Restoring our “Granite”
When we purchased the historic Third Ward building, we discovered that much of the “granite” was in really bad shape. Granite in quotes because it wasn’t really granite, but something called “cast stone” – a concrete product mixed with custom rock and gravel mixes to look like granite. Over the years, water had penetrated into the various pieces exposed to the elements, frozen, thawed, frozen, and – ultimately – breaking them apart. We agonized over how we might repair or restore this damaged stone in an appropriate way. Although we could have patched it, it would never really look right.
During a phone call with the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office, we were referred to Abstract Masonry of Salt Lake, who specializes in the type of work we needed done. Their founder, John Lambert, is a recognized world leader in historic masonry preservation and restoration. John agreed to come take a look and concluded that we should consider a different approach: replacement. Using the exact same techniques as the original 1930-era construction, his team would harvest samples from the building and build new forms to reproduce every piece we needed for replacement of the damaged stones.
The first part of this process was to match the color, texture, size, and mix of the original pieces. Frankly, this seemed a daunting task. But, John and his crew, using local Idaho Falls sources, came up with this mix pretty quickly (the original sample is in the middle of the photo and the proposed gravel blend, made from the individual components around the top, is shown at the bottom):
The next part of the process was to create a mix with concrete that would look right after casting and curing. Several variants were tried and, once again, the results were impressive:
After these test results were reviewed, we collectively selected the sample process that most closely matched the cast stone on our building. The next step involved ramping up for production by creating large amounts of the stone mix and building the forms to produce identical pieces to replace our damaged ones.
Now that product and forms were complete, Abstract Masonry has been in full production mode.
Every single stone along the rooftop edge will be replaced, all of the pilaster crowns will be replaced, and all of the stone arches over the upper windows will be replaced. Here are a couple of before/replacement photo sets to see the difference.
Parapet cast stone cap set:
Pilaster crown set (the new one is fresh out of the mold and still wet):
While stone casting continues, John’s crew will soon be on-site to clean and repair all of the rest of our brick and stone that, fortunately, is in fantastic condition.
Very shortly, the building will look nearly identical to its 1930s new condition, ready for another lifetime of service to the community. As I’m sure you can imagine, this is not an insignificant undertaking. We have often suggested that our restoration of our new clinic home is a metaphor of the care we offer to our patients. We certainly could have placed a band-aid on the damaged stone, or even ignored it, but we believe in doing it right and restoring the mind and body to optimal health. Our building is a living testament to that fact. We look forward to seeing you soon!