The main feature of Maryhill for the last 135 years has been the gothic St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church, which is visible from miles around. Recently that prominent characteristic of the hamlet has been draped in green scaffolding fabric as workers from Empire Restorations restore the façade and tower of the building.Performing masonry work, crews from the New Hamburg-based firm are raking out joints using pneumatic and hand chisels before re-pointing the joints as part of the complex and delicate restoration.
Re-pointing is the process of renewing the pointing or the external part of mortar joints in masonry construction that has weakened over the years.
“Over time, weathering and decay create voids in the joints between masonry bricks, allowing water to seep in, which can cause significant damage,” said Philip Hoad, president of Empire Restorations. “The mortar joints of the church were deteriorating and generally masonry joints need re-pointing every 30 years.”
The company is also removing old hard Portland cement mortar joints and will be replacing the joints with lime mortar.
Portland cement mortar was developed in the late 19th century as a stronger mortar and replaced lime mortar for new construction by the 1930s. The main reason for this was that Portland cement sets hard and quickly, allowing for a faster pace of construction and required fewer skills to handle.
The cement should not be used for the repair of older buildings constructed in lime mortar, which require the flexibility and softness of lime to function correctly, said Hoad.
“Portland cement mortar joints can do more damage than good and we will be replacing the joints with lime,” said Hoad.
Along with the re-pointing the company will be doing some masonry reinforcement by installing some stainless steel ties to stitch up cracks that have appeared over time.
“These building were built to last hundreds of years and we are just extending that life, unlike new construction where buildings don’t last as long. They don’t build them as they used to.”
Having got underway at the beginning of summer, the restoration is expected to take close to two months to complete. During the process the church is still open to the public.
St. Boniface was built in the late 1870s and is one of two Roman Catholic churches Empire Restorations is currently working on in the area, the other being the Church of Our Lady in Guelph.