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The Blue & Gray Press | June 18, 2018

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Chipping paint from the UC stairwell raises questions

Chipping paint from the UC stairwell raises questions


Near the start of the spring 2016 semester, students began to notice that paint on the underside of the grand staircase was beginning to flake off at the University of Mary Washington’s new University Center. The first sign of it was the white paint chips on the floor of the staircase.

Many students did not seem to notice the damage done to the grand staircase. James Rives, a senior English major, said that he eats at the second floor of the University Center regularly and did not notice anything amiss.

However, more observant students picked up on the damage.

“I noticed it around the start of the semester,” said senior English major Karlin Hoffman. “I noticed a crack in a portion of [the stairs] and a friend pointed out a whole lot more.” Some students, such as Hoffman, jokingly call the grand staircase “the crumbling deathtrap.”

The grand staircase showed sections of where the paint chipped off on the underside of the third floor staircase, noticeable if one looks up from the entrance of second floor staircase. Another section of the chipped paint can be seen near where the first floor staircase meets the second floor.

Despite her nickname for it, Hoffman was of the belief that the damage to the grand staircase was superficial because buildings settle and cracks can happen. She did, however, have one concern.

“[The grand staircase] being the only staircase for students to regularly use and the elevators being out of use every few weeks, I think it will quickly get to be a lot worse than it already is,” Hoffman said. “I feel as though the amount of damage that has been done to them is not completely normal for a new settling building.”, a company that connects professionals with homeowners hoping to get advice for their home-improvement projects, explained that the paint could be chipping because of bad preparation of the surface being painted, water damage, the usage of the wrong primer with a particular brand of paint, mixing two incompatible paints together to get a particular shade, too many coats of paint or heat damage.

John Wiltenmuth, the associate vice president for Facilities Services, explained the cause of the issue quite simply. “The materials simply did not perform as expected.”

Wiltenmuth presented an evaluation of the University Center’s progress at a Board of Visitors meeting in February. According to his presentation, the University has been investigating the grand staircase. A description of the investigation says Facilities Services are examining “the delamination of drywall compound that was used as a finish on the grand stair.”

Wiltenmuth said that the issue of the chipped paint will not be fixed until the end of the semester. “Donley’s, the contractor, has determined a course of repair for the delamination of the stairs. The work is planned for the summer when building use is lower than the academic year,” Wiltenmuth said.

Donley’s Construction was involved in the construction of the University Center, which became open to students August last year. Donley’s was also the construction management company behind Eagle Village and the Alvey Parking Deck.