Whether or not Tesla’s experiment works, solar shingles and tiles may be the wave of the future. Both traditional and solar roofing manufacturers are pursing this approach. CertainTeed, for instance, introduced its shingled Apollo II system five years ago. As light as regular asphalt shingles and just as easy to install, each solar shingle or tile mounts directly to the roof, minimizing visual impact. A single shingle produces up to 60 watts of energy.
Depending on how they’re constructed, arches, trusses, and brackets can be structural, partially supportive, or purely decorative
Walk into the ProWood Market workshop in Lilburn just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, and you are immediately hit by the pleasant smell of cedar. The shop, owned by Jerry and Jarmila Walek, makes the kind of hearty architectural millwork rarely seen since the days of the old builders’ catalogs.
While one worker cuts recesses into solid-wood corbels on a mechanical band saw, a team of three fits curved braces into a massive vertical truss using wooden pins called dominos, then tightens everything together under tension. “Everything is made by hand,” says Jerry. “If it’s from timber, we will make it,” including the kind of structural and ornamental millwork that’s often integral to a historical roof.
Walek was born in the Czech Republic and emigrated to the United States about 22 years ago. He started working in construction almost immediately, ultimately working for large residential real-estate developers. Realizing the demand for customized exterior and interior architectural trim was outstripping the ability of the market to produce it, he launched a business aimed at supplying contractors directly.
That was right before the crash in 2008. The number of workers in the shop shrank from 100 to 25, and Walek retooled, rebranding the business to serve both retail and internet orders as well as contractors. Since 2012, the business has almost doubled in size annually, supplying brackets, rafter tails, braces, gable trusses, crown moulding, and columns as well as custom work to thousands of customers.
Most of the designs in ProWood’s ever-growing online catalog come from those customers, including developers, contractors, architects—and the owners of historic houses. “People send us their old brackets,” he says. The team breaks down the architectural element into a few parts, then draws and computerizes a facsimile visible in 3-D—which is carried over if the component makes it into the online catalog. “The buyer can see it from every side if they like.”
ProWood Market is especially known for its massive yet graceful gable trusses, which are shaped from as few pieces of solid Western red cedar as possible, then lightly glued and pinned together with dominos up to 3″ long. “We try not to use too much glue. The joint is harder and stronger than the wood itself.”
Trusses can be fully or partially supportive, or more-or-less decorative, depending on how the component is constructed, what fasteners are used, and how the truss is attached to the house. If a projecting roof gable is already supported, for example, not all of the weight will be carried by the bracket or truss.
Given the massive size of some of its components—ProWood has produced trusses more than 30′ wide—it’s worth knowing the company also delivers finished goods direct to your site. “It’s all about quality, value, and experience,” Jerry Walek says. “That’s what
the customer likes.”