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Northampton County Court House

Restoring Historic Courthouse Built in 1858, North Carolina's historic Northampton County Court House is among the South's finest examples of Greek Revival temple form architecture. Thanks to the savvy use of Peel Away® 1 by sub-contractor Mayhew Brothers, Inc., the red brick façade – at one time layered with 45 coats of lead-based paint – has been completely stripped of paint and clear-coated to reveal the elegance of the original brick.

 

The front portion of the building had been painted 45 separate times, at least three times within the last 10 years. Most of the paint is white. At one point, according to Surapon Sujjanavich, county architect, the bricks had been painted burgundy. "Testing showed that it had never been stripped to bare brick," reported Dave Mayhew, president of Mayhew Brothers, Inc., "and the paint was layered on at least 1/8 inch thick in most places."

 

Work began in November 2002, with plans calling for as much of the paint as possible to be removed via sand blasting, then re-coated with white paint. "Sand blasting would have required full containment measures, might have proven somewhat problematic in terms of possible damage to the original historic fabric, and would definitely have been costly in terms of inconvenience and man hours," reported Mayhew.

 

Northampton County Court House Restoration

Convinced that there had to be a better way, Mayhew explored other options. One was Peel Away® 1, a paint removal system recommended and used on high profile historic restorations nationwide, and globedeveloped for safe, containment-free removal of lead-based paint. Peel Away® 1 is a chemical poultice system that works by controlling evaporation while enabling quick, effective and easy removal of multiple layers of paint. The chemical paste is applied to the substrate, and covered with fibrous, laminated Peel Away® paper. After dwelling for an appropriate time, the paper is peeled away, and with it, the bulk of the still damp paste and paint.

 

Mayhew conducted test patches of the chemical poultice system to see how well it would perform on the courthouse’s 45 layers of stubborn lead-based paint, some clinging to the brick for more than 100 years. The results were impressive. "It didn’t take it down to bare brick with just one application, but it did remove about 90% of the 45 layers of paint in one shot, and it did it without damaging the brick and while fully containing the lead paint and lead particulates," reported Mayhew. As layers of paint were peeled away during patch testing, the Northampton County commissioners reconsidered their original recommendation that the building be repainted white. Sujjanavich agreed, noting that over the long haul, the cost would be far less to clear-coat than repaint.

 

According to Sujjanavich, it would cost the county upwards of $50,000 to repaint the courthouse every ten years, as opposed to between $10,000 and $15,000 to clear coat. In January, the commissioners voted unanimously that if at least 99% of the thickly layered paint could be stripped, the brick would be clear coated instead of once again covered by paint.

 

Mayhew was confident that he could exceed the board’s expectations by using Peel Away® 1. The product has been used on high profile projects including the National Portrait Gallery, and safely strips lead-based paint while containing both paint and particulates without requiring full containment measures. It was the first time Mayhew had used Peel Away® 1. "I’d never touched the stuff before. I was very, very skeptical myself until I saw how well it worked during patch testing," he said.

 

Here, the paste was sprayed to a thickness of about ¼ inch, and easily adhered to the brick without dripping. The Peel Away® cloth was smoothed in place, and left to dwell for upwards of three days to permit the paste to work to maximum effectiveness on the 45 layers of paint below. The ground beneath the brick was covered in poly sheeting to catch any debris or run off.

 

"When we peeled the paper away, the paste was still damp, and we were stripping about 90% of the paint," said Mayhew. A second application of paste, covered by paper, easily stripped what remained to bare brick. "I was pleasantly surprised. I was concerned, but they have made a believer out of me," reported County Manager Wayne Jenkins during this stage of the project. He added that community support for maintaining the integrity of the bricks by clear coating was about 90%. The paste, paper and debris were collected in 55-gallon drums for disposal as per state and federal regulations. The crew was outfitted with Tyvek suites and latex gloves.

 

"We had a harsh winter, unusual for North Carolina, with ice storms and extended periods of freezing temperatures," recalls Mayhew. Nonetheless, the project moved forward throughout the winter. According to Mayhew, some 17,000 square feet of brick were completely stripped of lead based paint. The stripping portion of the project took less than three months.

 

Restoration of Northampton County Court HouseAfter the paint was removed, the brick was neutralized using Peel Away® neutralizer. The brick was repointed where needed. "We recoated with Double 7, a clear, penetrating sealer to protect the brick. That old mortar has a lot of sand, so you really need a penetrating sealer," reported Mayhew."The sealer gives the bricks a nice touch of shine, and really sets off the color," he added.

 

The project was completed in May, 2003.

 

Would Mayhew use Peel Away®1 again? "It's the most cost effective method of removing lead based paint. I'm pleased with its performance, and I will use it again," he said.

 

Headquartered in Wake Forest, NC, Mayhew Brothers, Inc. is a full service contractor specializing in paint and coating removal and recoating. High profile projects include the US Capitol and Pentagon Buildings, the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, and CIA Headquarters.

 

Peel Away® 1 is one of a full line of masonry restoration and paint-removal products manufactured by Dumond Chemicals, Inc. Dumond products are available through a network of nationwide distributors and paint stores.

 

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