An Extraordinary Home on the Water

With pristine inland lakes at every turn, Grand Traverse County is revered for its beautiful blue waters, abundant farms, and trendy Traverse City. It’s a haven for waterfront living and where Mark and Cathy Ritola found 30 acres along Bellows Lake to call home.

Tucked off the main road, the 4,585-square-foot home with three bedrooms and three and a half baths is not only exquisitely crafted but also designed to perform. Ryan McCoon, president of Traverse City-based Endura Performance Homes, explains how beauty goes well beyond skin deep in this Home Builders Association Grand Traverse Area – Parade of Homes Judges Choice Overall Award winner.

“When people build a home, they are making the largest investment of their lives, and they should know what it will cost to live there,” says McCoon. “We spend more time looking at the cost to own and operate a vehicle than we do a home. Understanding what it will cost to operate a home can save tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the home.”

The Ritola home is 50 percent more energy efficient than a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index reference home rated at 100. A HERS score compares the performance results of new builds to the performance results of the same size home built to code – the bare minimum needed to pass inspections.

The HERS scale measures air leaks in the building envelope – the physical separator between the interior and exterior of a home, including the foundation. It also measures the air leakage in heating and cooling ducts and the effectiveness of wall and ceiling insulation. Fewer leaks mean a lower HERS score and reduced energy bills for the homeowner. Homes built in the late 20th century may register at 150 or higher. Standard new homes built just ten years ago typically register at 100.

To obtain a HERS rating of 50 for the Ritola home, McCoon’s team focused intensely on the thermal building envelope – including the use of a precast insulated foundation and heavy insulated and sealed above-grade exterior walls and ceiling. Simply stated, building beyond code with specialized materials and unique techniques separates this home from a typical code-built home and saves energy.

“We use an insulated precast foundation that slows down the heat sink process,” explains McCoon. “A typical concrete poured foundation constantly pulls heat out of your home. It’s a like a Styrofoam cup of coffee – in ten minutes, it’s room temp and cold. What we build is a Thermos bottle.”

Additional energy-efficient features include LED lighting throughout the home and energy recovery ventilation (ERV) that exchanges the energy contained in exhausted air to pretreat the incoming air. It’s a system of continuous renewal of fresh air without losing significant heating or cooling in the process. The modulating natural gas furnace with MERV 11 filtration reduces energy consumption and significantly improves indoor air quality. For exterior durability, McCoon used LP SmartSide engineered wood siding with contrasting claddings for visual appeal and CertainTeed Landmark ® Pro shingles, both with 50-year warranties. “The other part of building a good home is that it should last 100 to 200 years,” notes McCoon.

For the Ritolas, finding a capable builder they would enjoy working with was at the top of their list. “We had interviewed four or five builders,” explained Mark, “and honestly, when Cathy told me Ryan was a green builder, I thought, ‘oh man, what’s this all about?’” Both were impressed with McCoon’s enthusiasm and attention to detail. “We decided to go with a bigger home with a lot of glass. It was very important that we build something energy efficient.”

An open floor plan with the master suite on the main floor was a must-have in this Craftsman-inspired home. “There will be a lot of entertaining with the family grandbabies,” says Cathy. “All three of our kids are close, and grandkids are close.”

The cathedral ceilings and sweeping views of the woods and private lake from the main level and master suite allow the Ritolas to fully experience the beauty and serenity of lake living through every Pella window. The covered deck with its unique tongue and groove pine ceiling masterfully gives the illusion of an arch.

Engineered hickory wood flooring throughout the main floor holds up well against three grandsons, their toy trucks, and the family dog. McCoon prefers it over solid hardwood flooring for its ability to handle the humidity of lake living.

Rain glass accentuates cherry-finished maple cabinetry in the kitchen, pairing artistically with the rain glass of the pantry door. Solid granite countertops are used throughout the home, and the special touches of built-ins and a sliding barn door for the half bath blend practicality with style. “We love the walk-in closet, and the laundry is next to the bedroom,” notes Cathy. “It’s like a circle – just beautiful.”

For Mark, who is an avid hunter, the lower level is his man cave, filled with artistic touches and hunting trophies. He says he initially didn’t like the bar top Cathy found years ago in Traverse City until it received a torched wood finish. The steel below the bar and in the backsplash was also artistically treated to attain a unique patina, and the mantels of the two-sided gas fireplace are reclaimed barn beams more than 100 years old. The walk-out patio is equipped with a Coyote grill, cooktop, and drop-in cooler – the perfect outdoor kitchen for entertaining.

Award-winning craftsmanship, superior energy-efficient features, durable exterior components, and the spaciousness of the home, property, and water are exactly what the Ritola family desired for this last of several homes they have built. “This house is our dream come true,” says Mark, adding how truly blessed they feel. “Cathy and I both grew up in Traverse City – it’s very special that we get to share it with our kids and grandkids, and that’s a very big part of this house.”

Endura Performance Homes P.O. Box 5348, Traverse City, 49686 l (231) 218-5810 l EnduraHomes.com