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  Historic St. Vincent’s Hall Receives Application of FIRM-FILL®

The doors of St. Vincent’s Hall, a 95-year old tribute to Collegiate Gothic Architecture standing at the center of Niagara University, a comprehensive liberal arts college located in Lewiston, New York, temporarily closed to students on December 19, 2000. The hall was closed to permit extensive and complicated renovations to modernize the interior floor and walls dating back to 1906.

One of the first projects tackled by the General Contractor, Scrufari Construction, was to find a way to level and smooth the existing flooring that consisted of a wood floor on sleepers over a very rough structural 3-inch concrete slab. Scrufari Construction hired Patterson-Stevens, Inc. of Tonawanda, New York, a concrete specialist and newly Licensed Applicator of Hacker Floor Underlayments, to help find a solution. Cast-in-place concrete was one option but the thickness of the slab required would have added more weight to the floor. Another option was to install a new sleeper system, but the downside was the substantial installation expense and the lack of fire resistance. The winning solution was the installation of 32,000 square feet of FIRM-FILL® High Strength gypsum concrete floor underlayment. FIRM-FILL High Strength was pumped over the existing floors on three stories of the building, leveling the uneven structural floor and providing a smooth, durable new surface for finished floor goods.

GBL Construction Company of Harmony, Pennsylvania, also a Licensed Applicator of Hacker Floor Underlayments, was onsite to assist Patterson-Stevens with the challenging project. The original floor had a 3-inch crown with a 2-inch slope lengthwise, and an extremely dirty surface finished with a garden rake and stamped footprints. The first step was to clean the floor, not an easy task. The next day was spent drilling and setting pegs in the floor. The 3/8 inch wood dowels, spray painted orange to avoid them inadvertently getting stepped on, were placed at specific elevations on ten-foot centers. The crew then started installing the FIRM-FILL High Strength at the high point in the floor and continued pumping every ten feet in all directions to minimize the variations in depth, creating a smooth floor surface. 

With below freezing temperatures outside, another challenge was to get the interior heated to the 50 degrees necessary for the FIRM-FILL High Strength to dry properly, in time for other trades that were schedule five days later to move in and begin their work. Scrufari Construction arranged for space heating indoors and the FIRM-FILL High Strength was ready on schedule, two days early.

St. Vincent’s Hall, or “Vinnie’s” as it is was commonly referred to around campus, originally housed dormitory space, the gymnasium and the nation’s second largest indoor swimming pool, later evolving primarily into classroom and office space. With this new interior facelift, the fabled four-story monument to higher education will continue to house classrooms and administration space, with a completely new look. The first floor will be dedicated to information technology with classrooms, computer labs, abundant network connections and group study rooms. The second and third floors will be devoted to classroom space and the fourth floor will continue to house the Institute of Travel, Hotel and Restaurant Administration, but with completely modern amenities such as an atrium gathering area, auditorium and formal dining room. With the new, smooth, sound insulating floors FIRM-FILL High Strength brought to this construction effort, the students of Niagara University will enjoy a modernized, substantially quieter academic atmosphere.

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