Roofers work on the copper section of the roof on the iconic St. Andrew’s Cathedral at View and Blanshard streets downtown. The Catholic cathedral is one of the largest churches in the region, with one of the most unique roofs. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

Roofers work on the copper section of the roof on the iconic St. Andrew’s Cathedral at View and Blanshard streets downtown. The Catholic cathedral is one of the largest churches in the region, with one of the most unique roofs. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

Downtown Victoria cathedral replaces 100-year-old roof

St. Andrew’s Catholic Church looks to copper to solve its roofing dilemma

Passersby on View Street, and those with a clear view of St. Andrew’s Cathedral from downtown Victoria buildings, have likely noticed workers atop the historic church.

Large copper panels, created using a machine that bends and crimps rolled metal in just the right places, are being installed as a replacement for the slate roof that covered the cathedral for 110 years or so.

The new roof is expected to cost between $400,000 and $500,000, according to Chris Ryzuk, a St. Andrew’s parishioner who is helping oversee the project. It’s just the second full roof replacement since the church was built in 1892.

The original tin-covered, board and batten roof remained in place for about 25 years then gave way to the slate.

“The normal time to replace slate is 100 years, so it’s lasted quite well,” says Ryzuk, whose background is in geotechnical and structural engineering.

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When he first became involved in the building’s maintenance about 12 years ago, “the intent was to change the roof.” But the cost to maintain the slate roof cost less than loan payments on a new roof. That changed before long, as the old roof began to wear out.

A portion of shale replaced in the 1980s with lower quality material – more durable shale was unavailable at the time – was beginning to exfoliate, leaving it subject to weather damage.

The copper roof, which contractor Parker Johnston Industries has indicated will be complete sometime in December, could last upwards of 100 years and will have minimal maintenance costs, Ryzuk said. Those were strong considerations in choosing from a variety of roofing styles.

“You have to look at the cost of the roof versus the costs of maintenance over the long term and ask, ‘how long is this building supposed to last?’” he says.

Given the building’s heritage status, the church also had to gain special permission to install a copper roof.

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Overall, the building is in pretty good shape, Ryzuk said, as issues that have arisen over the years, such as failed arches and a stained glass window that needing rebuilding, have been dealt with.

Other notable uses of copper locally include the domes of the B.C. legislature and roof elements of the Fairmont Empress Hotel and Paul’s Motor Inn. Distinct copper roofs elsewhere include the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa and the Berlin Cathedral. Most have oxidized into a green patina over the years.

Ryzuk estimates the St. Andrew’s roof will take on the same look within 40 years or so, but notes a portion has already begun to turn brown with the recent rains.


 

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