Mountaintop Home
Upper Saucon Township, PA, USA

Project Details

Blair Custom Homes of Bethlehem, Penn
Upper Saucon Township, PA, USA

The contours of the land around this 8,800 sq. ft. mountaintop home in eastern Pennsylvania’s Upper Saucon Township were an integral factor in its impressive design. Sixty miles north of Philadelphia, this affluent community is set in the rugged and scenic terrain of the Lehigh Valley, steeped in tradition and history that dates to the early 1700s.

Sitting on three acres, the home features an angular floor plan, bending to fit the shape of the land. The rear of the home offers a dramatic drop-off and panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. “It’s a completely unique design that also brings in a lot of crossover style. The home has a bit of European influence, but also a very contemporary look with the main gable,” says the home’s designer, Chuck Harrison, AIBD and VP Architectural at design-build firm Blair Custom Homes of Bethlehem, Penn.

All the rooms on the first floor, including the kitchen, breakfast area, family room and study, and most of the second floor, face the scenic vistas at the back of the house. The walkout basement, adding another 3,500 sq. ft., also leads to the picturesque view.

Building incredible first impressions

“I anchored the home’s aesthetics through the large gable that runs from the entryway through the back of the house. The roof is an integral part of the first impression as a person drives up,” says Harrison.

The soaring gable, along with several other gables and hipped sections that make up the roofline, feature InSpire™ Roofing Products’ composite slate, manufactured by The Tapco Group™. The deeply textured tiles complement other exterior materials of stone veneer, stucco, cedar posts and PVC trim. Since the homeowners wanted a traditional slate look, Pewter Grey was the color chosen for the roof. Pewter is one of four shades of grey InSpire provides in a comprehensive 25-color palette of traditional, vibrant and unique blended colors.

Having worked with both natural slate and composite slate in the past, John Blair, President of Blair Custom Homes, says the degree of InSpire’s authenticity is impressive. “I’d be hard-pressed to bring a lot of people by that house and have them know the difference from real slate as they looked at it from the street. They’ve done a great job with its authenticity.” “The look is absolutely amazing,” adds Harrison. “There have been people that pulled up to the jobsite and made comments thinking it was actually real slate. I’ve had that happen several times. They’ll say ‘wow, that slate roof must have been really expensive.’”

The true-to-life realism of InSpire is achieved by using various molds cast from natural slate, producing richly-detailed edges and surfacing. The tiles are crafted from compression-molded limestone and virgin resins. InSpire’s technologically- advanced materials and processing result in a Class A fire rating and a limited lifetime warranty. Unlike slate, the tiles won’t delaminate, lift or break, and they stand up to harsh conditions such as sea-spray and wind-driven rain.

Timeless style for today’s homeowners

While America’s first commercial slate mine was actually operated in eastern Pennsylvania, slate’s reign as the most expensive roofing material makes it cost-prohibitive for many, even in the historical northeast. Blair Custom Homes is noticing an increase in client demand for composite slate.

“Slate has become a boutique item, not just because of the expense with the material, but also because of the structure itself that you have to prepare for with slate,” Harrison explains. While InSpire weighs just a fraction of natural slate, it can be installed five times as fast while yielding five times less waste.

“InSpire is a great alternative because it achieves the look you’re trying to get with these projects,” notes Harrison. “It offers very clean roof lines, but also a warm, charming look. We’re in this indigenous area with a lot of tradition around us, and it’s just a perfect fit for that.”

Beauty backed by innovation

Before it began using InSpire, Blair Custom Homes literally experienced mixed results with other composite roofing - it showed unsightly patches of color. “Since then we’ve learned a lot, about the quality of the material, what’s key and what to look for,” Harrison says. “InSpire’s innovation influenced the product decision very much. From the install, to the quality of the product, to the homeowners’ viewpoint, it’s really a good product.”

Efficiency innovations like large nailing guides, alignment tabs and pre-cambering of the tiles did not go unnoticed by the design-build firm.

The pre-cambering delivers cost-savings, while also accounting for downward pressure allowing for InSpire’s 110 mile-per-hour wind uplift rating. “In- Spire is very accessible and incredibly easy to install – that’s one of its biggest benefits,” says Harrison. “And when you get to the caps, they’re all pre-shaped so there’s not a lot of cutting there.”

John Blair offers a simple way of measuring InSpire’s efficiency. “It never crossed my desk,” he says, “which always means it’s a good thing. Installation went very smoothly. We hope to use InSpire again, and I can see it becoming an exclusive product that we would use for clients who want premium roofing.”

In sync with the environment

Sustainability is also a consideration in selecting InSpire. According to Harrison, environmental factors are among the top several reasons to choose it. The tiles contain recycled content and are themselves completely recyclable. “Sustainability is becoming a bigger key in building materials decisions, and I think it’s going to become automatic when it comes to composite roofing,” Harrison says.

Raising the bar

While it’s not unusual for a Blair home to cost millions, John Blair notes that his company’s homes aren’t about price. The design-build firm does everything from renovations to substantial developments. “We could be doing a small project, but everything we do is going to be quality-oriented. I don’t have any problems doing a smaller house, but it’s going to be a well-built smaller house.

“Our attention to detail is second to none. It’s just about raising the bar, that’s the way we do things. We’re focused on serving clients interested in that level of quality,” Blair says.

As the firm works with The Tapco Group, says Harrison, he is appreciative of the quality of the relationship. “It’s been a good experience working with them. The people behind InSpire are very helpful and informative.”

Factors of quality, aesthetics, durability, and providing a great fit for historically influenced homes, are all reasons Harrison offers for planning to specify InSpire again. “InSpire delivers complete distinction. It sets a home apart from those with asphalt or fiberglass roof shingles,” he says.

“It’s just simply the beauty. The homeowners of this project love the roof. Their son happens to be in the building materials business, and even he commented that he was very impressed with it.”

Products and Design Files