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One Year Ago: Conservation on the Tower

Masonry Conservation – Excerpts from restoration manager Frank Tosczak’s reports

Work on the tower masonry started early in 2020 before the pandemic began to affect us. Inspection and dismantling of the finials and parapets were the first order of business and there was significant detachment of various masonry components (read “loose and wiggly”) with little bedding mortar remaining. The overall integrity of the upper gables and coping stones was less than originally thought, so more stones had to be completely taken apart than anticipated. Fortunately, the stones at this level are not huge and could be handled by one or two persons.
Of the existing stone finials, more than half needed to be completely replaced with new stone. While this may sound grave, we chose to replace stone at this level a little sooner than we may have were it not in such a precarious location. Access is difficult (crane / manlift / scaffold) and location directly over top of the main visitor entrance and thoroughfare demanded a cautious approach. 

Damaged Finial on Craigdarroch Tower  

A very sorry-looking finial on the west gable. This is what’s left of a repair (likely SikaDur Hi-Mod Epoxy) circa. 1985.



Damaged Finial



The typical pattern of exfoliation we see on the Koksilah stone. We argue as to the causes of this, but it is dramatic nonetheless.


In the course of disassembling the upper stones at the tower parapets we were provided with a pretty good look at the adjacent lead flashings and roof slates. Some of the flashings did not look great – there are a few holes every now and again – and much of it appeared to be quite old if not the original material. Our slate roofer of choice, Grist Slate and Tile, was brought into the picture and recommended we replace these deteriorated components while we had the scaffold access.

Lead flashing pulled back from edge of tower roof


 Flashing with wooden supports exposed

This was our first look at the curved blocking that supports the lead skirt flashing. Korby nor I had ever seen anything like it before – essentially individual bracket-shaped pieces of fir stacked side by side on top of the masonry to provide backing support for the lead. On the west corner there were a few that had sustained water damage over the years so we came up with some replacements for the guys to install in their stead. We have a small stash of original Douglas fir floor joist sections that we saved from the fourth-floor staircase installation in 1994 for occasions such as this so we sacrificed one to provide the donor material. These pieces are, quirkily enough, only held in place with two teeny little 1-1/4” nails. The skirting lead extends roughly 10” up underneath the slates.

We also took advantage of the scaffold to affect repairs to the three leaded glass windows on the North, East, and West exposures. One of these (the one on the East side) was giving some grief over the winter with water ingress and with the scaffold access we could see that the condition of the sash was pretty poor. Restoration Technician Neil Garneau completed the work on all three of these windows while they were unmounted, then reinstated them once masonry and slate work was complete.

By the end of July, the work on stone, roof and windows was complete and the scaffolding came down.

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