NASHVILLE, Tenn.– Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church commissioned a million-dollar permanent iconography, but before it could be installed in the sanctuary, leaks and thermal and moisture problems needed to be addressed.

Crain Construction was general contractor for the historic renovation, which included stripping the sanctuary to the bones and restructuring it.

“The original architect designed the Byzantine-style church patterned after churches in Greece with lots of angles, hips and valleys,” said Scott Webb, Crain Construction project manager. “Tennessee has a more wet and humid climate than Greece so the sanctuary was plagued with lots of leaks in the ceiling and walls, mildew and thermal issues.”

The solution was to remove windows, all brick veneer from the exterior and all drywall from the interior. Crain Construction crews then restored the integrity of the structure’s envelope with upgrades to the thermal and moisture barrier systems, adding insulation and flashing around windows, liquid applied air and moisture barrier, reinstalling the brick veneer, installing drywall and roof to make the exterior and interior skins work with Middle Tennessee weather conditions.

The general contractor also added a 300-square-foot semi-transept to either side of the sanctuary to increase the seating capacity to 350 people for the growing church, which has 250-plus member families. With the additions, fire sprinklers were installed with pipes installed along false beams and painted to blend into the sanctuary décor.

Crews also replaced the floor finishes with new 24-inch tile flooring and saved a custom-made, six-foot, double-headed eagle mosaic made of marble handmade in Greece by adding an eight-inch band of black marble to provide a smoother transition in the new floor.

Creative Solutions for Project Challenges

 “It’s an active church with a daily service schedule so one of our biggest challenges was minimizing the time the congregation could not be in the church,” said Webb. “We’d start early in the morning and then take a long break or early lunch to avoid interrupting church services.”

The $1.8 million, six-month restoration and expansion project was coordinated around anticipated and unanticipated church services, wedding, funerals and festivals, including the church’s annual, weekend-long Greek Festival. There was a six-week period when construction prevented the congregation from using the church, but all work was completed prior to Christmas.

Prior to taking bids, the general contractor toured potential subs through the project, explaining the scope and challenges and laying out expectations. It also provided an opportunity to learn a little about the Orthodox religion and its symbols so workers would be respectful in what they wore, how they acted and the language they used.

An additional challenge was getting equipment inside to repair the 60-foot-high dome. Without a piece of equipment that fit the need, the crews erected scaffolding to raise them high enough to put in the sprinkler lines and replace the drywall.

Chalk on the Walk and Foam Templates for Quality Control

The church’s exterior was quite detailed with arched windows, layered and stepped brickwork and custom-carved flower-shaped bricks under each arched window. This dictated where the brick weep would be reinstalled and some innovative methods were required for quality control.

All windows were removed, openings were treated and frames were re-glazed and reinstalled. Reusing the frames saved $70,000-80,000. New, more efficient windows were installed.

“We got all the dimensions, chalked it out on the sidewalk and then laid the bricks out to make sure it would work before the mason put the bricks up,” said Webb.

The crew also made foam templates of the windows. With the template in place, the mason would then re-install the brick, butting it up to the template before the window was installed. This process was also used for the three-foot diameter, 500-pound marble cross that was removed and then returned by crane to its place on the church exterior.

Special shaped bricks and color matching required longer lead times, so regular brick was installed and then replaced later to keep the project moving forward.

“The brick detail was a big worry going into the project,” said Webb. “But we did a lot of pre-planning with the architect and a very experienced mason, who headed off a lot of problems.”

The restoration and expansion required a tremendous level of planning and coordination among crews due to the intricate architectural features and reverence for the church and its congregation. But the moisture, thermal and insulation problems were fixed and artisans from Greece were able to install the iconography murals to complete the sanctuary of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.

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