I send this information, because I am ultra concerned that the entire project be completed to the highest standards possible and that The Owner receives full value for their money spent. For my part, I am ultra concerned that the building envelope of the project – existing building and the new addition are completed to the highest standards of performance and appearance possible.

I am intensely interested in my clients’ projects – my clients receive the best that can be provided.

The Copper Contractor

Further to my many hours of work with the three contractors who will be providing pricing for the project – I want to focus on the qualifications and expertise of the copper contractor.

Copper craftsmanship is an art. Copper craftmanship is a considerable number of notches above regular sheet metal fabrication. In the hierarchy of sheet metal trades – there are the galvanized tradesman who fabricate ductwork, cones and other important, but relatively aesthetically unsophisticated sheet metal components – in effect, nobody is going to worrying too much about how these components will look – function is much more important.

Next there are the sheet metal tradesman who predominantly work with pre-painted metal base stocks – metal claddings for wall and roof areas, metal details for roofing projects and similar. These metal fabrications are more likely to be judged on appearance as well and function. The individual metal sections should be free of kinks and buckles, the seams should include “S-Lock, flat seam” or other more complex seams. The plain overlap seams used in common residential construction are not in the same class as the more complex seam treatments. There is skill and expertise required for the higher quality, sheet metal applications typically used in commercial projects and higher end residential projects.

Then, at the top of the quality pinnacle, comes the very skilled copper craftsmen – more than just tradesmen – more closely akin to artisans. Copper craftsmanship is a white glove craft – the craftsmen wear white cotton gloves to prevent the deposition of fingerprints on the new copper flat stock and crafted pieces. The oils and acidic compounds on the skin of the hands will leave ugly, semi-permanent finger print marks on the crafted copper sections if the gloves are not worn. Copper craftsmanship requires the ability to solder accurately and cleanly. Copper craftsmanship requires the ability to work with a “delicate hand” – copper is a soft metal – rough handling and treatment will leave very visible scratches and scars, dents and pits, buckles and kinks. 

Copper craftsmen must be able to design and masterfully create expansion joints and expansion devices to account for the temperature induced expansion and contraction of the copper sections. Copper craftsmen must be able to masterfully create accommodations for projections and penetrations through claddings and roof sections – soldering is almost always the necessary method of joinery between the base material and the projection piece. During the soldering process, underlayment materials cannot be burned and the solder application must be secure, continuous and beautiful – blobs and lumps of solder are simply not tolerated. Copper craftsmen must be able to fasten components with beauty in mind.

Having noted the complexities and sophisticated mastery of copper artisan and craftsmanship activities – it is very necessary to emphasize that copper craftsmanship is a slow, masterful, activity. Copper is almost a forever metal – there are copper roofs in Europe that date back to the 1200s. Copper is a beautiful, fine material. Copper craftsmanship must be performed to the highest level of care and concern, dedication and expertise. If the necessary care and time are not taken, a copper project becomes just another sheet metal project and it will be ugly as well. If the proper, sophisticated copper craftsmen are not going to be employed on a project – do not waste the money on copper.

But Project Building is a fabulous building – a beautiful building with fabulous stone, a tower and other features of great aesthetic interest – copper must be used. The copper claddings and crafted areas that are required on this fabulous building must be installed by true copper artisans. If poor labour is used, the result will be an expensive, aesthetic mess. Using poor labour, rather true copper artisans is very much akin to painting a new Mercedes automobile with cans of spray paint from Canadian Tire. The paint will be applied to the car – but what a disaster!!

Copper is a sophisticated, expensive metal. Copper can provide an aesthetic beauty no other material can match. A skillfully crafted copper project is a treasure that will exist for the very long term. One of the magnificent features of copper is the changes in surface colour and patina that will occur over time – interesting and dynamic, these changes can be marred almost forever by sloppy fingerprints, poor seaming techniques and ugly solder connections. If the copper highlights of the Project Building are not going to be installed by true artisan craftsmen – then much money will be wasted and the resulting appearance will be a blight on the building.

There has been a suggestion that a miscellaneous copper company would be a possible candidate to install the copper sections on the Project Building. A visit to the website of this company shows cedar shingle projects with copper valleys and some copper gutters. Under the “Copper Roof” section in the website – there are a few pictures of copper canopies and similar small scale assemblies. The fabrication details on these assemblies are very questionable – my mother always “said if you can’t say something nice, do not say anything at all”. I will make no further comments about that. There are very distinct and visible blemishes on the canopy front and centre on the page.

It has always been my experience and impression that when companies commission website designs, they really want the websites to include feature photos of their best work – they certainly wouldn’t include photos of their worst work. Those companies want to exhibit the full range of their capabilities and services on their websites – with photos of completed projects – typically in “Photo Galleries”. Further, there is usually some discussion of company capabilities. It was reported that the company is question had completed some “high end projects”. If those high end projects include cedar roof system installations – they are of no relevance to the Project Building. If the copper projects shown in the Copper Roof section are the only copper projects or show the extent of the capabilities of the company in copper fabrication and installation – they are of no relevance to the Project Building.

If the company has actually completed “high end projects” that include complex and master craftsman level fabrication and installation – I would be pleased to be advised of the locations and addresses of those projects – so that we could view the quality of the workmanship and installations. I really can’t imagine that many or at least several complex high end projects have been completed and they are being kept unrevealed.

Also, I would like to review – per our usual pre-qualification of contractors process – financial information for the company, information about ownership, resumes for management personnel, resumes for their site supervisors, resumes for their trades, references with contact information, reference projects of similar size and complexity, WSIB, insurance coverages and much other information. This request for information is necessary and usual for professional, high quality roofing and construction projects. A phone call or casual comment is not good enough for this Project. The situation is always the same – once a contractor starts on a project – it is very difficult to remove them if they cannot perform – “you are stuck with them”. This Project is not the project for experimentation or “going in blind”.

The professional contractors who will submit pricing for the flat roof areas, the copper areas and the pre-painted areas are very professional, very long in business – 50 years plus and these companies possess extensive experience in all types and phases of roofing and metal systems. They all possess superior personnel, master craftsmen, financial stability and a devotion to “doing the job right the first time”. These companies possess the capabilities to complete all elements and phases of the project to the highest quality.

It is important to understand that these companies are not the low end, bargain basement contractors that are available in the marketplace. These companies are professional organizations with very high level capabilities and extensive experience and expertise. It is possible to find contractors who will provide lower pricing that these three companies. There are always lower cost, cheaper contractors in the marketplace – but the existence of those cheap contractors is not relevant to this Project. The Project Building demands and deserves the best roofing and metals contractors possible.

The old proverb is always relevant – “you only get what you pay for”.

It is also important to note, that there are many requirements for this Project – the prices that will be submitted by the quality contractors will include many elements of the wall assemblies – in effect, once the exterior walls of the building are provided or constructed – the roofing/building envelope contractor will construct the wall system – including layers of gypsum, insulation, girts and subgirts, framing components and finally the exterior cladding and all associated components and trims. Their prices for the wall systems will include much more than the metal cladding. The wall cladding systems on this project are not simple siding installations.

It is also important to understand that both the flat roof systems and the cladding systems are very complex and slow to install – there are no wide open, easy to install areas on this building envelope – there is only slow to install, complex, multi-component, multi-faceted areas which take time – time is money. There are no cheap easy operations on this Project.