Tips And Strategies For Safety And SuccessPaul Casseri, Product Manager
As a professional roofing contractor, your decisions affect not only your business’ bottom line, but also your employees’ safety. This comprehensive collection of roofing tips and strategies, divided into three parts — pre installation, installation and post installation — can help you build a safe, efficient, and profitable business. Use this advice to help:
- Create and maintain a safer job site while preventing accidents
- Harness technology to streamline estimates and approvals
- Protect yourself from liability and its unnecessary expenses
- Turn satisfied customers into referral streams
Part 1: Pre Installation
The fatality rate caused by overexposure to natural heat averages more than 600 deaths per year.
Prepping For Success Starts With The Weather
When planning a job, checking the weather is as important as making sure the truck is stocked with the appropriate supplies. Disregarding the weather can lead to job delays and injury. But with a little planning, you can manage anything Mother Nature throws your way.
Beat The Heat In Warmer Climates
Getting an early start is essential in warmer climates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the fatality rate caused by overexposure to natural heat averages more than 600 deaths per year. Get a jump on the day so most of the work can be completed before the peak heat arrives. Plan accordingly to beat it.
Starting early is also a good idea in the summer for more than one reason: The only thing guaranteed other than the heat is rain. Afternoon showers often arrive daily, especially in the South. An early start allows more work to be completed before it is time to retreat to the truck to wait out the rain.
When workers are at the mercy of the summer heat and rain can’t be avoided, give the crew a break. While the first instinct may be to work as hard and as long as possible to ensure the job gets done, this thinking is at the expense of your work team. Not only is working tirelessly through the sun’s ultraviolet rays physically taxing, it can have dangerous mental effects as well.
The best tip for surviving the extreme summer heat is to stay hydrated. The human body is made up of 60 percent water and is dependent on water to function. Water keeps the body cool and prevents it from overheating. If the body is not properly replenished with water, it will eventually not be able to keep cool from the hot summer rays.
Brave The Cold In Cooler Climates
Prepping for cold weather is equally as important. Below are a few key points for winter work:
- Start later in the morning to allow the warmth of the sun to take over.
- Check the seven- to 10-day forecast for potential delays. Planning ahead can save time and money.
- Check with the roofing manufacturer(s) for minimum temperature installation requirements. (Many advise not to install their products in weather below 45 degrees F.)
- Examine equipment before starting the job. Some, such as compressors and other pneumatic tools, are susceptible to freezing.
Cool Down Or Layer Up With The Proper Clothing
Dress appropriately for the weather. With the advancements in clothing technology over the last several years, it is now easier than ever to dress both comfortably and with safety in mind. Shirts designed to keep the wearer cool, such Dri-FIT™ or ClimaCool™, are a great way to beat the heat in the summer. These fabrics are breathable and wick moisture from the body, making it comfortable to work through the hot days. In the winter, layers of ClimaWarm™ and Hyperwarm™ apparel can help combat the colder temperatures by providing warmth, breathability, and protection. Add a comfortable shoe with a good grip to help prevent slipping and falling, and contractors have the perfect gear for weather success.
Technology's Role In Roofing
Roofing contracting is a highly competitive market. Contractors who succeed stay updated on the evolving technology that allows them to offer their customers the very best roofing experience.
Time Is Still Money
Time-tested methods of roofing practices will always work. However, employing new technology can reduce time on the job. For example, there are now easier, more efficient ways to calculate job requirements. Aerial roof measurement reports are a faster, mobile alternative for placing, receiving and storing this information. Manual measurement is no longer needed. With this application, roofers can get precise, digital dimensions of roofs — the area of each section, the pitch and the length of ridges and eaves — without climbing on a roof. These reports collect detailed renderings using aerial photos, such as geographic databases and land records. Software then matches up edges, colors and shapes to create a three-dimensional image of the roof, and provides a report to the contractor.
More Than A Phone
More than just the internet and a camera, smartphones have become tools to assist the contractor in the field. Almost every industry, including roofing materials manufacturers, has developed a mobile app to support the contractor. By downloading a (usually) free app from your preferred roofing materials manufacturer, you can access documents and brochures to assist you in your roofing discussions with homeowners.
Additionally, many roofing apps feature a weather tracker. The tracker generally displays a map that indicates the type of adverse weather recently impacting the community. By using this feature, roofing contractors can be proactive about targeting local markets, and placing signs in neighborhoods more likely to need their services.
