Horsepower Has a New Meaning on Historic Roofing Project

Mackinac Island’s historic Chippewa Hotel was built in 1902. Its existing 13,000 square-foot roof was covered with a PVC roof system manufactured by IB Roof. Photos: IB Roof

Mackinac Island, Michigan, is a community that takes you back to the older, golden days of the past. There are no vehicles allowed on the island so visitors and residents must use horse-drawn carriages, walk or ride bicycles to get where they want to go. The only access to the island is via a ferry and that shuts down in the winter when ice forms in the channel.

With no vehicles and limited access to the island, imagine how challenging it would be to re-roof one of the island’s waterfront hotels — not to mention doing it as winter was right around the corner. That is the challenge that Traverse City, Michigan-based Bloxsom Roofing took on when they were hired to re-roof the Chippewa Hotel.

The historic hotel was built in 1902 and had several renovations over the years. Its existing 13,000 square-foot EPDM roof was failing, and the owners called Craig Bloxsom at Bloxsom Roofing for assistance. “We received a call in the fall of 2018 asking us to look at the project, but it was too late in the year and we didn’t have resources available to take on the work,” explains Bloxsom. “They called back after the first of the year because they still had not had their roof looked at and they wanted a price for re-roofing it.”

It was mid-March when Bloxsom visited the island. With ferry service unavailable due to ice, he had to take a small plane to get there. He was met at the airport by a horse and carriage that took him to the hotel.

No motorized vehicles are allowed on the island, so materials were transported by ferry and delivered to the jobsite using a team of horses.

His first impression when he saw the jobsite was not good. He noted that AT&T had two transmission towers that were non-penetrating, but each took up a 12-foot-by-12-foot area and had a large trunk line running across the roof between the towers. There were also two very large HVAC units along with two shed-like structures in the center of the roof that each had a 10-foot-by-10-foot footprint. This left Bloxsom wondering how they were going to get underneath the structures. “You couldn’t go more than three or four feet in any direction without there being some penetration,” he says.

Beyond the penetration challenges, Bloxsom was worried about logistics. The roof was 50 feet high, and with no vehicles allowed on the island and restrictions on other equipment, he wondered how he would be able to get the materials and equipment onto the roof.

After inspecting the existing EPDM membrane that was fully adhered over cover board, Bloxsom determined that he would be able to leave it in place, eliminating the challenge of removing the old roof and getting it off the island. Wanting to make sure that the new roof would provide strong protection from the elements and from all of the inevitable roof traffic, Bloxsom recommended an IB Roof 80-mil PVC Fleeceback system that would be mechanically attached over the existing roof. Because the roof was vented, with open air space underneath, there was no need for insulation.

Bloxsom said that in addition to IB Roof’s strong track record of performance, another reason he thought that the IB Roof PVC membrane was more ideal for the job is because it comes in 6-foot-wide rolls. “Most manufacturers have 10 or 12-foot rolls and between having to lift the rolls to the roof height and all the penetrations on the roof, the six-foot rolls would be much easier for my crew to work with,” explains Bloxsom.

Numerous penetrations and multiple HVAC units made the roof installation a challenge.

The owner liked the proposal and hired Bloxsom Roofing to perform the work. With work set to begin in November, Bloxsom began the challenge of figuring out the logistics of the project. The property owner was able to find an apartment for the crew that was located just across the street. “It was kind of like a bunkhouse for our guys,” Bloxsom notes. “It had a kitchen for them to make food since most of the restaurants on the island were closed for the season. I became a shopper, making weekly trips to the island to deliver food and supplies for them.”

Now that the crew had quarters, Bloxsom needed to worry about how to get the equipment and materials to the island and up onto the roof. He found a company that was dedicated to getting freight over to the island and they were able to ship the job trailer to the island and leave it parked at their dock. The membrane and job materials were transported to the hotel by a team of horses.

The property owner had a Skytrak lift that would go as high as 80 feet, so crews were able to use it for much of the roof loading, but the lift wouldn’t be able to handle the weight of the membrane rolls and the generator. Fortunately, there was one crane on the island, and they were able to arrange to use it to get the membrane and the generator loaded onto the roof.

