Precision Decisions LLC
PO Box 179
West Stockbridge, MA 01266
To: Larry Gould – Building Inspector, Otis, MA
CC: Chris Morris – Town Administrator, Otis, MA
From: Chris Vreeland PE – Precision Decisions LLC
Date: December 28, 2016
Re: Preliminary Inspection of Structure – 13 Monterey Road, Otis, MA
This letter summarizes the preliminary inspection of the church structure located at 13 Monterey Road, on the corner of Monterey Road and Route 8, in Otis, Massachusetts. The structure was reportedly built in 1827 and served as an Episcopal Church. The church is no longer being used for services, was listed for sale for over a year, and is now being offered to the Town of Otis. The Town requested Chris Vreeland of Precision Decisions LLC to perform a preliminary inspection as part of its due diligence. This work was performed under an existing ‘on-call consulting services contract’ between Precision Decisions LLC and the Town of Otis. An inspection of the structure was performed on December 22, 2016.
Foundation and First Floor Framing
The foundation was reportedly rebuilt in the 1980s. It was likely that it originally had a stone foundation. The lower portion of the rebuilt foundation is cast-in-place concrete, the upper portion is 2-3 rows of concrete masonry blocks. The first floor framing consists of wood joists supported by wood beams. Several steel beams were added during the 1980s rebuild to reduce the span of the wood beams, several of which have visible moisture damage/rot. Footings and short steel columns were installed to support the steel beams. A more detailed measurement and analysis is needed to determine the load capacity of the first floor.
Roof, Ceiling, and Wall Structures
The structure is a timber frame with wood trusses forming an arched ceiling and roof structure. Elements of the roof’s structural design are common for the period with ‘log’ rafters that are supported mid-span by a 6 X 6 purlin-beams that are supported by the timber trusses. There are three somewhat similar trusses that are unevenly spaced over the structure, in addition to two gable end frames. The three trusses have a slight pitch to the two-piece bottom cord allowing for the effect of an arched ceiling. This pitch increases the tension forces caused by the roof’s thrust load for these members. A steel tension rod is located approximately five feet down on each pair of wood columns that support two of the trusses. This design apparently was intended to share the thrust load between the bottom cord and the steel rod. It is also possible that the steel rods were added after the original construction (perhaps significantly later) due to excessive deflection of the truss/ceiling. Ceiling beams run between the trusses, and joists between those beams (parallel to the trusses and rafters) to form a framework for the plastered arched ceiling.
he walls of the church have significant visible depressions (aka ‘oil panning’) coincident with the locations of the attachment of the steel rods to the timber columns. This occurs in all six locations, and varies in the degree of depression. It is not uncommon to have this issue for this type/vintage of construction, particularly in the wood under the connection plate at the ends of the rod. The location of the tension rod is usually in line with the thrust load, which would be at the top of wall/bottom of truss. Given that each rod is five feet below that point, the column is put into ‘three-point bending’; this is less than ideal, and may have permanently deformed the column. The excessive deflection that is observed is concerning and should be investigated further. Removal of siding and/or interior plaster will be required. Some repairs, reinforcement, or outright replacement may be required on some or all of the columns.
A dozen of the members and connections of the roof trusses in the attic space were inspected; two connections had failed.
One had completely pulled out of the bottom cord (see photos right and below). This web member is normally in compression, yet it is displaced in the direction of tension which indicates other issues in this truss.
The second failure was a pin (dowel) failure. This appears to have been repaired by attaching a 2 X 6 over the connection and nailing with two nails on each end; this repair is considered inadequate (see photo at right).
The bottom south cord on the same truss has a split that appears to have passed through the entire member leaving it in two pieces (see photo at right).
A large steel pin (~1” diameter) is observed at the top to bottom cord connection adjacent to the failure; this may have been an attempt to repair this joint, or a replacement for a failed wooden dowel/pin.
The lateral brace from the column to the bottom cord appears to be taking some of the thrust load from the roof, along with the steel rod (noted above).
This combination of failed components within the same truss is cause for considerable concern. A more detailed inspection of all the trusses is strongly recommended. Note: There are well over 100 timber frame connections and only a dozen were inspected.
Emergency shoring/repairs should be performed in tandem, or immediately following, the detailed inspection. A more permanent repair/upgrade to the structure will likely take some time to design and finance given any historical significance of the building. It is recommended that the structure not be used or accessed by the general public until repairs are performed.
The steeple/bell tower was not evaluated as part of this inspection since it could not be safely accessed without considerable staging or a man lift. It was observed that at least one of the four spires of the steeple is out of plumb and in need of repairs. A comprehensive assessment of the steeple/tower and its supporting structure is recommended.
Based on my review and inspection, it is my professional opinion that this structure may not be capable of supporting design loads in its current state, and should not be used. An expeditious and comprehensive assessment with emergency repairs is advised. This assessment would include, at a minimum:
First floor framing measurement and analysis to determine floor load rating (which may limit occupancy/use of building or require additional upgrade depending on planned change of use)
Detailed observation of the entire timber structure, steel collar tie (rod) and connections (will require selective demolition of interior & exterior finishes)
Detailed inspection of the roof truss members and connections
Emergency repair of the failed components noted in this report, plus repair of others identified during additional inspections and/or emergency shoring work
Once all deficiencies have been identified, a comprehensive set of plans can be developed for repairs/upgrades to the structure. The future intended use of the structure should be determined as part of this design process since additional load capacity may be required for a change of use, or triggered by the level of repairs and/or upgrades being performed on the structure.