Historic Church Roof Replacement in Oxford, North Carolina | Inside Look

One fateful day in Oxford, North Carolina, the Flying Wallendas made their ascent up a dangerously steep roof to do what few had done before: a church roof replacement. 

Okay, it wasn’t really the Flying Wallendas, it was our Artisan roofing crew. But the local newspaper did give our crew that name, so we aren’t making it up.

Church roof replacement news clipping Oxford NC
News clipping about the roof project in a local Oxford newspaper.

This past June, Artisan partnered with the historic Oxford Presbyterian Church for their church roof replacement project. 

This multi-phase project included scaffolding, complete sheathing installation, TPO work, and an over 11,000 square foot roof replacement. The project took only two weeks from start to finish (including scaffolding!). 

Read on to get a behind-the-scenes look at the project!

History of Oxford & Oxford Presbyterian Church

In 1811, the State of NC purchased 50 acres of land surrounding the Oxford Court House from a Thomas Littlejohn. Oxford became an incorporated town 5 years later in 1816 with Littlejohn as one of the commissioners. 

Church bulletin from the 1960s

One of the “founding fathers” of Oxford Presbyterian Church was this Thomas Littlejohn.

Eventually Littlejohn purchased back several plots of land in Oxford from the State of NC. He then sold them at a discount to several local churches including the church he attended, Oxford Presbyterian Church.

According to one Church member, he sold each plot for roughly the price of a copy of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. 

Oxford Presbyterian Church organized in 1818. Initially, the Church met in a small women’s academy where Thomas Littlejohn’s daughters attended school.

In 1830, the Church built and moved into a small brick church where they met until constructing the current building and fellowship hall in 1892.

The original sanctuary and fellowship hall were believed to have a sheet metal roof. After asphalt shingles were invented in the early 1900s, they replaced the metal roof with an asphalt shingle roof. In 1947, an educational building was built as an extension to the sanctuary. 

Oxford Presbyterian Church has the distinction of being the oldest church building in Oxford, NC.

Time for a New Roof

With a 130-year-old building, the Church has seen many roofs in its day. Unfortunately, it has also experienced a chronic problem with loose and failing shingles.

Everyone always assumed that the problem was because of the steepness of the roof. 

But a closer examination from the sanctuary attic determined the true nature of the problem. 

The church was built with wooden slats with spacing between the boards. 

When asphalt roof shingles were nailed down, many of them were nailed through the spaces between the boards. 

With no solid decking to attach the roofing nails, the shingles easily came loose and fell off.

The last roofing project had been done over 20 years ago and included a double layer of shingles. The Church has had to patch the roof several times since then.

Recently, when the roof section that connected the education building and the sanctuary developed a leak, it caused damage to the interior wall between the two buildings.

After the leak, the Church decided the sanctuary roof needed immediate attention. 

Picking a Contractor

The Church decided to do a roof replacement for the sanctuary and the fellowship hall. Because the Church is a historic building, everything replaced had to be like-for-like to maintain historical accuracy.

The search for a contractor was complicated because of the complexity of the job. There was the height of the bell tower and the steepness of the roof, not to mention the close proximity of the high voltage power lines running next to the front of the church.

One church member saw our crew complete a roof replacement at the local Oxford Episcopal Church, and they recommended Artisan for the job.

“After requesting estimates from several companies, we decided to hire Artisan because they were the most knowledgeable, least expensive, and the most willing to address our unique needs as a historic church. It was especially impressive that Artisan has a skilled in-house crew and did not need to utilize subcontractors except for the scaffolding around the bell tower.”

Committee member
Roof replacement at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Oxford

Project Preparations

When our roofing expert Jose went onsite for an inspection, he found the roof had many missing shingles, several patched areas, and two layers of shingles. 

After a consultation between the church building committee and our roofing experts, we recommended first removing the double-layered roofing system. Next, we would install new sheathing over the original boards and, finally, a new roofing system.  

We went with CertainTeed’s Landmark Architectural Roofing System in Moire Black for affordability and historical accuracy.

For the HVAC unit area between the Education Building and Sanctuary, we suggested a TPO flat roofing system. 

Beforehand, the Church had poor attic ventilation with no intake areas. Since the roof did not have soffits, we utilized CertainTeed intake vents along the bottom of the roofline to ensure adequate ventilation.

To top it all off (quite literally!), the Church has a historic bell tower with nearby power lines. This would require scaffolding. 

With the estimate, materials, scaffolding plans, and documentation in place, we were ready to start the project!

The Project

Eagleview pitch report

Our team started the project on Monday, June 6th, to complete all major work before the Sunday service. 

Every day, our crew arrived by 7 AM and got right to work.

Some of the steepest sections of the roof had a roof slope of 20. That’s pretty much as steep as you can get without being a vertical mansard roof

“They used ropes and harnesses that looked like mountain rappelling equipment. It was a very dangerous job. Few guys could do the job. Some things were downright scary to watch. They looked like [trapeze artists] in the circus,” said one church member. 

  • Crew-finishes-church-roof-slope
  • Technician on roof peak getting shingle bundle
  • Full shot from ground of church roofing project_valley flashing_underlayment_Large roofing crew
  • Roof crew shingles gazebo shaped church roof
  • Church roof replacement view from scaffolding

The crew wrapped up the asphalt shingle project in only six days, and our TPO flat-roofing specialist completed his work over two project days. 

From start to finish (including scaffolding), we completed the project in just two weeks.

The Results

This project was intense for our crew, but every time we went out to check on the project, the crew was all smiles. 

  • Roofing crew installs roof sheathing on church roof
  • Close-up-roof-crew-on-top-steep-roof
  • Roofing crew installs intake soffit vents(1)
  • Roof crew leader at roof peak carrying shingle bundle

According to the church members, we were the talk of the town all week. Employees and customers of the local barbershop stood outside every day to chat and watch our crew at work.

The Church leadership and people of Oxford were impressed with the skill and hard work of our crew.

We checked in with one committee member a few weeks after the project. He let us know they had a bad wind storm the previous weekend. It blew down several trees and did a lot of damage around the area. The very next morning, a staff member called to ask if they lost any shingles. Not one shingle lost! 

“It withstood the first test. We’ve never had anything done as thorough-going as you guys did. I feel like we ended up with a church building that looked really good,” said the church member.

With our quality install and great warranties, we’re confident the roof will last many years to come, no patch jobs required. 

Artisan has completed many commercial and Church roof replacements, but this has been our favorite. We’re excited to see what projects will come next! 

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