Composite Shake on Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage Stands Up to Hurricane Isaias

“We’re out here in front of God and everyone.” That’s how Chris Webb describes the location of Old Baldy Lighthouse and Smith Island Museum of History. Both the lighthouse and keeper’s cottage are completely exposed to the elements.

Accessible only by boat, North Carolina’s oldest standing lighthouse is located on Bald Head Island. Nearby you’ll find a recreation of the original keeper’s cottage. Inside is a museum, gift shop and ticket desk.

Bad Cedar Shakes

The latest keeper’s cottage was built in 2000. It was reconstructed after the original cottage (circa. 1817) burned down several years before that. Less than 15 years after being rebuilt, the curators knew they had a problem with the structure.

“The real cedar shake roofing on the cottage was in very bad condition,” says Chris Webb, executive director of The Old Baldy Foundation. “The structure is located under lots of oak trees. Only part of the roof gets sunlight. The other part always stays damp. That led to the growth of lots of mold and mildew.”

By 2020 the situation was so bad a new roof was needed. So they sent out an SOS — to SOS Roofing.


Composite Roofing to the Rescue

“We needed a roof with longevity, plus an authentic look,” says Webb. “We’re a non-profit organization. We can’t afford to be re-roofing this structure every 15 years.”

Webb reached out to Steven Lyons, owner of SOS Roofing and Construction in Wilmington, North Carolina. Based on his past experiences of using composite shake roofing, Lyons immediately suggested DaVinci Multi-Width Shake. And, while Bald Head Island has strict restrictions on roofing materials, DaVinci products have been previously approved for other projects.

“There are five different variances in the DaVinci Multi-Shake package,” says Lyons. “Most competitive roofing manufacturers only offer three. Having five different sizes of tiles provides a more authentic look to the composite shake roof.”

Lyons also recommended the Nature Crafted Collection for the faux shake roof. The authentic-looking wood tone colors fits naturally in the historic setting.

Rising to the Challenge lighthouse

Deciding on the DaVinci roofing product was the easy part. Installing it during the initial COVID restrictions in March of 2020 proved much more difficult.

“Access to the island is only by ferry,” says Lyons. “Due to capacity issues, there were times we’d wait 3 hours just to get on the island. This resulted in short work days and frustrated workers.

“Ultimately it came down to just myself and another employee installing the roof ourselves. The roof is a 12/12 pitch, which is challenging. I was on rope protection in a harness putting up about 200 square feet a day until the project was finished.”

While a challenge to complete, the roof was in place just before Hurricane Season 2020.

Hurricane Isaias

On August 3, 2020, Hurricane Isaias tore into the North Carolina coast. A high-end Category 1 hurricane, it spawned an EF-1 tornado with maximum winds of 105mph on Bald Head Island.

“The hurricane was definitely worse than anticipated,” says Webb. “Incredibly the new DaVinci roof held up just fine. No tiles came off and not a drop of water inside the keeper’s cottage. We knew it was rated for severe weather and high winds, but we never expected to put it to the test so quickly!

“The old cedar shake roof would never have made it through that storm. We’re so fortunate to have invested in the new composite shake roof at just the right time. I know our DaVinci roof will give us peace-of-mind for many years — and many storms — to come!”