Editor's note: Joe Becker continues his report on the natural-stone segment of the St. Joseph Cathedral restoration in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Have you ever been driving out in the country, with your mind kind of wandering, and ... you blink and miss a small town? I use to live near one of those places: Padua, Minn.

Padua – a church, a bar, and seven people. It was a growing town, though, as long as the bar owner’s family kept having kids.


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The stone-floor installation for St Joseph Cathedral had an August like that. If you weren’t watching carefully, you might've missed it.

Al Snowaert, our foreman, kept telling me that once we finished the sanctuary and steps, the nave floor would go quite fast. Container #3 arrived July 20 and the guys literally floored it.

On average we had a crew of four installers with five helpers. With large open areas, the installers put in hundreds of square feet per day. It was great news for the job balance sheet, but not so good news for supplies; the stone from container #3 was installed before #4 arrived. We slimmed down the crew and then – when contained #4 arrived Aug. 24, the crew was assembled again and the process began again.

I’m simplifying this; it’s a difficult and bothersome task to ramp crews up and down. What we have in our favor is a nice backlog of work in the Twin Cities for our installers to take on; the local Sioux Falls helpers remained on the job to grout, or stayed home temporarily.

Five years ago it might have been difficult to ramp crews like we’re doing now. But, in 2010, most guys are content to stay where they are, even with missing some hours.

Looking forward, container #5 (which contains the narthex floor and more wainscot) will arrive the first week in September, and container #6 (the massive column bases) is due to arrive in the last week of the month. Container #6 completes phase I shipping; our goal is to complete phase I on site by the end of October.

Phase II starts with the delivery of the four baldacchino columns. This delivery can’t happen until the quarry yields a block large enough – and that’s still an issue that needs to have resolution soon.

I’ve talked about the floor for months now, haven’t described our installation. In my past blog (Men at Work) I talked about setting the stone in the fresh mud bed, but let’s get technical and go below that.