Carpenters at the University of Virginia this summer are renovating a roof the way Thomas Jefferson intended it to look--only with materials that should make it perform better than Jefferson's original.
When Jefferson designed UVA’s Academical Village, he envisioned flat decks on the roofs above the student rooms, a UVA press release says. Water was supposed to run through the deck boards and into the valleys of the wood roofs. Unfortunately, the roofs leaked within 10 years, so UVA carpenters in the 1830s installed pitched slate roofs above the originals.
Now crews are restoring Jefferson's original design by over the original materials sheets of plywood that has a rubber membrane glued to it. Above that are one-inch-thick sleeper joists supporting decking made of Brazilian walnut.
“We’ve seen different roof systems on the Lawn,” said James D.W. Zehmer, historic preservation project manager with UVA’s Facilities Planning & Construction Department. “It could be that Jefferson was experimenting, or his carpenters were. They wanted to see what was the best system and they learned as they went along.”