All About Eaves, Quebec Edition

©. Francis Pelletier

A lovely cottage by Yiacouvakis Hamelin Architectes breaks all the rules about roofs.

We don't show big second homes on lakes very often on TreeHugger; we are supposed to be all about sustainable design and there is nothing sustainable about driving to an extra home. But there can be a lot of design, like in this lovely number by Yiacouvakis Hamelin Architectes of Montréal and shown on It raises some interesting design and construction questions.

Interior window on the lake

© Francis PelletierThe architects describe it as...

..the very essence of the cottage. A warm, simple wood dwelling open to nature and a peaceful lake. The house stands on the site of an old family cottage, just steps away from the shores of Lac Plaisant in the Mauricie region. Thanks to its simplicity, restraint and refinement, the project embodies the architect’s attempt to capture the essence of cottage life – a wooden home designed for vacations and enabling true communion with nature.

Window on the lake dining room

© Francis Pelletier

One thing that immediately attracted me was the exposed interior balloon framing; this is very common in older, uninsulated cottages; I did it in my own. In this case, the architects appear to have wrapped an insulated skin around the framing, but I think it works really well. I seriously love the interior; it is modern and bright yet evocative of traditional ways.

Window on the Lake view from loft

© Francis Pelletier

The balloon frame, with its exposed wooden studs and joists painted white, gives the building a unique rhythm of shadow and light.

Window on the Lake exterior

© Francis Pelletier

The exterior is eye-catching as well for its unusual form and use of materials: "The exterior, both roof and walls, is clad entirely in white cedar boards." Normally, on a Canadian cottage, one puts a durable roof, like metal, with a decent overhang that protects the wood on the walls. Here, they have no overhang and put wood on the roof, which is not what they teach us in school.

Window on the Lake closeup of roof

© Francis Pelletier

In the post with the best title I ever wrote, All about eaves, I quoted Martin Holladay of Green Building Advisor, who says every roof needs overhangs.

A house without roof overhangs leaves siding unprotected and vulnerable, like an orphaned lamb released near a pack of wolves. Unprotected walls suffer high rates of water entry, premature failure of any paint or stain, and premature siding failure.
quebec roof

© Dominic Labbe

In Quebec, where this cottage is built, they often have very unusual overhangs on Bell-cast roofs that are very steep to shed the snow, but shallow out at the bottom to increase the overhang, so that snow doesn't pile up at the base of the wall against the house. There is nothing to stop that here.

In really windy and exposed locations, like Maine or Scotland, they designed houses without eaves because of worries that the wind could get under them and rip the roof off, but that isn't a problem for the Quebec house, where "the mature trees standing between house and lake moderate the summer sun and provide a high degree of privacy in boating season."

Window on the Lake exterior from the air

© Francis Pelletier

Of course, there are waterproof membranes now that solve a lot of problems; there are wood treatments today that really preserve well, and that makes the unprotected wood less of a concern. But the architects write that "this is the cottage as an expression of the art of living: a gentle, simple, pure way of life." My idea of a simple way of life at the cottage is low maintenance. I suspect this is a high maintenance wooden wonder.

But I do love that interior....

Window on the Lake with paddle

© Francis Pelletier