By Mike Wilson

ONSITE Woodwork Corp. replaced tornado-damaged panels and doors on a tight installation timeline to have the Omni Hotel’s millwork in top shape for IWF.

The Omni Hotel Complex suffered an estimated $10,000,000 in overall damage from the March 15, 2008 tornado in downtown Atlanta. (Photo Courtesy of ONSITE Woodworking Corp.)

This past spring, a tornado in downtown Atlanta blew out doors and left panels looking like victims of shotgun blasts in highly trafficked areas of the Omni Hotel.

ONSITE Woodwork Corp. was hired to repair the estimated $250,000 in damaged woodwork at the complex after the March 15 tornado. The job had its share of challenges, but employees say they were excited that their work will be on display at the International Woodworking Fair.

"Anywhere that was near glass that blew out looked like someone had stood about four feet away with a shotgun and just sprayed the whole panel,” says Caleb Peterson, the project manager in charge. “There were chunks of veneer missing and there were corners that had been ripped off.”

Some exterior doors also were blown off their hinges and frames, adds Don Humphries, who works in business development for the company.

A general contractor hired the Loves Park, IL-based architectural millwork company based on a long-standing working relationship between the businesses, and the hotel has been pleased with the work since, Humphries says. ONSITE’s 50,000 square foot manufacturing facility and office is in Loves Park, IL, but the company also has service and installation offices in Atlanta, GA, and Charlotte, NC.

The first task to tackle was replacing damaged doors, which included reworking some new doors that had already been installed by another company.

“Some of the doors were in fire areas, and for safety purposes we had to get those replaced quickly,” Peterson says. “The contractor actually tried going through someone else to get the doors for a quick fix. Some of the doors weren’t the right veneer, so we had to strip the veneer off, and re-veneer them. We also ordered some new doors. It was a lot of 'all over the place' work.”

ONSITE Woodwork’s Jeff Schott works on replacing woodwork damaged by the March 15th tornado in the Omni Hotel complex in Atlanta. (Photo Courtesy of ONSITE Woodworking Corp.)

Other repairs on the docket included replacing paneling that faced exterior windows throughout the first three floors. Originally, ONSITE was scheduled to begin work in June, but due to guest considerations, it did the installation during the week of July 4.

“We had nine days to get in there and get out of there, so it was real tight,” Peterson says. “We were working long hours and had lots of guys working to get it completed, but we finished it up (on time).”

On the manufacturing end, matching finishes to allow the new panels to blend with the old was one of the biggest challenges, Peterson says. Since a good portion of the woodwork was older, areas exposed to the sun had inconsistent finishes.

“We ended up with several sets of samples, because anywhere you would walk, there would be a different finish,” Peterson says. “The sun had bleached out some of the wood and other areas it had turned orange in the sun…It was a difficult process to find a color that was a mixture of all of them.”

To solve the problem, ONSITE used one finish and broadened the scope of work to include more panels, which was necessary to get a good blend, he said. Some of the old panels that were removed were then used to repair lightly damaged areas in other parts of the building.

“We had to make sure everything we put in looked exactly like what was already there,” Humphries says.

ONSITE has priced one other possible tornado-repair project since the March twister, but the client is waiting to hear back about insurance coverage, Peterson says.

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