In 1991, two developer/contactors and longtime friends, Red McConnohie and Dale Nelson, began a part-time business to manufacture and distribute structurally sound sub-purlins for installing a new metal roof directly over an existing metal roof. The idea came about because McConnohie owned a lease building that needed its roof to be replaced. After a few design sketches using a factory-notch concept with some ingenuity, the original Hugger sub-purlin came alive. McConnohie got his building reroofed and proposed to Nelson that they start a business together selling this innovative new product. So, they set off on a journey, which has lasted 25 years, and now has covered more than 70 million square feet of existing roofs nationally and abroad. The company is the brand Roof Hugger Inc.
The trek was not always that easy because the product is designed to fit over and around the major ribs of the existing panels. Have you ever thought about how many different metal roof profiles are out there? Hundreds, if not thousands. You have ribbed panels in a multitude of spacing and heights from 6 to 13 inches, there are corrugated panels with corrugations spaced from 2.25 to 4 inches, and of course, there are standing seams. These also widely varied because of the vertical and trapezoidal seam configurations, rib-to-rib spacing and heights and with or without standoff clips. Today, Roof Hugger has built a library full of manufacturer literature, both from the old days and the more recent. They refer to this library countless times during a given year but even to this day, they are given a previously unknown panel from a contractor or building owner needing to reroof an existing metal building.
Not only do the profiles and variations of existing metal roofs make this niche roof replacement market challenging at times, but because of the new stringent code requirements, you have panel testing to contend with, as well. Every manufacturer today, producing metal roofing, has and will continue to have their systems tested for performance. The most utilized test standard is known in metal construction as the “Standard Test Method for Structural Performance of Sheet Metal Roof and Siding Systems by Uniform Static Air Pressure Difference” or ASTM E-1592. Without it, it is extremely difficult to engineer roofing products to meet specified building code requirements for given wind speeds. It is not widely understood but each metal roof’s testing can and does vary from its counterparts although they frequently can look almost identical. This is due to seam design, clip design, metal thickness, design specifications and manufacturing limitations. Because of this, Roof Hugger began testing in 1996 and now has numerous metal roofs that have been tested over their sub-purlin systems. They have an (FM) Factory Mutual approval, as well as several (FL#) Florida Product Approved assemblies.
As Roof Hugger celebrates its 25th year, the Hugger team located outside Tampa, Fla., is excited to carry the “Hugger” brands on into the future. McConnohie passed in 2013 at the age of 87, and Roof Hugger is a big part of Red’s legacy, but Dale and Jan Nelson, now owners of Roof Hugger, continue to work relentlessly to make the Hugger stable of products better than any other metal-over-metal retrofit roof system available. Jan Nelson recently commented that “they are so fortunate to have met and grown to know the fabulous people in the metal construction industry via trade shows and organizational meetings. She went on to say, “We have gained an extended family that is surely the best gift of this journey and it puts a smile on my face daily.” Dale Nelson said, “I can’t believe it’s been 25 years. It’s been one heck of an enjoyable ride.” Dale Nelson was recently elected chairman of the Metal Construction Association (MCA), which he is no stranger to this kind of work. He has committed much of his life to volunteer work in both his private life, as well as in business activities.
Roof Hugger now has four production locations in Florida, Indiana, Texas and Washington. Three of their sub-purlin profiles can ship within two to three days and others are made-to-order to ship within 10 to 15 days. Roof Hugger is specified by numerous levels of local, state and federal government agencies, especially the U.S. Military. A recent look at their shipments, found that more than 3 million square feet have been installed at more than 70 domestic military facilities. They provide quotes in hours and a live voice always answers the phone. Prior to Red’s passing, if you were lucky he would answer the phone with a loud “ROOF HUGGER – McCONNOHIE”, and when you call today you will still get an equally enthusiastic greeting from the Roof Hugger crew of Jan, Bill, DJ or Dale.