Little White School restoration hits a snag
Foundation still leaking despite damp-proofing efforts
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Wednesday, Jul 11, 2012 06:00 am
Some spirits have dampened recently due to a glitch in the restoration work at the Little White School. Officials, however, say that the snag is not really that big of a deal.
Moisture has been discovered inside the basement of the heritage site, an indication that the damp-proofing work on the concrete foundation has not been successful.
At least not yet, says Paul Moulton, executive director of Arts and Heritage St. Albert, the non-profit organization that maintains stewardship of the building on behalf of the city.
“We did a series of things to basically provide waterproofing to the building when we did the initial work,” he said, referring to the major restoration and construction efforts that began in 2010.
“We put this material on that was kind of a damp-proofing and we replaced weeping tile, and maybe a few other things. We put it all back and after some heavy recent rains, we found some dampness inside the basement.”
He said the construction team recommended using only one sealant because of initial budgetary constraints.
“They said, ‘We were on a tight budget. We recommended this. We thought this would work just fine. Really what we should do is add these two other products and make it completely sealed.’ That’s what they’re in the process of doing.”
That work started Tuesday and will only focus on the southwest corner of the foundation. Ann Ramsden, director of heritage at the Musée Héritage Museum, hopes that this will suffice, but more information is still needed.
“At the moment, we’re really assessing what’s best for the long-term of the building. We’re going to be looking at if we have to do any additional measures to the building.”
Moulton said that there was no damage inside the school and development in the school’s basement hasn’t been affected. That work was waiting until the results of the damp-proofing and other exterior renovations have come in. On-site educational programming also hasn’t been affected since none is being offered until the fall.
The extra work will have an extra cost attached to it. Moulton explained that this would come out of a contingency fund.
“It’s just one of those things. We actually did quite a bit to make it so that the water would be carried away from the building much more efficiently than it used to be, but when you dig up old compacted dirt and replace it with less compacted dirt, sometimes other things show up.”
Ramsden re-iterated that sentiment.
“If you work with heritage buildings, you never know what you’re going to expect. It’s part and parcel with working with older buildings. You sometimes have to try things. If it doesn’t work, you have to try it a different way.”
She added that the architects and engineers working on the project are highly qualified to handle the situation.
Once finished, the basement will eventually feature storage and office space.
It has been two years since this major restoration work started at the Little White School, one of several of the city’s designated historic municipal resources.
Practically every facet of the structure has been worked on inside and out along the two-phase project. This includes the roofing, the stucco siding and a new accessible bathroom. A new addition was also constructed on the building’s rear. It houses a larger foyer along with an elevator to make the facility open for business to people of all abilities.
A recent grant for $30,000 from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation will be used to complete replacement of the school’s older windows with modern ones that still maintain the original historic character. This will complete the last element of phase one of the project.
The overall cost of the entire project was originally set at $637,310.