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An Inside Look at the Duke Chapel Restoration

New roof, air conditioning system highlight September’s work

From front to back, scaffolding surrounds Duke Chapel, and five months since the structure’s first major restoration began, crews are busy with repairs and enhancements to the 80-year old signature building.

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Much of the recent work will continue into October, including replacement of lead coated copper roof sheets. About 95 percent of the Chapel’s upper-level roof has been replaced with the remaining work set to finish by mid-October. As work completes, the highest tiers of scaffolding will be taken down and continue to lose levels until restoration is completed in April 2016. 

The next phase of the restoration project, that began around the first of September, is the revitalization of the oak woodwork and wood carving in the building's chancel and transepts. The wood is vacuumed, dusted, then touched up with sanding and repairs to fix any scratches or old finishing blemishes.

Crews have also recently demolished and removed the Chapel’s 30 year old air conditioning system; a new system will be installed and functioning when the building reopens.

The longest-term project to repair mortar joints in the ceiling has finished in the Chapel’s transepts and masons will now focus attention on the nave’s ceiling and window tracery joints. During this process, craftsmen carefully grind 3-6 inches of damaged mortar away  - and replace it with new, more flexible material.

Rev. Luke Powery, dean of Duke Chapel, said he’s been delighted with ongoing progress reports he’s received from Duke’s Facilities Management Department.

“The project team's good work is ensuring the safety and beauty of this towering icon of the university for years to come,” Powery said. “Whether the doors are open or closed, Duke Chapel remains a symbol of the university’s past and our future as a thriving community that bridges faith and learning.”

Below, watch a slideshow of interior construction photos taken on a media tour Thursday by Les Todd of Duke Photography