As part of my continuing presentation of information for roofing and building envelope projects in general. This email is concerned with flat roofing which I started to discuss in an earlier email with specific emphasis on the roofing contractors who install the roofing systems.

Prequalification of Roofing Contractors

Any business of trades include a variety of different types of companies – in the contracting sector – specifically flat or low slope roofing – there are poor quality contractors who produce a poor quality roof product and misery and headaches for building owners and occupants – they may be cheap in price but, also cheap and poor in quality. The poor quality contractor doesn’t worry about training – technical or health and safety – or about experienced high quality personnel. These poor quality contractors just arrive at the job, do the work as quickly as possible and on to the next. Speed is paramount, quality is an unknown concern.

There also the high quality contractors – typically long in business – because their reputations matter, with financial resources to ensure project completion, well trained – technical and health and safety personnel, very well experienced roofing mechanics and tradesmen. The field supervisors know their jobs and the field personnel understand that quality is paramount. These high quality contractors have well established systems to continuously improve and learn from each project. These high quality contractors care about quality – their personnel are better compensated that the poor quality contractors. There is absolutely no inclination to cheat or do poor quality work – because they will not a job for very long after they do – continuous improvement is a religion for them.

The personnel at the high quality contractors regard themselves as professionals – this a career – not just a way to get a paycheque. In the high quality contractors, it is very usual to find multiple generations – fathers and sons – uncles and cousins – working for the company with many years of service.

The poor quality contractors very often use sub-contractors, casual labour, “off the street labour”, many times just warm body. After more than 40 years in the roofing and building envelope industry, I have seen it all – and I have experienced much frustration when watching a poor quality roofing crew attempt to install a roof system – the disorganization, the very unsafe working practices, the complete lack of attention to details, the constant emphasis on “fast, fast”, the poor quality or non-functioning equipment, the inability  to install the roofing material correctly, the tendency to cheat, to do less than required – which is very often coupled with fast, fast.

The poor quality roofing contractors evidently are convinced that having only one experienced person on the roof – typically the foreman is sufficient – that yelling and screaming at 5 or 6 or 7 other individuals will suddenly imbue those individuals with great knowledge and understanding about what the foreman is yelling about and exactly what he wants. What actually happens is a fog of misunderstanding and a barrage of cursing – as the foreman flies across the roof to try to explain – most of the time to no result. Jobsites on important projects are not training grounds – the roofing personnel should know how to do the work to the best quality standards possible before they arrive at the jobsite. Let them learn elsewhere.

The installation of the roof system suffers greatly as the broadcast of ignorance, misunderstanding and “fast” move across the roof area. The result is a poor quality roof system that leaks. Several of the poor quality contractors actually have repair crews that follow after the initial “fast” crew has “completed” the installation of a roof system (as poorly as it can be) – in a vain attempt to fix the problems as cheaply and quickly as possible. Note: I have never seen a real problem solved cheaply or quickly – thee is always much more complexity as a result of poor workmanship and a non-caring attitude.

I have worked with many quality clients in my practice – after more than 40 years – I have seen the approaches to buildings that work and many other approaches that don’t work and often are disasters. My clients own important buildings and they understand that those buildings must be of high quality and all systems on the buildings must be of high quality – nobody needs a disaster. Poor quality contractors are not welcome, because poor quality work degrades the building – the asset. A poor quality roof system can degrade the asset value of the building and interrupt the functioning of the building. Quality organizations need quality buildings.

My clients include Universities, Hospitals, large industrial concerns, municipalities and high quality private owners. These clients understand that quality is important – quality roof and wall systems – enhance the functioning of their buildings and reduce the cost of maintenance. A poor quality building is an on-going problem, consuming much time and money. A high quality building performs and allows the management and personnel of the Owner to focus on more important issues – rather than having their time consumed by leaks, repairs and bad blood.

As an example, think about how much time a leaking commercial building can consume – constant leak reports, unhappy tenants, threatened lawsuits, fights, ongoing repair expenses, more repairs, interior damages and it looked bad. Reputation is important.

I am absolutely focused on ensuring that new builds are the highest possible quality. I have seen it many, many times – projects are “value engineered” (which is a bogus term – it really means that changes are made on the fly – with very little consideration, only cost) to the point of poor quality  and problems buildings – everyone leaves the site and goes down the road leaving the Owner stuck with the problems and the ongoing expenses. There is no substitute for “doing it right the first time”.

A roof system is not a commodity. A roof system is not an afterthought. A roof system is building critical system that must be designed and constructed to the highest standards possible. A defective roof system will negatively affect the entire building.

The roof system will not be able – except at extreme cost – many multiples of the original cost. For example, consider a very congested site, thousands of people, hundreds of cars, constant movement on the ground, many storys high and the very important consideration – the building is their home or livlihood. The place that people call home is important.

I am always available to discuss building envelope issues and details and I am very dedicated to ensuring that the roof system on the building will perform for the long term.