Once the job began it was not all smooth sailing. The crews discovered that someone had cut a sort of trench into the roof to direct water at either end where two large scuppers were located. “Every direction you turned there seemed to be a challenge,” says Bloxsom. “The trenches were 3 to 4 feet deep, 10 inches wide and about 12 feet long. We ended up removing the scuppers and installing roof drains.”

Getting underneath the HVAC units and shed-like structures was challenging for the crew as well. “We found that the HVAC units had roof curbs, so we were able to drill through the curbs and raise the units using floor jacks,” explains Bloxsom.

Cold weather comes early in northern Michigan and there were a few days of sub-zero temperatures not to mention the 10-inches of snow that fell the week before they were set to finish. Fortunately, the crews had installed a good portion of the roof before the snow and were able to shovel the snow over to the finished parts in order to complete the installation.

The Chippewa Hotel is now watertight, with a brand-new roof backed by a 15-year IB Roof Total System Warranty.

TEAM

Roofing Contractor: Bloxsom Roofing, Traverse City, Michigan, www.bloxsomroofing.com

MATERIALS

Low-Slope Roof System: 80-mil PVC Fleeceback, IB Roof, www.IBroof.com

Tips From RT3 Contractor Members to Keep Business Flowing

After their jurisdiction mandated the use of hand washing stations on the jobsite, KPost Roofing & Waterproofing could not find a retailer with any in stock. The company manufactured their own units by adding spigots to brand-new 55-gallon plastic barrels. Photo: KPost Roofing & Waterproofing

It was mid-March when we had the first inkling that the coronavirus pandemic was going to leave a serious impact on business as we know it. Members of the Roofing Technology Think Tank (RT3) board began talking on Friday, March 13, 2020 about what no one else was: the state of the roofing industry and how we can run our roofing businesses safely in the midst of this pandemic.

We decided to quickly organize a webinar for the roofing industry to share information, tools and resources that would help roofing business owners with their everyday operations. We had no idea what the response would be when we announced on Monday, March 16, that we were hosting this special webinar two days later. More than 500 people registered to attend and nearly 400 were on the webinar live. Since posting the first recording on the RT3 YouTube channel, it’s been viewed 500 times. Our organization subsequently held two additional webinars that were also very well received.

Leading Calmly and Confidently

In the first webinar, Ken Kelly of Naples, Florida-based Kelly Roofing said as a leader in your company, communication is key now. “If you’re communicating with your team early and often, everyone is going to be on the same page,” says Kelly. “Right now, there is a lot of uncertainty so there is a lot of fear. I don’t think we should let fear enter into our decision making, and you certainly don’t want to let fear be driving or preoccupying your employees.”

At Kelly Roofing, the company designated an employee to spend the entire day cleaning vehicles, offices, surfaces, door handles, bathrooms and light switches. He also reminds employees to maintain at least 6 feet of separation. Photo: Kelly Roofing

Dallas, Texas-based KPost Roofing & Waterproofing Company’s President and Head Coach Steve Little echoed Kelly’s thoughts. “Be calm. We have to make good decisions, not hasty decisions. We have to make decisions based on long-term and what is best for our company, our employees, our customers and our families.”

“So goes the leader, so goes the company,” says Kelly. He reminds us that it’s important to look at how you are acting around the office. Ask yourself if you are portraying someone who is knowledgeable and educating themselves on the issues. Are you being seen in the office? If your company is working from home, you can still be seen by your team, notes Kelly. There are many great virtual meeting tools from a variety of providers, some of which are free.

Little believes that companies should try to have employees continue to participate in the normal cycle of business. “If you have sales meetings on Monday and project management meetings on Wednesday and your operations meeting on a Friday, do your best to maintain a routine,” he says. “Your employees are looking to you to try to maintain some kind of continuity in what they are doing.”

Policies and Plans

Kelly likened some of the actions his company is implementing to those taken when his area is expecting a hurricane — the reason that he has taken his entire business into the cloud. He also recommends some simple things that you can implement, including making sure adequate supplies are on hand. “Things like if the gas tank in your vehicle gets anywhere near half, just go ahead and fill it up because you don’t know when society is going to decide to put something crazy on social media about gas and then everyone is going to make a run on gas stations.”

Little believes that a crisis plan and policies are must haves for your roofing business. “I’ve had the great fortune of collaborating with some really great people in the industry and sharing information,” he says. “I challenge you to do the same thing. Create a peer group that you can collaborate with and share best practices.”

