Read This—Before Building a Baptistry

It is the rare pastor who has not faced the problem of arranging for installation of a baptistry at some point of his ministry. It is the equally rare pastor who is not conscious of costs in making such arrangements.

District Pastor, Illinois

It is the rare pastor who has not faced the problem of arranging for installation of a baptistry at some point of his ministry. It is the equally rare pastor who is not conscious of costs in making such arrangements.

Baptistry materials may vary from masonry and ceramic tile to steel, sheet metal, and fiberglas. Commercially built fiberglas bap­tistries are available at costs about $600. Steel works well but requires periodic painting. It costs about $400. Sheet metal invariably has soldered seams, which have a tendency to crack with use. Cost is about $200. Masonry and tile in­stallation is satisfactory except for slickness underfoot when wet, and leakage problems if cracks develop. The advent of epoxy res­ins brought a new degree of versatility in waterproof materials. Fiberglas, a type of resin, is now available in types suitable for do-it-yourself installations of baptistries.

A baptistry must be of adequate size, depth, and location for best service. It must be provided with steps wide enough for safety. It must be tractionized to avoid per­sonal injury through a slip or fall. It must provide for a means of heating the water adequately and efficiently.

To meet these needs, a baptistry plan has been developed and field tested by the writer. It meets all of these needs for an estimated cost of less than $350 and yet can be readily constructed by a carpenter with basic construction knowledge. With a bit of practice gained in preliminary costs the final fiberlgas finish can be attractive, durable, and serviceable.

While the drawings with this article are nearly self-explanatory, here are a few suggestions:

The floor should be pitched one inch toward the drain. The drain is purposely placed at the opposite end of the fill pipe to create a circulation of water, as will be seen in the plumbing schematic. Water is drawn from the drain, reheated, and reintro­duced into the tank at the fill end. Properly pitched, very little water remains in the tank when it is emptied.

The walls of the tank are 3/8 inch plugged sheathing plywood that is applied to 12 inches on center 2 inches by 4 inches framing members at all corners, 6 inches by 6 inches by 1 inch angle irons are bolted at the bottom, center, and top of the joint. Backed up with 2 inches by 4 inches members, this prevents spreading and subsequent cracking of the fiberglas liner. Should your floor joists run across the tank, the tank floor framing members should be adjusted to run across them.

Steps should have minimum 11-inch­tread surfaces and have no overhang at front edge. The bottom step may be built into basic tank shape or applied later by placing 1- by 2-inch cleats at proper loca­tions and fiberglasing over them, holding them securely in place. The step may then be screwed in place.

The fiberglasing may be done with several brands, although we used Evercoat Brand for its unique two-step priming fea­ture. Fiberglas resins are obtainable at most marine-supply dealers and some com­plete paint dealers. Colors may be added to give desired appearance. Purchase a white pigmented resin and color as de­sired. Place all resin you expect to use in a large container. Color to suit and then store in original containers until needed.

Fiberglas resins do not set when exposed to air but only when a starter or setting agent is added. Directions accompany the fiberglas resins, but several hints are pre­sented here as gleaned from experience.

All plywood should be clean and free from all paints. If necessary, sand to roughen and clean wood for best adhesion. Use primer coat liberally on all surfaces until it leaves a glassy film and no longer soaks into the plywood. Then apply fiberglas fabric to all surfaces, working out air bubbles carefully. Double fabric in corners for strength. The undercoat never sets un­til next finish coat is applied. In applying finish coats do not mix more than one quart at a time. It sets in 15 to 20 min­utes, and work must be done quickly. Build up surface until it is smooth. Do not worry about pimples and dust in finish now. Sand with handpaper or vibrator sander and apply last coat. This may be polished if desired. A sprinkling of clean coarse mason sand applied with the last coat of finish on steps and tank bottom will provide trac­tion underfoot.

The plumbing system is self-explanatory. Water enters from city supply and passes through a check valve and thence into main baptistry circuit. When the valve is closed just before the pump, the water is directed through heater and thence to tank. The inflow pipe is positioned in tank to create circulating currents. Put fiberglas pipe into place after several coats are ap­plied to tank behind pipe. When tank is full (sewer valve is closed before city main is opened) close city main valve and open valve by pump. Start pump and water is drawn through drain line, directed to heater, and then returned to tank after additional heating. Main temperature in our church is 55-58°F. Satisfactory bap­tistry water temperature is 90-95°F.

Using a Little Giant number 2 Hotomatic gas-fired heater and a Little Giant number 2 pump, the 580 gallons (36 inches-5,000 lbs) of water in the baptistry is filled and heated in 3 to 4 hours. The thermometer is valuable, but the aquastat is not needed if someone watches the fill-heat process.

The entire plumbing system can read­ily be located in basement utility room, and only the drain and fill lines run to the tank. The pump runs so quietly that a pilot light was added to its electric circuit to prevent leaving the pump on when sys­tem is drained.

This system has been in successful service for the past two years. As an economy system that looks and serves well it meets all needs for baptisms.

Cost of Material

See PDF for table on costs


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District Pastor, Illinois

July 1964

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