Attention to detail key to restoring openings in 144-year-old Kansas capitol building

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Attention to detail key to restoring openings in 144-year-old Kansas capitol building

When the time finally came to refurbish the dilapidated State Capitol building in Topeka, Kan., contractors faced a difficult challenge in ensuring that any new materials installed in the 144-year-old building meshed seamlessly with the ornate originals.

That included more than 500 doors and thousands and thousands of pieces of hardware, all of which had to be removed either for restoration or replacement with precise replicas.

When contractor JE Dunn hired American Direct to supply doors and hardware for the job, project leaders knew that attention to detail would be of the utmost importance — a task made all the more difficult by the variety of tastes of end users.

“Different constituencies had different demands,” said American Direct Midwest Regional Business Unit Leader Jason Plotner. “A senator’s preference for one door didn’t necessarily agree with that of someone in the House of Representatives. Therein lies one of the reasons for the specific differences from wing to wing in the State House.”

The goal was to make sure that when the doors and hardware were installed and a layman walked the halls of the State House, there would be no visible difference between a restored door or hinge and a new one. In order to accomplish this, extra attention was paid to hardware finishes and wood color so that the new or restored piece matched the original exactly. Years of natural aging made this extremely difficult especially when doors on one end of the wing received more sunlight, and thus faded more than the same door down the hall. The trained eye of an architect helped to determine just the right wood color to make a perfect match.

JE Dunn and American Direct worked together to come up with an intricate system to catalogue, label and store all doors and hardware until time when the wing they were on was renovated and ready for the refurbished or new doors and hardware to be installed. The needs of each entry were often different. For example, one entryway might require a refurbished door, one replacement hinge and one refurbished hinge, whereas the next entryway might require a replacement door and two replacement hinges.

“Respectful to the hardware, that was a real team effort in being able to work with American Direct and their suppliers of the historical replica hardware,” said Jim Rinner, Senior Project Manager with JE Dunn. “There are so many elements to keep track of that there is a lot of responsibility for American Direct to produce the hardware matrix to track all of the information, then JE Dunn has to work hard with them to make sure it is coordinated correctly. There has to be a lot of communication with that, as well as the delivery of materials and getting everything on site.”

When completed in 2012, the project received rave reviews from Kansans who could once again take pride in the beautiful symbol of their state dominating the Topeka skyline.

The project included work on more than 500 doors.