Built in 1889, the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking, United Kingdom, has stood for 128 years as a place that offers prayer and community outreach, but it has several additional accolades that have spanned the century. It was the first purpose-built mosque built in Northern Europe (a British colloquialism, this means that it was specifically built to be a mosque). It is also protected under the National Heritage List for England as a Grade II Listed Building “for its special architectural or historic interest,” according to the registry’s website.
But despite the historic and cultural significances, the exterior of the building was in a bit of disarray. In particular, the building’s crown jewel — its emerald-colored dome — was leaking. Nothing puts a damper on a service like drops of non-holy water! So general contractor Campbell Smith and Co. — open even longer than the mosque — called in coatings applicators Belzona Technosol Ltd. to help complete the restoration.
Coat of Colors
As one of coatings manufacturer Belzona International’s dedicated distributors, Technosol is very familiar with the cold coating system chosen particularly for this client to avoid further damage to the metal substrate. However, before the two-person crew could get to the application or even preparation of the coating, they first had to get to know the substrate. They could see that there were holes and other signs of weather- and age-related corrosion on the dome, 6.5 m (21.3 ft.) in diameter. It needed to be fixed, but what kind of prep was needed?
Using a pull-off test, the crew assessed the adhesion strength of the current coating on all 133 m² (1,432 ft.²) of the metal surface of the dome, called a “quba” in Arabic. Results from the adhesion test showed that the dome could be prepped by a washing, which was completed by the client, and then specific areas could then be repaired by the crew using hand tools.
Once they went to work, the crew used Novatek’s RotoStrip tools to prep. Then, the crew repaired particularly holey areas using a system made of the coating Belzona 1121 with an aluminum wire mesh. The Technosol crew members wielded brushes and Belzona Applicators, a type of handheld squeegee like those used to apply decals. The crew wore typical personal protective equipment (PPE) — safety boots, coveralls, and hard hats, for example — as well as nitrile gloves to apply that coating at varying thicknesses depending on the level of repair needed.
With a 100 percent solid surface again, the crew was able to apply the next step in the system. After a quick sanding and cleaning, they applied Belzona 3111 in conjunction with a surface conditioner called Belzona 3921 to help encourage adhesion. That coating, a gray color, was applied with a brush and roller to an average of 5 m²/kg (1.5 ft.²/ounce) before the client went green — something they did on their own with Zinsser products.
To access the dome’s heights — about 14.5 m (47.6 ft.) excluding the pinnacle — the crew relied on scaffolding. Although supplied by the client, the crew inspected the scaffolding weekly using a tagging system called Scafftag. The crew members also had extra training under their belts.
“Our technicians are trained for working at heights and PASMA [Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ & Manufacturers’ Association Ltd.]. Although this training isn’t required for working off scaffolding, it shows our technicians are used to working in this environment,” explained Mike Roberts, regional engineer of the southern region for Technosol.
In addition to completing the project safety, the crew finished the job quietly. Throughout the seven days that it took from start to finish, the mosque continued to hold prayers, services, and other events nearby. It was important that the crew wouldn’t disrupt the daily schedules. To that end, the crew had to work around a holy day celebration during two of the work days.
“The building that our work was being carried out on was undergoing a full refurbishment and not in use. The surrounding buildings were used for prayer,” Roberts said. “Our technicians liaised with the local community leader and discussed times that were suitable to work around.” In the end, the crew helped take the mosque to new heights with the dome’s brilliant finish.