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Bringing new life to an ailing hospital building

After Hurricane Katrina devastated a Veterans Administration hospital in Gulfport, Miss., many of its operations were transferred to the nearby Biloxi VA Medical Center. As a result, the sprawling coastal campus in Biloxi expanded planned upgrades and moved them onto a fast track.

In 2009, work began on a $310 million project, mainly new construction of clinical and rehabilitation facilities. But another key element was renovating and waterproofing the exterior of the medical center’s original Southern Colonial Revival building, which was completed in 1933 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A helping hand

Shoemake understands his company’s reputation centers around three key elements: being true to his word, using only top-quality coating products and working only with people who share the same high level of professionalism. That’s why he has remained a loyal Sherwin-Williams customer for over three decades.

“When I jump off the cliff to do projects, whether it’s something big like the VA Medical Center or something much smaller, I want to be holding somebody’s hand,” he says. “For me, Sherwin-Williams is that hand, because they’ve never failed to be there with the right help or technical assistance when I’ve needed it.”

For David Shoemake, owner of Shoemake Painting in Biloxi, the 15-month exterior restoration job presented two critical challenges. First, the massive five-story structure was the largest job his team had ever tackled. Second, the building’s historic designation meant they couldn’t always use normal surface prep procedures. For example, exterior pressure washing on the aging brick surfaces was specifically forbidden.

“So, we had to brush-scrub the whole building with soap and water from buckets, and rinse it down with nothing more than hose pressure,” Shoemake recalls. “Even the soap we used had to be biodegradable, because of the hospital’s proximity to the Gulf.”

While Shoemake and his crew found the masonry to be in relatively good condition, their prep work did involve extensive tuckpointing of old mortar joints. In addition, the team had to remove huge quantities of efflorescence, a stubborn powder deposit caused by long-term exposure to airborne salts carried by wind and rain in the Gulf Coast environment.

And the project’s challenges didn’t stop there. Since the medical center was still regularly admitting patients during construction, Shoemake’s group had to avoid grinding wood trim or masonry surfaces, since that would send particulate dust into the air. At the same time, all contractors were specifically instructed to avoid certain vents on top of the structure because of potential close-in exposure to infectious disease.

After successfully navigating all of these issues to complete the surface prep, Shoemake and his group started brush and roller application of SherLastic™ Elastomeric Coating on masonry walls. The sealer covered small cracks and provided a strong moisture barrier, which helped protect the building’s exterior against the heat, humidity and rain of the Gulf Coast. Because of the sizable quantities of SherLastic needed in the project, the coating was factory-tinted to ensure that embedded color met precise specifications.

As they applied each coat of SherLastic, Shoemake’s crew had to take careful intermediary steps. For instance, the damp climate slowed the curing process, so they periodically inspected treated surfaces and removed any minor bits of airborne debris. And, because this was a federal job, the Department of Veterans Affairs regulations dictated that each application coat of the elastomeric sealer had to measure seven to nine mils thick. While his team used both wet and dry gauges to monitor whether the job was meeting specifications, Shoemake says Sherwin-Williams area representative Matt Boyd provided superior backup support. That extra effort helped bring the VA Medical Center project to a successful conclusion.

“In 30 years of painting, Matt is the best rep I’ve ever met,” says Shoemake. “He’s effective, efficient and knowledgeable. He monitored this project really closely and gave us a needed second set of eyes to help ensure we were meeting the key requirements.”

Learn more about the exceptional protective qualities of Sherwin-Williams SherLastic™ Elastomeric Coating for concrete and masonry here.