The Little Chapel in Guernsey was built in 1914 and, at only 16 feet by 9 feet, is said to be “one of the smallest functioning chapels in Europe, if not the world”. The chapel and its unique appeal gained national fame after an article accompanied with a colour photograph was published in the Daily Mirror, and it has since been considered one of, if not the most famous tourist attraction in Guernsey.
In 2015, work began to weatherproof the intricate building, with the Protec System specified as the best solution for the job.
Having never been finished by its original builder, Brother Déodat, the chapel has been undergoing a long-term restoration project to create a structurally sound building that retains the beauty of the original vision. Firstly, the foundations were underpinned and properly secured for the first time since they were created over 100 years ago. The next priority was to fix the roof, as described by Pat Johnson, chairman of the Little Chapel Foundation:
“The asphalt on the roof was hollow and had to be taken off. The concrete underneath was hollow. We ended up with a substrate of soil and clink, so to repair it we had to go inside and grout all the cracks in the ceiling. [The new roof] comprises three layers of concrete, 340 stainless-steel plugs, a stainless-steel mesh and a final coating of concrete”.
The task of making the new concrete surface waterproof fell to local Polyroof approved contractor Sarnian Roofing Ltd. Andy Gavey (Company Director) said about the project:
“As a boy I would regularly visit The Little Chapel and I’ve always been blown away by its beauty and character. To get the chance to help restore the building to its full potential is a dream come true for me – this has to be my favourite roofing project yet. Polyroof’s contribution towards the roofing works has meant that we were able to provide a top-quality roofing solution that has done justice to the amazing exterior of the building.”
With its ability to be applied directly to the concrete to form a lightweight, seamless and durable waterproofing membrane, Polyroof’s Protec System was a clear choice for waterproofing the chapel roof.
The first stage was to make the entire roof area fully watertight. Following a coating of primer to seal the porous concrete surface, the first coat of Protec was applied which incorporated fibreglass reinforcement. After 30 minutes the coating had cured and the second coat was applied to the whole roof area. To areas where new mortar was laid to re-embed the pebbles and seashells, which had been painstakingly removed from the old roof, a coating of Polyfinish was applied to provide extra protection.
The architect chose a sanded decorative finish to complement the exterior of the building, which is covered in a mosaic made from seashells, pebbles and broken china. To create this finish, a third coat of Protec was applied and, whilst still wet, Quartz Sand was broadcast into the resin. After brushing off the excess sand, the whole roof surface was sealed with an application of Polyfinish Clear.
Delighted with the finished look of the roof, Pat Johnson described an unexpected visual bonus that arose from the Polyfinish Clear: “It does seem to have had an effect on the pottery – it seems as if it’s given the glaze a tiny bit of sparkle, just like another coat of varnish.”
As evidenced in the choice of roofing systems, The Little Chapel Foundation has not been averse to using the latest building materials available. However, great care was taken to restore the building to how it would have looked in Brother Déodat’s day, as Pat described “We’re dealing with something with no plans. You don’t know what you’re going to find. It’s been built in a most original way.”
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