know we had to vacate the sanctuary in the spring of 2020 because of COViD-19. No one was going in or out of the sanctuary for several weeks. In the summer of 2020, we decided to have a regularly scheduled Church Council meeting in the sanctuary where we could maintain social distancing. When we went in we noticed that the suspended ceiling had dipped down severely near the middle of the room. We had no idea what had happened.
Later, the trustees took down some of the suspended ceiling tiles to try and see what was happening. It was impossible to tell exactly what was wrong from below but it appeared that the old lathe and plaster ceiling (with the tin panel ceiling suspended ceiling attached) had separated from the ceiling framing. We decided to call our insurance agent. This turned into a lengthy process.
Our insurance agent was short-staffed because of the virus but they eventually sent out an adjuster. The adjuster looked it over and decided that he wanted to get an engineer to look at it. This took several more weeks. The engineer was unable to definitively determine the problem because of the thick bed of insulation in the attic. After looking it over he conferred with the insurance agent and adjuster. It was decided that we could not use the sanctuary or the vestry until someone could conclusively determine what had happened to the ceiling and repair it.
The trustees decided to take some preliminary steps themselves. They removed the pews and took down the suspended ceiling. At the same time, they hired a commercial insulation company to vacuum the insulation out of the attic. On the third day of insulation removal, the actual problem revealed itself. One of the two ceiling carrier beams, installed in 1870, had cracked and allowed the entire frame to dropdown. The original builders had suspended the ceiling frame with two steel rods that were secured in the attic. This was a very good way to construct the ceiling frame except that they did not put any kind of a heavy plate under the beam where the rod penetrated. Over 150 years, with the added weight of the insulation, the nut on the bottom of the rod worked its way up into the beam and caused it to crack.
Initially, the trustees feared that we might have to completely demolish the entire ceiling and start over. Discovering that the problem was really just in one beam we realized that we may not have to do that, pending approval from the engineer. The trustees had steel plates made to carry the load of the damaged timber and the first one has been installed. They have uncovered the bottom of the second carrying beam and will be installing a plate under this one as well, as a precaution. Once both of those have been installed they will put plates on the top to ensure a very healthy repair. When both of the beams have their steel support plate we will call the engineer for inspection.
The repairs will be ongoing through February. Once the repairs are done we will have the engineer come back and inspect them. After that, we will have to install a new suspended ceiling and re-install all of the pews. There will be lots of incidental work along the way. We hope that we can have everything done sometime in March but there are still some hurdles to clear. We will keep you apprised of our progress.