He recommends turning to your industry associations for support and information as well. These groups have been working hard to assist contractors and are making sure that roofing is included in the essential business category everywhere they can.

Getting Creative to Meet Requirements

Kelly notes that he repurposed an employee whose role was to organize inventory in the shop and made him a full-time cleaner. “He spends the entire day cleaning vehicles, offices, surfaces, door handles, bathrooms and light switches. He is also our distance police, reminding anyone with less than 6 feet of separation to move apart.”

Little’s team has had to come up with some creative solutions as well after their jurisdiction mandated that handwashing stations be available on every jobsite. The company tried to order some but found that not only were they expensive — coming in at close to $1,000 each — but most places were out of inventory. So, his team got creative, ordering new 55-gallon plastic barrels and attaching spigots to dispense the water. Little shared that each station cost the company just under $100 each to make, including labor.

Cash Flow and No-Contact Selling

Cash is important during this time as well. Kelly says that now is the time to look at your payables and receivables. Prioritize them to maximize your cash flow. “We have two things to focus on right now,” explains Kelly. “Number one is let’s make sure we stay safe and that everyone understands our mission. Number two is we are going to make sure we are collecting cash on any job that we do have open. While we can work, let’s get them finished and into receivables.”

Little points out that you also need to change your sales strategy. “Business as we know it is no longer going to be that way and not just from this crisis. But I think what is going to happen is that the transition between the baby boomers and the next generation — this is going to accelerate that. People are going to see that we can conduct commerce without having to be in front of people,” says Little. “We can conduct business virtually. As you know business today, how commerce is done, it will change. And if you don’t change with it, it will leave you in the dust.”

Kelly shares that one of questions he is asked the most by other contractors is how to take your phones into the cloud using voice over Internet protocol (VOIP). “You can fire up any of these voice services — we happen to use Microsoft Teams — and you can then forward your main number through your phone company into the cloud account. You can either do it round-robin style where it rings one person, and if they don’t answer it will ring the next and so on. Or you could set it up that it rings everyone at once,” explains Kelly.

Employee and Client Communications

Your employees and your customers are spending a lot more time on social media, using streaming services, looking up information on the Internet and staying connected with friends and family. Reach your customers and your employees where they are right now by ensuring that you are active on your social media with the right messaging.

“Now is the time to be on social media,” says Little. “Not just for your clients but it’s time to get on social media to bring peace and solitude to your employees and their families.”

It’s more critical than ever to communicate with your customers that you are open, that you are following The Centers for Disease Control recommendations and OSHA guidelines for operating safely and maintaining social distancing on jobsites. It is important that they know roofing is an essential business in just about all areas of the country and that you can repair or replace a roof with no contact during transactions.

Accessing Shared Resources

For more information from Ken Kelly, Steve Little, and other members of RT3, visit the RT3 YouTube channel, where you can watch all three of the special webinars and benefit from the wealth of information that was shared, including sales and marketing and legal implications. A link to the resource documents shared by the participants is available in the video description.

About the author: Karen L. Edwards is the director of the Roofing Technology Think Tank (RT3), editor at RoofersCoffeeShop, and a freelance writer and marketing consultant for the roofing industry.

Fighting the Labor Shortage Means Developing a Dedicated Recruiting Program

Reaching out to local schools and colleges can be a great way for contractors to find prospective employees. Baker Roofing sponsors Shed Day, an event in which trade school students build sheds that are auctioned off. Photos: Baker Roofing

The roofing industry and the trades in general are facing a labor shortage of epic proportions and it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. When the recession of 2008 hit, the construction industry lost 600,000 jobs. According to GlobeSt.com, a recent report from the Associated General Contractors of America shows that 79 percent of construction companies want to hire more employees this year, but the industry is only estimated to grow its workforce by 0.5 percent annually for the next 10 years. This means competition for workers is fierce.

Baker Roofing, headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, has implemented an aggressive program to recruit the labor they need. According to Brendan Hale, regional operations officer and former director of career development and recruiting, the company had to shift its approach to recruiting. “We used to only advertise when we had open positions,” explains Hale. That method turned out to be challenging, and they recognized that they needed to try something different. Like a sales pipeline, they realized they needed to create a hiring pipeline in order to have a pool of candidates in the funnel when positions opened.

