Smart Roofing Selection Helps a New York House Reach Lofty Sustainability Goals

Built in 1932, the once-grand structure, known as The Beach House, was in need of a major overhaul. The bungalow-style home, located on the west shore of Truesdale Lake in South Salem, a hamlet of Lewisboro, N.Y., was falling into disrepair and showed signs of age throughout. Three years ago, the homeowner called Sylvain Côté, owner of Absolute Green Homes Inc., South Salem, to preserve the home and showcase how sustainability can be embraced. Today, the renovated beach house is Energy Star certified by Energy Star, Washington, D.C., and LEED for Homes Platinum certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, and, with a score of 30, is a Home Energy Rating System (HERS)-certified home.

Top Down

The roof arguably is among the most important elements of a home. It takes a direct beating from the sun, rain, hail, snow and other elements. It reflects or refracts heat and can make the difference between a comfortable, efficient house and a house where the heating and cooling system is fighting the natural inclinations of the building.

The Beach House features a polymer slate roof.

The Beach House features a polymer slate roof.

The reroof took place in 2011, starting in May with the installation of a 3/4-inch plywood roof deck. Côté did not remove the entire existing roof deck. “We only removed what we had to, so we could accommodate the new dormers,” he explains. Then Côté’s crew of two to three installed a peel-and-stick roof underlayment, followed by a foil-faced 1-inch-thick rigid foam board, which Côté opted for because of its UV-reflecting capacity and ability to reduce heat gain in the summer. The insulation board then was covered with another layer of 1/2-inch-thick plywood and a second layer of the peel-and-stick underlayment, for a total R-value of 41. The fascia installation also was completed alongside this step.

The unventilated attic is insulated with closed-cell spray-foam insulation, which prevents condensation and helps the attic serve as a buffer to outside temperature fluctuations affecting the house. This method nearly eliminates the extreme temperatures in the attic area during hot and cold seasons.

By September, Côté had finished installing a new stone chimney, so shingle installation could begin. An impact- and fire-resistant polymer slate product in black was chosen to replace the existing asphalt-shingle roof on The Beach House. Côté specified the new roof type in part because of its durability, aesthetic appeal and warranty. “I chose this roofing product on my own home and knew it’d be a perfect match for this retrofit project since it’s a very realistic-looking material and has a solid thickness to each tile,” Côté says. “Having this polymer roof makes it possible for the homeowner to collect rainwater runoff from the roof that drops down the gutters and chains into rain-collection barrels. Because there are no particles from the tiles, the rainwater is the highest quality and better suited for landscaping applications.” About 18 squares of the 12-inch-exposure polymer shingles took approximately one month to install.

Then, Côté integrated 450 square feet of solar slates into the south roof where sun exposure is greatest. The 5-kilowatt solar photovoltaic installation blends almost seamlessly with the remainder of the roof. No flashing or connecting element is necessary between the polymer and solar shingles because the solar shingles fill the entire roof plane in the areas where they are installed; a natural divider, such as a hip, makes connecting the roofing types unnecessary.

Although the 15-inch solar slates have a slightly different exposure than the polymer slates, Côté notes the solar area has a gentler slope (6:12) than the rest of the roof (8:12), so the naked eye barely notices the size discrepancy. The south side’s roof system also includes thermal components that are concealed under the solar slates and assist in producing some of the domestic hot-water needs.

One of the biggest challenges Côté encountered was adding two new dormers to the roof and enlarging the existing three. The finished home has five tightly spaced dormers, all of which have three windows; Côté exercised creativity so they wouldn’t appear crowded. “The nice thing about the roof is it dramatically changes the curb appeal,” he notes.

The Beach House before its remodel.

The Beach House before its remodel.

Smart Design

Through The Beach House’s retrofit, Côté demonstrates thoughtful design actually can allow a house to be downsized while still feeling spacious. Originally 1,840 square feet, the house at completion measured 1,780 square feet. Design features include an open floor plan with the kitchen, dining and family/ lounge area on the main floor. Floorto- ceiling glass doors open to views of the waterfront, and the outdoor living space is accented with a wide patio and gas fire bowl. The home’s first level also includes a wet bar that expands outside, a mudroom and half bath. Upstairs, a master suite, which also has expansive views of the waterfront, features a twosided gas fireplace and a free-standing Japanese-style soaking tub. Two other bedrooms, one bathroom and laundry facilities complete the second floor.

Côté reused quite a few materials to create visual elements within The Beach House. For example, he crafted kitchen cabinets from reclaimed tongue-and-groove sheathing from the home’s original roof and attic floors. Wood from a recently disassembled 200-year-old local barn was used to make custom, built-in closets and cabinetry, a bar, three bathroom vanities, tub surround and structural exposed beams.

With a HERS rating of 30, The Beach House is more than three times as efficient and costs about one-third as much as a conventional home of similar size to operate. Côté attributes this in part to the well-designed roof system.

PHOTOS: Sylvain Côté, Absolute Green Homes Inc.

Roof Materials

Polymer slate roof: Bellaforte synthetic roofing tiles from DaVinci Roofscapes
Foil-faced rigid board: Tuff-R from Dow Building Solutions
Underlayment: Peel & Seal, MFM Building Products
Solar tiles and thermal components: Sunslates from Atlantis Energy Systems
White board trim fascia: Kleer from The Tapco Group

About Elyse Cooper

Elyse Cooper has been writing about the design and construction industry for eight years, authoring articles for various nationally circulated trade publications.

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