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The Mansion at Cabrini College

Radnor, PA

Clay Tile Roof Installation as part of Historic Restoration Project

April 2013

Cabrini College, a private college nestled on 128 acres in suburban Philadelphia, is getting a lot of mileage out of the new clay tile roof recently installed on the school’s centerpiece building known as The Mansion. Not only does the new roof carry a life expectancy of up to 75 years, it also holds bragging rights to an impressive amount of material needed to cover the building’s massive footprint. In fact, we’re talking miles and miles of material. So much so that if you lined up the 110,400 tiles end-to-end, it would cover 368 football fields.

The new roof was installed as part of a restoration project on the 1899 home now used for administrative offices and cultural programming. The three-month project involved replacing the asphalt roof with clay tiles to replicate The Mansion’s original clay tile roof, as well as repairing the home’s 13 chimneys. The restoration work was so impressive it was awarded the 2013 Preservation Achievement Award by the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.

Working with KSK Architects Planners Historians in Philadelphia and clay tile manufacturer, Ludowici Roof Tile of Ohio, GSM got to work. As the tiles were mixed and cut on the ground, GSM first installed two layers of 30-pound felt underlayment over the majority of the roof. A self-adhering rubberized membrane was also installed at all critical roof points including the lower sloped areas, valleys and wall flashings. Both applications are used to protect the building from water damage should a tile ever break or become dislodged.

As the tiles were lifted to the rooftop via bucket and crane, the installation crew began the tedious task of aligning the rows of tile, then hand-nailing them into place. Precise measurement and adjustments using a wet saw ensure every tile is perfectly positioned.

Click photo to enlarge

Project Highlights:

  • Cut, positioned and hand-nailed 110,400 tiles
  • Installed two layers of 30-pound felt underlayment
  • 20-ounce lead-coated copper for base flashing, valleys, gutters and snow guards
  • Fabricated and installed custom metal finials for a historically, elegant finish
  • Cleaned and partial pointing of 13 chimneys
  • Installed stainless steel mesh on inactive flues to prevent pests from entering
  • Completed the 23,200 sq. ft. project on an occupied building in just under three months

“This was one of the best contractor processes I have ever had. Aside from GSM’s expertise in working with a difficult material, they really understood the installation process. From scheduling and staging of materials to maximizing productivity and staffing to meet our demanding deadline, GSM was excellent. Not only do they know specialty roofing they went above and beyond to respect the sensitivity to the building and always worked to minimize the negative impact of working on a occupied building.”

Elizabeth Nastor, Cabrini College

Due to the long life expectancy of clay tiles it was important that only the best quality metal be used for the base flashing, valleys and gutters. In this case, GSM used 20-ounce lead-coated copper. A strip of zinc installed below the ridge tile was used to deter biological growth. Gutters were enlarged and stout lead-coated copper brackets were field-bent to carry the volume of water captured by the roof. Using historic images, custom metal finials were fabricated, giving the roofline an elegant appearance.

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Thanks for putting us in contact with Eric. He is very knowledgeable , professional and I enjoyed our time together.

We met yesterday morning and he is forwarding a report and budget proposal. With your firms Roofing help and additional home inspections regarding Stucco Moisture tests we have uncovered a $40K + problem we would have inherited.

Now it's the sellers problem. Negotiations continue.

Have a good weekend.

Frank Polan Sr Operations Manager June 28, 2022