To build that pipeline, the company increased its online activities. “We’ve got a heavy presence online through social media, staying on top of the latest trends,” says Hale. “We are on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Snapchat with the goal of publishing content that could be of interest to younger people.”

Baker Roofing maintains a strong presence on job boards too, with hiring ads rolling throughout the country to create awareness of their company and the opportunities. The company also relies heavily on word-of-mouth referrals from current employees, friends and family. “People choose to come here because they have confidence in the types of people who work here,” states Hale.

Partnering With Local Schools and Colleges

“We do a lot of outreach with local high schools, especially in Raleigh,” explains Hale. “We sponsor Shed Day where all throughout the state, the trade classes build these sheds that they auction off and our head of recruiting is on the board. We donate time, materials, and money and talk to the kids broadly about construction but more specifically about a career at Baker Roofing.”

Baker Roofing donates time and materials, and its employees help educate students about construction, the roofing industry and career opportunities at the company. Photos: Baker Roofing

Hale notes the company tries to have a corporate presence throughout the schools in their service areas and assists the local offices with building the relationships when they can. “We’re a big company with 22 offices. Right now, we’ve got a presence in the high schools in Charleston, South Carolina; Raleigh, North Carolina; Asheville, North Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia. Every year we try to grow that a little bit with the staff that we have and the resources we have.”

Baker Roofing is a big believer in internships for college students. The company hires interns throughout the company in accounting, recruiting, construction management and estimating. The students work for Baker Roofing over school breaks, and the company has programs in place so that they possibly can be hired full time.

“We are a growing company and we know that people are your most precious resource; if they spent the time with us and we feel they have the right cultural expectations, morals and ethics, we can typically find a spot for them here,” says Hale.

Veterans Are a Resource

Baker Roofing has also turned to the pool of veterans who are looking for work after leaving the service and reserves. “We have a large number of our employees who are veterans,” Hale says. “We have a registered apprenticeship program, so we try to appeal to veterans where they can get started with us, learn the industry from the ground up and utilize their GI Bill benefits.”

When Baker Roofing hires veterans and places them into the registered apprenticeship program, the veterans can receive money from their GI benefits in addition to the paycheck that they are receiving as a Baker Roofing employee. “As they are getting promotions and moving up within the company, the GI benefit begins to taper off. By the time they complete the three-year program, the idea is that they would be on their feet in a stable and long-term position,” explains Hale.

Starting a Strong Recruitment Program

Hale says it’s tough to share advice on how to start and build a strong recruitment program because there isn’t one simple answer. “For smaller contractors, it’s going to be harder. There isn’t a silver bullet out there that will solve all the problems,” says Hale. “It takes a variety of strategies. For a smaller contractor who may have a smaller team, it’s difficult to assign these kinds of tasks to someone who already has a full-time job doing something else.”

Baker Roofing has hired a number of veterans, who can start a registered apprenticeship program while also receiving a paycheck as a Baker Roofing employee. Photos: Baker Roofing

A full-time recruiter is ideal, according to Hale. “Ideally if a company has the capability, they need a champion who does this, and it needs to be their full-time focus. In order to sustain it someone has to constantly be working on it and thinking about it,” he says.

Benefits are important, too. Hale says that Baker Roofing employees have access to company benefits including health insurance, dental, vision, short-term and long-term disability, a 401(k) that offers a match. They also offer a clear guide for employees, so they understand what it takes to advance within their career, and they understand what the opportunities are within the company.

If contractors don’t have the manpower or resources to do it on their own, it’s possible to get involved with the many other organizations who are already looking at recruiting into the trades. SkillsUSA and Keep Craft Alive are two initiatives that may offer an opportunity for a roofing contractor or someone on the team to volunteer and help introduce the youth involved to the idea of a career in roofing.

Another area to think about tapping into for recruiting is the female workforce. There is a small percentage of women in the roofing industry overall, and the National Women in Roofing (NWIR) wants to change that. NWIR recently surpassed 1,200 members, and one of the organization’s efforts is the recruitment of women into the industry. NWIR is exploring initiatives that partner with organizations serving women in crisis to help those women get back on their feet and show them what a career in roofing could be like for them.

About the author: Karen L. Edwards is a marketing consultant for the roofing industry and director at the Roofing Technology Think Tank (RT3). For more information about the Roofing Technology Think Tank, visit www.rt3thinktank.com.