After Devastating Fire, Couple Designs Home with Fire Resistant Roof

For the roof of their new home, the designers selected Inspire Classic Slate by Boral, a durable roofing system offering a Class 4 Impact rating for hail, and a 110-mph wind uplift rating, and a Class A system fire rating. Photos: McKinley & Associates

Their original home in idyllic Stonington, Connecticut, was designed in the Arts and Crafts style and was a place of fond memories and milestones for the family of four. Architect Michael McKinley, owner of McKinley & Associates, designed the home about 25 years ago specifically for his family. But a few years ago, on a very dry and windy afternoon in March while he was home with one of his two daughters, the house was ravaged in a fire.

“It didn’t sound so much like a fire, but instead like a bunch of squirrels running across the roof,” said McKinley.

Unfortunately, the sound wasn’t squirrels. The fire tore into the roof, destroying it as well as the whole second floor of the home. Extensive water damage plagued the ground level as a result. Luckily, nobody was harmed. But the fire completely uprooted the family — who immediately relocated into a rental — and set the couple into motion.

Sustainability was a key focus of the design. The home features a geothermal system and rooftop solar power.

Michael, along with wife Kathy, an interiors expert who also works for the firm, ultimately set out to rebuild; however, they decided not to build a replica of the first home. The couple instead forged a completely different design direction, ultimately deciding on another aesthetic altogether while addressing a responsibility to build more sustainably and with fire safety top-of-mind.

As was the case with the McKinley’s first home, fire can erupt on the roof when embers hit the surface and one or more ignite. When trees and brush pair with fire and wind, the dangerous concoction enables the embers to blow onto the roof.

The McKinleys knew the roof material chosen would be incredibly important in reducing the risk that future embers could ignite the surface. For their new abode, the designers selected Inspire Classic Slate by Boral, a durable roofing system which mimics the beauty of natural slate and that integrates cutting-edge environmentally conscious technology. The roof is resilient to harsh weather conditions, offering a Class 4 Impact rating for hail and a 110-mph wind uplift rating. Perhaps most important to the family, the Classic Slate provides a Class A system Fire rating, the industry’s highest.

The Roof Installation

JSD Home Improvements of Waterford, Connecticut, was contracted to install the roof. “The family had already decided to use a material with a high fire rating,” says Jeff Dennison, owner and installer with JSD Home Improvements. “Hail can also occur anytime where this home is located. They considered standing seam metal roofing, but ultimately went with the Classic Slate, not only because of the performance benefits, but because it gives the look of Vermont slate, which better complemented the architecture and look of the home.”

Moving away from the Arts and Crafts genre of the damaged home, the couple instead designed their new abode to pay homage to the region’s historic 200-year-old farm heritage. Evoking a modern rendition of the traditional farmhouse, the home integrates the gabled roof concept. The roofscape features multiple gables and pitches.

“A mix of Olive, Ash Grey, Evergreen and Red Rock hues were combined to create an authentic look,” adds Dennison. “The trick during installation was to take two of the colors and use them as accents, weaving them into the other three colors. We had to stand back numerous times to get the visual right and make sure the accent colors stood out.”

In all, it took Dennison and two other team members eight days to complete the roof. No real challenges interrupted them, with the exception of a couple of rainy days.

“This roof material is extremely durable, strong, and easy to work with,” Dennison adds. “Working with Bob Wood Construction on this project was also great. They are a general contractor known for orchestrating a jobsite well and keeping everything moving.”

The roof adorns a home designed by the McKinleys to protect the environment while functioning well. The McKinley’s daughters, now in their early twenties, have left to pursue their own paths, and the new home is much smaller than the original at 3,200 square feet, yet still encourages regular visits and stays. At four bedrooms and three baths, the home’s functionality is also improved as compared to the last home, with many spaces designed to be multifunctional. Michael notes that in the decades since designing the family’s first home, his skills have been refined. “I’ve become a lot more creative with designing smaller spaces that are more efficient,” he says. “This is a key part of the new home’s sustainability story.”

Eco-friendly it is. The home features large windows, making use of abundant natural sunlight, and incorporates radiant floor heating. Closed cell spray polyurethane foam insulates the home, ensuring a dramatic reduction in energy usage. The home also makes use of a geothermal system and solar power.

Waldo Renewable, an Old Lyme, Connecticut-based electrical contractor specializing in solar system design and installation, led the photovoltaic install. The 6.4 kW grid-tied rooftop system includes 20 LG 320 solar panels and SolarEdge 7600H with a DC optimizer. The Waldo Renewable team utilized flashing for a seamless installation with the Inspire Classic Slate.

The McKinleys designed one additional intuitive feature into their roof. An elaborate drainage system collects water from the roof and stores it underground in a cistern for use in the garden where Kathy grows vegetables.

Michael and Kathy McKinley created an incredible new home. The combined materials and systems ensure optimized performance and return on investment for the long term, with fire safety to boot. And one glance at the home proves curb appeal wasn’t sacrificed for that performance. The home is ultimately a testament to the meaningful material and construction advances of the past two decades.

“We are 25 years into the future,” says Michael, speaking of his home’s vast improvements over the last one. “No matter how well you did it then, it’s not the same. All the factors have changed.”

About the Author: Rick Hackett is product manager with Boral Roofing, a leading provider of durable and energy-efficient new and retrofit roofing solutions. He can be reached via email at Rick.Hackett@boral.com. For more information about Boral Roofing, visit www.BoralRoof.com.

TEAM

Roofing Contractor: JSD Home Improvements, Waterford, Connecticut

Solar Contractor: Waldo Renewable, Old Lyme, Connecticut, www.waldorenewable.com

MATERIALS

Roof System: Inspire Classic Slate, Boral Roofing, www.boralroof.com

Solar System: 20 LG 320 solar panels, www.lg.com/us, and SolarEdge 7600H, www.solaredge.com/us

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