Delivering Resilience and Efficiency to a Historic Church

In the heart of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the First Church of Christ, Scientist stands as a legacy structure with more than 70 years of service to the community. The church’s roots trace even further back to 1910 when four pioneer Christian Scientists in Fort Lauderdale convened in a tent on the north side of New River in what is now the city’s downtown. In the fall of 2023, the historic church reached out to RHI Roofing in nearby Oakland Park for an inspection to address severe leaks and water damage experienced after a significant rainstorm, hindering its ability to conduct Sunday School and regular services.

It became evident that the original multi-level, 7,197-square-foot coal tar pitch roof and gravel over poured gypsum had reached the end of its service life, requiring complete replacement. Mindful of the building’s rich legacy RHI Roofing proposed a FiberTite roof system.

“A durable and long-lasting solution was essential considering the building’s historical significance, being over 70 years old, and its exclusive use for church services,” notes Michael Nemati, owner of RHI Roofing. “The FiberTite system, known for its premium quality, offers high puncture resistance, an extended lifespan, and a 20-year warranty, making it an ideal choice for preserving the building’s integrity. Its lighter color and reflective surface help make the roof absorb less heat, potentially lowering energy costs by keeping the building cooler. This combination of durability, longevity, and energy efficiency made the FiberTite roofing system perfect for the project’s specific needs.”

Scope of Work

When the aging coal tar pitch roof on the First Church of Christ, Scientist reached the end of its service life, RHI Roofing removed it and installed a new FiberTite roofing system. Photos: RHI Roofing

RHI Roofing’s comprehensive scope of work for the First Church of Christ, Scientist included the meticulous replacement of the aging coal tar pitch roof with a high-performance FiberTite system. The eight-person crew, under the leadership of Project Manager David Panella, executed a precise plan involving the installation of half-inch gypsum board fully adhered to the poured gypsum substrate, followed by 36-mil FiberTite fully adhered to the gypsum board. A 36-mil membrane was selected for the project because it performs exceptionally well on roofs that experience light foot traffic and provides cost savings for the customer. The team then retrofitted roof drains, installing OlyFlow drains from OMG Roofing Products. FiberTite clad drip edge was used to finish the drain and termination details of the roof, addressing the severe leaks and water damage. The system is protected by a 20-year manufacturer’s warranty and an annual maintenance plan provided by RHI Roofing.

Overcoming Challenges

The project posed some logistical challenges, including limited parking and staging areas, as well as unpredictable South Florida weather. “Parking was nonexistent, staging areas were limited to a 20-foot-by-20-foot spot, and the building was fully operational on the weekends, so everything on the ground had to be removed for guests and weekend church service,” Nemati says.

The old cant strip where the roof met the parapet wall was poured in concrete, and removing it demanded careful attention. Crew members used concrete saws and demo bars to cut the cant strip away. Despite these obstacles, the team successfully navigated the project with strategic planning, ensuring minimal disruption to the church’s activities.

Safety remained a paramount concern throughout the project. “With a roof height of 40 feet that included four levels, ensuring the protection of our crew and church members was imperative, as always,” says Nemati. “RHI Roofing implemented a combination of guardrails, warning lines, and harnesses, adhering to stringent safety protocols. The team worked diligently to ensure the well-being of everyone involved, considering the fully operational status of the church during weekends. Our safety director, Rudy Chamorro, played a crucial role in this project, conducting regular site inspections and training to ensure that our safety standards were exceeded.”

Problem Solvers

According to Nemati, the roof replacement project at The First Church of Christ, Scientist showcases RHI Roofing’s capability to solve complex roofing issues effectively for historic properties.

“This endeavor was a professional success and a fulfilling experience for our team, as it involved preserving a building valued by the community,” he says. “We completed the project safely, ahead of schedule, and within budget. The church now features a durable FiberTite roofing system. The new roof has enabled the church to restart Sunday School and regular services without interruptions or the issues of leaks and a musty odor.”

 “The new FiberTite roof system also contributes to the building’s energy efficiency thanks to its lighter color and reflective properties. This legacy building in Fort Lauderdale now stands stronger and more resilient, ready to serve its community for many years to come. Additionally, with RHI’s preventive maintenance plan, we expect the roof to reach its full-service lifespan.”


Roofing Contractor: RHI Roofing, Oakland Park, Florida,


Membrane: FiberTite KEE, FiberTite,

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