Maine church steeple built in composites by Lyman-MorseIn 2017, the steeple on the Chestnut Street Baptist Church in Camden, Maine, was 30 years old and in a state of disrepair. Fortunately for the congregation, several members of the Lyman-Morse staff and Taylor Martens, owner of Taylor-Made Builders, are members of the church. The issue of the rotting steeple and spire was known to them and they agreed to tackle the age-old problem of a heavy rotting wooden structure with a new, lighter, and more low-maintenance composite solution. Taylor-Made officially received the contract for the restoration which included replacing the roof and other work and subcontracted the spire and brow work to Lyman-Morse Technologies.

Lyman-Morse craftsman building a Maine church steepleThe original wooden structure weighed at least 10,000 pounds and required frequent painting and preservation.

“In the boating world, weight and longevity of materials is always the issue. Lessen the weight but increase the durability,” said Steve Crane, Lyman-Morse’s composites division manager. “Cost is also a factor.” The new 50’4” spire and brows are made of 3/8” solid FRP laminate using vinyl ester resin. The outside finish coating is white NPG gelcoat. The wooden structure it replaced weighed at least 10,000 lbs. The new spire weighs 6,800 lbs. If weight was more of a consideration than the cost, the process could include the extra step of infusion thus eliminating excess weight. Being a high-end boatbuilder, Lyman-Morse is a leader in this process.

CNC-cut mold for Maine church steeple built by Lyman-MorseA new approach was used in construction as well. Lyman-Morse draftsmen engineered the drawings necessary for construction. The eight-sided spire was divided into four quadrants. One mold was made of the decorative scalloped shingles. The four sections that included in-turning bonding flanges were pulled from this mold. The four pieces were then bolted and bonded together by the flanges with a structural adhesive. Afterwards the outside seams were bonded across with a fiberglass trim piece forming the finished octagonal structure.

The project took three months to build. The durability of the new steeple is expected to be at least 60+ years with little to no maintenance required.