A safe, durable and efficient home is an important part of Slow Dwelling. Something that will keep us warm in the winter, cool in the summer and is built to last is important. One of the things we are trying to be mindful of as we make improvements to our home, is how to solve as many problems as we can with each project. Get the biggest bang for our buck. A well-built home should reduce the amount of time we spend on maintenance and make living more enjoyable.
When we purchased our home, the roof was in worse shape then we realized. Since we had to replace it, we tried to think about how many things we could accomplish with that project. We determined we would try to accomplish the following:
- Durable. We wanted to build a roof that would last for as long as this building would be around and even extend the life of the building. And one that wouldn’t need to be fixed or resurfaced. We wanted to reduce the long-term operating costs of the roof. This roof should last another 50 to 75 years.
- Harvesting Rain Water. A lot of rain hits our roof. It is really silly that we have an elaborate and expensive sewer systems that takes perfectly good water away from our home and mixes it with sewer water and has to be treated. Then we get charged to bring tap water back to our site, some of which probably came from our roof anyway. We wanted to harvest as much of the water that falls on our site to stay on our site. It costs the city a lot of money, plus the energy they spend moving water around and it costs us to bring it back. It is something that used to be free, and now we have found a way to pay for it. FREE water is better.
- Reduce the Heat Island Effect. In urban environments there is a problem all of the dark surfaces. As you know, dark colors attract heat. We made sure that our roof was light-colored so it would reduce the amount of heat that is collected, helping keep our neighborhood cooler and keeping everyone’s cooling bills (including ours) lower.
- Support Solar and Renewable Energy Systems. We have two wind turbines and 12 solar panels. We wanted a roof that would be able to more easily support those systems, making it easier to mount and maintain, while minimizing any holes punched through it. Every time there is a penetration, there is an increased chance of a leak. Leaks are bad.
- High Insulation. With whatever new roof we put on, we wanted to make sure that we could insulate it as well as possible. We went back and forth with the option of closed cell foam vs. open cell foam. Green soy foam vs. longer lasting,… There were more opinions out there than there were foam types, I think. We ended up going with a closed cell foam that was not marketed as being environmentally friendly, but was focused on long-lasting and high insulation. We are told now that our ceiling is approximate R-70 insulation value.
We ended up choosing a Butler Low Slope roof option. It should help us accomplish all of our goals listed above, but it was probably too much roof for us. We had commercial installers who were a sub contractor to the sub contractor to our general contractor. So we most certainly over paid for the installation of the roof. If this building is still standing in 50 or 75 years and this roof is still on it, it will probably have been a good investment. If it doesn’t last that long, it was probably not the best choice.
If I had to do it again there are many things I would change:
- I’d make sure that our architect has some knowledge in metal seem roofs. Our architect didn’t have any experience with them and there were lots of problems with the original design, permitting, structural and a few other issues. If we would have had someone with experience we probably could have saved substantial time and money.
- I like the idea of metal seam roof, but it might frankly be too much roof for us. Again, if the building lasts for 50 or more years, it will have been a good investment. I just think about a lot of the building that are her that were built in 1910 or something and how many times they have been re-roofed. Ours only last 13 years and needed to be replaced.
- I would have gotten more involved in the details. Because the architect didn’t know what he didn’t know and I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Looking back, there are some details that were flat wrong that a bit closer look might have solved or reduced the impact. The biggest surprise to me was that they didn’t really have any solution to properly secure the roof to the top of the building. So the builders framer added some metal straps to help it.
As with many things that we do around our home, single solutions that help solve many problems are valuable. And long-lasting solutions are the best kind in my opinion.