A Community Staple

Award-Winning Historic Church Reroof in Honolulu, Hawaii

by Ali Turner, editorial assistant


In the early 19th century, missionaries arrived on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu and brought with them religions that were new to the Hawaiian people. With this influx of Christianity came the construction of churches all over the island. One of the oldest of these houses of worship is Kaumakapili Church, located in the Kapâlama neighborhood of Honolulu, Hawaii. Originally constructed as a church for the common people, as opposed to the nobility’s Kawaiahao Church, Kaumakapili has undergone a lifetime of renovations and restoration efforts over the two centuries.

Originally constructed in 1838 in Honolulu’s Chinatown district, the first building was made of adobe with a thatched roof, but was then torn down and replaced with a brick structure in 1881. In a medieval turn of events, the bubonic plague ravaged Oahu, and local health authorities began burning surrounding areas in an attempt to contain the sickness. Sadly, the fires got too close to the church and burned everything except the frame of the building to the ground.

The Chinatown parcel of land was sold, and church officials moved the location of the new Kaumakapili Church to its present Kapâlama spot in 1910. Memories of the original buildings are stored in the chapel, including stained glass windows, pews, a pipe organ, and koa wood pulpits. In the mid-20th century, Kaumakapili Church was known as the Queen of the Hawaiian Churches for the missions and relationships it cultivated within the local community.

In 2019, Surface Shield Roofing Company, Honolulu, was given the task of reroofing the historic church’s roof, which was damaged from a recent windstorm, as well as years of sun and salt deterioration. Founded in 2006 by Shon Gregory, Surface Shield services private, commercial, and public sectors of the roofing industry, with a focus on energy efficiency. Gregory, a veteran of the thermal solar industry, started Surface Shield as a roof coatings outfit, but transformed it into a full-service roofing company.

“Surface Shield Roofing Company’s mission is to provide the residents, business owners, and utility operators with an accountable contractor that they can trust will deliver an industry-standard roofing system coupled with superior customer service,” expressed Gregory.

Surface Shield installed 7,300 sq.ft. of GAF Sienna® asphalt shingles in the color chateau gray on the church’s roof. Working in tandem with Barbara Shideler, AIA, Mason Architects, Inc., Honolulu, the shingle profile was selected to allow the building to be returned to its historic beauty. “We were proud to work on this job and we were happy to accommodate the architect’s desire to return the roof to some of its original look,” said Gregory.

There were several challenges facing Surface Shield as they worked on the reroof project. First and foremost, the old roof contained asbestos, which made the removal tedious and time consuming. Furthermore, the church is a staple within the community, meaning that crowds of people were a familiar sight during the reroof. The Surface Shield crew had to constantly be aware of pedestrians and churchgoers while on the roof. The steep slope of the roof, including a 12:12 pitch steeple, and complicated layout of the church meant that Surface Shield was at the mercy of boom lifts and small crews as opposed to scaffolding. The roofing crew had to battle perpetual rain and wind, commonplace during Hawaii’s winter months, which made using the 123’ boom lift even more harrowing. The entire project took over four months to complete. The general contractor on the job was United Pacific Builders LLC, Honolulu.

The Kaumakapili Church reroof was recently awarded the Roofing Project of the Year by the Roofing Contractors Association of Hawaii at its Annual Awards Banquet in January 2020. “As one of the oldest churches on Oahu, it was an honor to restore such a beautiful landmark back to its original beauty and assist the parishioners with handling long-standing leakage issues that were damaging the interior,” said Gregory. “They don’t have to worry about that anymore.”