The West Range at the University of Virginia will be renovated this summer, with new roofs on the student rooms and complete overhauls of rooms 29 through 45.
“These roofs have stood the test of time, but after 170-plus years have reached the end of their protective function,” said James Zehmer, historic preservation project manager for Facilities Management.
The slate-covered roofs over the West Range rooms were installed in the 1830s to cover the serrated roofs designed by University founder Thomas Jefferson, which had begun leaking after only a few years.
“The slate roofs over the Lawn rooms were replaced in the 1980s,” Zehmer said, “but most of the Range roof framing, sheathing and slate still date to their original installation date.”
Small leaks have been repaired over the years by the University’s roofing crews.
“Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to discover a roof leak is when it creates another problem, such as rotting wood or water damage to a plaster ceiling,” Zehmer said. “It's important to address the cause of these types of problems, rather than just reacting to the resultant damage. In this case, it means replacing the roofs.”
Preliminary work was scheduled to begin this week. John G. Waite Associates, Architects, has been hired to design the roof replacement. Maintenance workers were to begin installing temporary lighting in the West Range attics on Monday and design team members will be taking measurements and examining the spaces above the rooms between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. The design team will also survey the roofs over the loggias of Hotels A, C and E.
Range residents can expect to hear team members crawling and talking inside the attic spaces above their rooms, but not before 8 a.m., Zehmer said.
The design phase of the project and hiring contractors will extend into May, with the actual roof work taking place after the spring semester.
“Scaffolding installation is planned between resident move-out and Reunions weekend, with the West Range available for use during Reunions,” Zehmer said. “The construction phase will go into September, but our goal is to have the most disruptive work, such as the loud process of slate removal and installation, finished by the time the students return on Aug. 16.”
He said that final steps would be installing metal flashing, removing scaffolding and cleaning up the site.
While the roof replacement is going on for West Range rooms 1 through 53, rooms 29 through 45 will also be renovated, including refinishing the floors, repairing and painting the plaster walls, replacing the sinks, installing ceiling fans and replacing window sashes.
Though they are among the oldest student housing on Grounds, the Range rooms are hard-wired with data ports and have full wireless service.
“The renovation and restoration are designed to make a nice livable space for a 21st-century student in a 19th-century room,” Zehmer said. “These rooms are not museums; they are closer to a living organism.”