'Critical' piece of Salt Lake Temple's original roof gets replaced as renovation project continues

A 35,000-pound truss is carefully lowered from a crane into the attic of the Salt Lake Temple in June. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints updated the ongoing temple renovation project Wednesday, including a focus on parts of the original 1800s construction that were recently replaced. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)


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Editor's note: This article is a part of a series reviewing Utah and U.S. history for KSL.com's Historic section.

SALT LAKE CITY — Construction crews this summer began a slow and methodical process to replace the original trusses at the top of the Salt Lake Temple with new 35,000-pound structures, officials with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Wednesday in an update to the ongoing Temple Square renovation project.

The new roof trusses are considered a crucial component to ensure the stability of the structure in a seismic event — tying the roof of the temple together with its foundation using cables, explained Josh Fajardo, a superintendent with Jacobsen Construction Company, in a video about the project published by the church.

He explained that the process "stiffens the building stone to the final seismic upgrade of the foundation" and also reinforces the structure's attic.

"The roof structure is so critical for this project," he said. "You have all the historic finishes inside the building that you're trying to preserve. And starting from the top down, you need to have that good support and protection."

In May, crews began the process by raising new 90-foot trusses and replacing the old roof trusses that existed since before the temple was dedicated in 1893. Fajardo said that trusses are typically done all at once during a construction project but that wasn't the case for this renovation project, as the temple's historic finishes inside needed to be protected.

Instead, they installed the new trusses one at a time. Gusset brackets, nuts and bolts were used to lock the trusses in place. Church officials said this process is conducted instead of welding as a way to prevent any fire hazard.

A view of the original trusses in the attic of the Salt Lake Temple that were installed in the 1800s are shown in this June photo. New trusses are being installed next to the original trusses to help stiffen the temple as part of the seismic upgrade.
A view of the original trusses in the attic of the Salt Lake Temple that were installed in the 1800s are shown in this June photo. New trusses are being installed next to the original trusses to help stiffen the temple as part of the seismic upgrade. (Photo: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
New trusses were installed in the attic, two at a time, so only a portion of the roof was exposed to protect historic finishes inside the sacred structure. The framework will help strengthen the attic for new mechanical equipment and tie the roof to the foundation to help stiffen the temple as part of the seismic upgrade.
New trusses were installed in the attic, two at a time, so only a portion of the roof was exposed to protect historic finishes inside the sacred structure. The framework will help strengthen the attic for new mechanical equipment and tie the roof to the foundation to help stiffen the temple as part of the seismic upgrade. (Photo: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

For a brief moment, a new truss is placed right next to the century-old one it is replacing, before every old truss is replaced, and a new one is installed. Fajardo said every side-by-side moment gave him a better appreciation for the crews that completed the building in the 1800s.

"The challenges we have don't compare to what they had," he said. "Nowadays, we have these awesome cranes that make it so much easier."

The Temple Square project is now in its 20th month and updates to the roof highlighted all sorts of renovation progress notes since the church's previous project update was released in May.

Crews needed to ensure the roof is sturdy because they also began moving new, heavy mechanical equipment into the temple's attic. For instance, a crane was required to move an 8,000-pound air handler unit, which will be used to improve air conditioning and heating inside the historic structure.

Other renovation updates

Meanwhile, crews continue to excavate ground north of the temple, exposing a secant retaining made of concrete and steel columns drilled 85 feet deep to shore up the temple's foundation, according to Paul Shingleton, a Jacobsen project manager for the temple's plaza renovation.

Church officials say crews will dig 20 more feet, to about 85 feet deep, before they start work on a three-level "north addition" that will be located underground. The facility will house various church ordinances as well as hold administrative offices.

Excavation has reached 45 feet below street level on the Salt Lake Temple renovation project. Twenty more feet of soil will be removed before construction begins on the three-level underground north addition. This photo was taken in August 2021.
Excavation has reached 45 feet below street level on the Salt Lake Temple renovation project. Twenty more feet of soil will be removed before construction begins on the three-level underground north addition. This photo was taken in August 2021. (Photo: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

Others assigned to the project are making "considerable progress" updating the Temple Square plaza outside of the Church Administration Building, officials added Wednesday. Shingleton said crews are repairing concrete over an underground employee parking structure that was damaged by years of leaking water.

"The garage has been leaking in places for many years," he said. "The fountain itself leaked so bad it hasn't been on for about two years."

Crews replace delaminated concrete on the Church Office Building plaza. The entire plaza will be re-waterproofed to prevent future leaking into the underground employee parking garage.
Crews replace delaminated concrete on the Church Office Building plaza. The entire plaza will be re-waterproofed to prevent future leaking into the underground employee parking garage. (Photo: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

He said the concrete was installed in the 1960s and a special company was brought in to remove asbestos used to help waterproof it. Crews found that some of the concrete had delaminated or broken apart. They began using a concrete mixture to repair the damaged areas this summer.

The temple is still scheduled to reopen in 2024.

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