Trial by hurricane: Waterside house weathers Sandy with trim intact

December 05, 2013

As waves edged closer to his lawn, the owner of a new home overlooking the bay knew he was in for an once-in-a-lifetime storm.

The place: Long Island, about 80 miles east of Manhattan. The time: October 2012, at the height of Hurricane Sandy's fury. Completed just three weeks earlier, the beachfront house was standing up to the toughest weather challenge it might ever face.
 
By the time Sandy finally ran out of steam, 12 hours of high winds and lashing rain had destroyed or badly damaged thousands of Long Island homes. Post-evacuation, the beachfront house's owner returned for an anxious look around. 
 
He had watched the 8,000-square-foot structure rise during the previous 18 months, and the finished product lived up to his vision—a traditional eastern Long Island showcase, set off by lavish stretches of painstakingly crafted white trim. How much of that distinctive gingerbread did the storm carry away?
 
The damage he braced for never materialized. Every window surround, corbel, railing, and stick of moulding was still firmly in place. The decorative elements, just like the structure of the house itself, had simply shrugged off the “storm of the century.”
 
"Proof of Longevity"
 
John Seifert of Seifert Construction, Mattituck, N.Y., the company that built the house, recently shared his side of the story.
 
"Some of the homes in the neighborhood took weeks or months to get back in shape," he said. "But all we had to do was power wash the salt and seaweed away. Forty-eight hours after the storm, this house looked like nothing had ever happened. The trim was one of the elements we were especially proud of, and now we could see that it had been worth the effort. It was like a proof of longevity. "
 
Family owned and operated, Seifert Construction has specialized in high-end custom construction and renovation for 15 years. Brothers John and Fred Seifert carry on a tradition passed down from their grandfather, who launched the company in Rockaway, Queens, in 1945. They've built more than 40 homes on eastern Long Island since 2001. 
 
John sums up the trim's weather resistance in three letters: P, V, and C. "When I first saw the property, and its proximity to the water, I knew PVC was the only material I could use and be confident that it would stand up to the harsh coastal environment." 
 
He said the location, size, and design of the home all combined to make it a challenging assignment. "Due to their nearness to the beach and the lack of trees for protection, these homes take a beating from the elements," John said. "Where exterior wood has been specified, they need year-round maintenance."
 
His client wanted traditional Long Island coastal architecture, including cedar shingles and 19th-century-style trim. In discussions with the client and the architect—Mark Schwartz & Associates of Cutchogue, N.Y.—John and Fred explained that high-density PVC trim could replicate the look and feel of wood while requiring only minimal care. Impervious to moisture, PVC can't rot—a decisive advantage for waterside homes. And it's easy to cut, thermoform, laminate, and fasten, so executing complex architectural details would present no problems. “It was the perfect material for this application,” John said.
 

 
Forming, Fastening, and Functionality
 
Working with stock manufactured by Versatex Trimboard in Pittsburgh and supplied by a local distributor, the Seifert team laminated, milled, and heat-formed dozens of complex, custom PVC shapes to match the architect's specifications. To facilitate production of large components such as the house's distinctive "eyebrow" window trim, a specially designed 24-foot-long oven set up at the site kept trim stock at the ideal thermoforming temperature.
 
In anticipation of an event such as Hurricane Sandy, the builders secured the trim to the house with FastenMaster Cortex concealed screw-and-plug fasteners. "Despite high winds and the fact that the house is less than 100 steps from the water, the combination of Versatex PVC and Cortex fasteners held up perfectly," John said. "I'm convinced that the trim will outlast the original owners." 
 
"I don't normally ramble on about form and function," he continued, "but I'm a third-generation builder, from a long line of traditionalists. And I've learned that there's a time and a place for wood, and a time and a place for modern materials like PVC. 
 
"For one thing, we just can't get the quality of natural materials that my grandfather used to build with. For another, we're confident that, with PVC, we're not going to have customer callbacks, no matter what the weather does. In this part of the world, it's the right material for exterior trim.
 
"Until recently, the options were limited; early PVCs and vinyls didn't look right or perform right. But, just in time, companies like Versatex have perfected a trim material that will endure, that's workable, and, as we've just seen, lets us achieve that premium, eastern Long Island result. It's a great product, and we plan to keep on using it."
 
About Versatex Trimboard
Versatex Trimboard focuses on innovative market leadership in quickly bringing cellular PVC trim solutions to builders and contractors. Its management team combines more than 80 years of experience in the PVC building products industry. Versatex products include trimboards, sheet, cornerboards, T&G beaded profiles, moulding profiles, a soffit system, and the Stealth Trim System, all manufactured at the highest level of quality and covered by a fully transferable 30-year limited warranty.
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