The Sheeleigh Project: July/August Update

Work on the Sheeleigh residence was in full gear on my mid-July visit.

Reclaimed stone façade is being set with moisture barriers, such as the black net Mortar Web that wicks water away from the home.

I pulled into the parking lot designated for workers—another LEED accommodation designed to limit the disturbance to the land by cordoning off the work zone. The lot was full, with a variety of craftsmen in attendance that day, each at work on their respective pieces of the grand puzzle.

Once again, builder Greg Porraro gave me the tour. Since my last visit, the cedar-shingle roof had been added, the four two-hundred-feet-deep wells for the geothermal heating had been dug, and the energy-efficient windows had all been placed.

Windows are an important element to consider for Energy Star and LEED building, and also are common retrofits for existing homes that can make a big impact on energy costs. The Sheeleighs’ opted for Marvin Windows with a low-emittance (Low-E) coating on the glass that repels UV rays. The windows are fashioned using a single pane of glass with muntin bars attached. (Prior to the 20th century, the grid, or muntin, was necessary to hold the window’s small panes of glass, now it’s simply a decorative feature.)

The trim and moulding around the doors, windows, and roofline were largely in place. For the trim the builders used Azek, a PVC plastic product that contributes to the home being “virtually maintenance free,” says Porraro. Azek does not rot or peel, is water resistant, and will never need painting. Although the Azek trim doesn’t qualify for any of the LEED-point earning categories, Porraro says its use is in keeping with the overall theme of the project: building practices that are energy efficient and limit waste. To that end, the scrap from the trim and moulding—329 pounds of it—was donated to the art department of the Pingry School in Morristown, where students will use it for sculpture projects.

Sealing out the elements is a high priority for the Sheeleighs’ house, and products that contribute to that goal are used at every opportunity. The home’s lower facing is made of stone reclaimed from local barns and roads. Behind the stone, Porraro’s team is installing Mortar Web, a mesh material that prevents water from becoming trapped in the stone’s mortar. The mesh web directs moisture downward, where it can exit through weep holes—tiny tubes that lead water away from the house.

For the upper exterior of the home, Porraro and the Sheeleighs chose a fiber-cement plank-style siding called HardiePlank. Requiring limited maintenance, the product is flame and weather-resistant and has a 25-year warranty. The materials will be prefinished in Benjamin Moore Pale Yellow offsite, then shipped for installation.

Inside, electrical wires have been run, plumbing and HVAC piping is in place. All the rooms are broom-swept clean daily even as the work proceeds. An elegant pre-assembled staircase made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) lumber was awaiting installation as Porraro ushered me through the empty spaces. Things are moving right along. By my next visit, I’m sure the staircase will be vertical and ready for foot traffic.

Click here to read the previous installment in the LEEDs project series.

Click here to read the first installment in the LEEDs project series.

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