Restoring and protecting the ballroom dance floor was just one of the many coatings challenges at a historic East Coast resort
Keeping the historic properties of his home state looking good is a labor of love for New Jersey painting contractor Rob Duzy. A great example is the work his company Core Painting & Powerwashing has done at the Congress Hall Hotel.
The resort is part of the Cape May Historic District, designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1976, and is on the Condé Nast Travelers Best Hotels in the Northeast list. It’s a popular wedding destination so its ballroom floor not only has to look good, it has to hold up to the wear and tear of tens of thousands of dancing feet every year.
Challenges of refinishing a 140-year-old wooden floor
Tongue-in-groove wood flooring was installed in 1866, and the owners wanted to keep the original floors intact. There was also a pattern of alternating two-foot black and white diamonds painted on the floor that the owners did not want to lose. But after many years of heavy foot load on the floor, the paint was in dire need of restoration.
The first step for Core Painting & Powerwashing was to remove all the old paint. Then they primed the entire floor in white.
Consistency crucial in the flooring pattern
The tricky part came next. Duzy had a local welding shop construct a two-foot-square metal box, which his paint crew used as a guide to paint the alternating black and white diamonds with an HVLP sprayer. Sherwin-Williams All Surface Enamel, an exceptionally durable product perfect for areas that get hard wear, was selected. Core Painting used the standard black and white All Surface Enamel colors.
“The biggest challenge was that we needed to keep all the diamonds consistent,” Duzy says. “With just a little wiggle of the frame, you could throw the pattern totally off. Also, the floor is at different levels, so our crew had to account for that as they painted the diamonds.”
Once the paint on the floor was dry, crews applied a clear sealer on the floor to fill in cracks and provide a protective finish.
Protecting the rest of the property
The ballroom floor is just one component of the coatings work required at the Congress Hall Hotel. Duzy’s firm was first hired in 2006 to restore the coatings on the historic property. At that time, he determined that there had been 40 to 45 percent paint loss on the brick exterior.
Roto-nozzles were used to remove the old layers of paint down to the bare brick. Crews further prepared the surface by tuck pointing bricks and mortar that had been damaged over the years.
Because of the location near saltwater, along with National Park Service regulations against harsh chemicals, Duzy selected UltraCrete Solvent Borne Textured Masonry Coating. The product's fade resistance – particularly because of the bright yellow color selected – was a major selling point for the hotel owners.
Using chemical strippers and extensive sanding, the trim was stripped down to bare wood – an indigenous white cedar in widespread use in the area in the 19th century. The rejuvenated wood was then primed with A-100® Latex Primer and topcoated with SuperPaint® Exterior Acrylic Latex.
Eight years later the property was due for a repaint. The biggest need was to cover scuffmarks caused by hundreds of rocking chairs used by guests on the large veranda porches. The bright yellow color also needed a refresh.
The UltraCrete finish applied in 2006 had bonded well, Duzy says, and provided an excellent base for a new topcoat of Resilience® Exterior Acrylic Paint. Its exceptional early moisture resistance and outstanding hide, coverage and durability were perfect for a property that is pounded by wind, rain and saltwater and must endure the extremes of New Jersey weather.
Core also upgraded the trim paint package to Emerald® Exterior Paint.
“Emerald is the Cadillac of finish paint,” Duzy says. “It’s the product we prefer to use now, especially in the kind of high-profile historic properties like we have here in Cape May.”
Being able to get all of the coatings and equipment needed for demanding jobs like this from one supplier is a huge plus for Core Painting & Powerwashing. It’s one of the reasons Duzy keeps going back to Sherwin-Williams.
“It’s an honor to work on buildings like the Congress Hall Hotel,” he says. “I treat every building I paint as if it were my own home. I wouldn't use anything but the best.”