School superintendent Patricia Ruane and several members of the school committee attended the
meeting of the Hopedale Board of Selectmen on April 17, 2007 to discuss the problem of the leak in
the cupola at the high school. The problem is a complex one with no easy solution. What I have here is
a very brief summary of a fairly lengthy discussion.
The cupola is made of copper with soldered joints, and most or all of the joints are leaking. It is above
the elevator shaft, which is required to have a vent. It is possible that the elevator could be vented in
another location, but that wouldn't necessarily be an inexpensive solution. Four courses of action, with
a number of variations, are being considered. They are:
Reconstruct the present cupola, at an estimated cost of about $450,000.
Replace the present cupola with a very small copper cupola at an estimated cost between $54,000
Remove the cupola - don't replace it.. A vent would still be needed. Estimated cost - $120,000 to
Remove the existing cupola and replace it with a fiberglass one of similar color and size. Cost -
$120,000 to $160,000.
The numbers above are the estimates of the company that has been studying the situation. Whatever
course of action is decided upon, the job will have to be advertised for bids.
The two pictures below were taken in October 2007.
Board page on Facebook. The picture she included with her comment is similar to the
ones on this page that show the cupola at the wastewater treatment plant.
Was walking back near the recycling center today. Anyone know why this old
cupola is in the sewer plant area? Shouldn’t it be preserved somewhere?
The questions were soon followed by many comments and suggestion. Here's a link so
you can see all of them, but of course on Facebook things like this move down, down,
down the page, so I'm going to put several of them here. All are from Mike Ragonese.
so how was it sitting on the peak or pitch of the roof. Imagine the complication in building a
base on the peak of a roof that will fit and hold up this beast. That’s one issue. The interior
wood frame is old and discolored but actually not rotted (yet)
There are only small issues with the joints in the copper and probably from moving it.
My understanding is that the school was re-roofed when the cupola was in place. On a
new house, it gets the shingles and step flashing and then the siding goes over the leg of
the flashing that goes up the wall. The whole flashing thing is more complicated on a re-
roof because it’s up under the siding so the new roof has to be woven into the flashing
that is already in place. So imagine how that might have worked with this copper clad
beast. As often happens, the roofing was (possibly)not married to the old flashing very well
and that is probably why it leaked badly. It wasn’t the copper that would have caused any
bad leaks on this cupola. The copper on something like this can be patched/repaired
either by soldering the joint or if necessary, overlaying a patch of copper and soldering
that patch on. When they re-roofed, they should have folded new flashing from copper
and soldered each individual pc. onto the cupola as they proceeded up the roof. This
would not have been something an average asphalt shingle roofer would be familiar with. It’
s quite possible they just tried to make it work with the original flashing and that’s why it
leaked. Just theory and we’ll never know and it’s water over the dam anyway. The sad,
aggravating thing to me is that there doesn’t seem to have been anything major wrong
with the copper which would mean that the wood substructure was probably in pretty good
shape. When I felt the wood substructure in various places, I did not find any soft/rotted
wood. That being said, this thing is OLD. the wood substructure saw many years of
intense heat, cold, moisture, etc. under a metal skin up on a roof in the blazing heat of
many Summers. That’s why it LOOKS really bad... but if it was kept dry by the copper skin,
just like siding does on the wood frame of a house, the frame will do it’s job for a long long
time. So repairable? Yes. But a complicated process for sure and complicated = $$$$. Half
a million? NO WAY! But (and believe me, this is just a guess) probably at least a couple
hundred thousand. It would quite possibly be impossible to find someone to take on a task
of this nature. That’s why the price gets so high. It’s complicated. I’m not optimistic.
Prominently displayed somewhere on the grounds of Hopedale may be the answer instead
of just letting it turn into scrap copper.
it’s supported off the ground by a “just good enough” set of frames that will only last so
long. More damage may be done uprighting it and then laying it back down to move it. Just
putting a good quality cover over it as it sits would go a long way to preserve it. Most
“tarps” don’t last too long exposed to the sun. I’m pretty sure there are people who shrink
wrap boats on site. That stuff lasts a while.