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In Bellingham, Washington, the Church of the Assumption has a singular architectural distinction: Its steeple reportedly is the city’s tallest. That’s quite a feat considering that the red-brick church, which is a prominent downtown icon, is nearly a century old.

In preparation for the celebration of the church building’s October 2021 centenary, parishioners embarked on a major building restoration and renovation project that included the installation of a new roof.

The parish itself was established in 1889; in 1921, the church moved to its present site on Cornwall Avenue. It took the parish nearly 30 years to pay off the $200,000 cost of the building. The current campus includes a gym and parish center, which were added in 1962, as well as a school and chapel.

Church of the Assumption, CertainTeed

The Church of the Assumption in Bellingham, Washington, has been a city icon for nearly a century.

The old synthetic slate roof—installed 15 years previously—was cracking, allowing water to leak into the building. Parishioners considered replacing the synthetic slate with real slate, but they wanted a maintenance-free alternative that would not only be in sync with the building’s architectural heritage but also could weather Bellingham’s wet climate.

“This isn’t just someone’s house,” says Karen Zuther, parish administrator for the church. “We won’t be selling this. We’ll be handing this off to the next generation, so we wanted it to last.”

That’s why Brett Esary, president of Esary Roofing & Siding of Burlington, Washington, suggested the church consider CertainTeed’s Matterhorn Slate, which is made of steel but looks like the natural stone. “The price is about 20 percent less than slate and it’s much lighter in weight,” Esary says. “Slate has to be cleaned every couple of years; Matterhorn doesn’t.”

CertainTeed, which has been in business since 1904, introduced its metal roofing in 2015. There are three profiles—slate, shake and tile—in dozens of colors. “Traditional standing-seam systems are what people picture when they think of metal roofing,” says Dale Walton, residential product manager for CertainTeed. “The vertical steel panels of that design offer excellent performance but are limited to certain architectural styles, such as farmhouses and barns. Our roofing offers a variety of looks between modern and classic styles that mimic traditional materials.”

He says that Matterhorn Slate is particularly suited to historic restorations and traditional-style commercial and residential projects because it has proprietary chiseling that gives it a slightly weathered look.

“The products come with a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects for residential use and a 50-year limited warranty for commercial,” he says. “And we offer the resources to support the product. We promise all new contractors that we will have a tech person on site just as we did at the Church of the Assumption.”

Church of the Assumption

The church’s roof, including the spire, is 20,000 square feet.

Esary, whose 52-year-old company regularly uses CertainTeed products on its commercial and residential projects, says Matterhorn Slate was the perfect choice for the 20,000-square-foot roof and spire.

“The panels are 24 inches by 48 inches, so it’s about 30 to 40 percent faster to install than stone,” Esary says.

CertainTeed’s MetaLayment, a water-and-tear-resistant underlayment that self-seals around each nail driven through it, was placed under the metal panels for maximum protection against inclement weather.

“You can see the Church of the Assumption from everywhere in the city,” Esary says. “We knew the installation had to be perfect.”

He says Matterhorn made things go smoothly.

“The install crews loved working with the product,” Esary says. “They loved the ease of installation and the quality of the components of the system.”

The biggest challenge, he says, was working around the other crews and the church schedule.

“The whole building was surrounded by scaffolding because painting, masonry work, and window replacements were being done at the same time,” he says. “It took lots of coordination, and there were times that we had to do things in sections and we had to stop work because of funerals.”

CertainTeed’s Matterhorn Slate looks so much like slate that many people take it for authentic stone.

“Even when we were installing it, people thought it was real slate,” Esary says. “Everybody we talked with loves it.”

The Rev. K. Scott Connolly says parishioners are pleased with the look of the new roof.

“It blends in so well with the beauty of our building and enhances the aesthetic for which we had hoped,” Connolly says. “We’ve been here for 100 years, and with this roof, we plan to maintain this building for the next hundred.”

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