Bring The Vision To Life
With the latest digital imaging technology, homeowners can now envision their new roof. It’s an ultimate show-and-tell and a valuable addition to using sample boards. This application allows customers to see and change shingle colors and styles on pre-selected homes, or a photo of their own home. With just a few easy steps, a customer can design a new roof and digitally save each one they create for easy reference.
David Welch of Ben Hill Roofing in Douglasville, GA, uses technology to his advantage to save time with clients. As he describes, "You're limited to the amount of time that you have when you meet with a prospective customer at their house. Everyone's busy, so trying to block out long periods of time to go over shingle colors and styles with a homeowner is hard. But if you use a tool like a shingle visualizer app on your iPad or smartphone, you can quickly take a photo of their house, then show them different shingle options right there, in just a few minutes. And better yet, it's their house — not some model home in a brochure. People like that. That kind of technology helps my team close more sales."
Technology is not intimidating, it is empowering. Roofing contractors who use technology to their advantage have a greater opportunity to grow their business.
Adhere To Building Codes
Building codes shape and govern the roofing process. It’s imperative to observe all local building codes, and understand that local codes generally supersede manufacturer installation guidelines.
Make Safety A Top Priority
Of all the guidelines a roofing contractor should follow, job-site safety tops the list. Roofing contractors could see their business fined, or even closed, because of legal action taken after a serious safety incident. Follow standard safety regulations to the letter and don’t cut corners on safety procedures. By following proper precautions, roofers can avoid serious injury or even death.
Falls account for most serious injuries and deaths to roofers. Set a mandatory policy to keep the roof work area as free of tools and debris as possible. In addition to wearing protective headgear, everyone in the crew should wear shoes that provides the best traction. Use safety harnesses, nets and guardrails.
Exercise Ladder And Jobsite Safety
The safe use of ladders in roofing construction is covered extensively by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Accidents are more likely to occur by using a damaged or makeshift ladder. Tying a ladder off at the top of a plywood brace is another common cause of ladder accidents. A third troubling habit is leaving ladders unattended on the job site.
Inspect each ladder carefully before using, place on firm level ground and rest it against a solid structure. Ladders should be extended 3 feet above the landing or roof eave to provide a secure point to move from the ladder to the deck. Electricity can arc from a wire to a metal ladder, even if it is several feet away. Use a wood or fiberglass ladder of when working near wires.
Don’t allow anyone, especially children and pets, to enter the work area. For the safety of all crew members, potentially dangerous power lines and underground hazards should be identified and marked with warning signage.
Exercise proper use of tools, whether manual, electric or air powered. Do not allow workers to use hammers with damaged handles or heads. They should never tie back or disengage the safety button on power tools or nail guns. Keep power tools clean and lubricated, and inspect cords and hoses for breaks or leaks.
Avoid Worker Fatigue
Roofers can become a safety hazard to themselves and others on the crew if they become tired. Fatigue increases the possibility of improper materials and tool handling. It can be caused by something as simple as dehydration. Extremely thirsty workers are at risk of heat exhaustion. Provide the roofing crew with cool water, but ice cold is not recommended.
Remind roofing crew workers to not lift heavy materials with their back, but use their legs instead. They should also only carry one safe load at a time.
Hold regular meetings to review safety guidelines. It’s easy for crew members to grow complacent over time. Ignoring safety procedures makes it all the more likely that an accident will happen.
Part Two: Installation
Begin With Basics
Before starting the installation, inspect the roof, repair any flaws and ensure it is completely clean. Once ready to install, follow manufacturer’s guidelines precisely. Use a complete roofing system whenever possible. By using a single manufacturer, contractors and homeowners will know all of the components were specifically built to work together and often receive more comprehensive warranty coverage.
Begin with proper preparation of the job site and homeowner's property. Protect and shield windows and surrounding structures that could potentially be harmed.
Their Yard, The Contractor’s Responsibility
Preventing damage to a homeowner's lawn and landscaping is also critical. Train workers to pay attention to where and how they walk the entire job site, and to take special care when moving heavy equipment, supplies and tools. Avoid harming the landscaping and hardscapes. Consider covering delicate foliage with plastic sheeting or cordoning it off so crews and equipment don't accidentally cause damage.
Skip The Shortcuts
Avoiding shortcuts is an essential part of quality workmanship. While there is a lot of truth to the saying, “time is money,” there could be much more money on the line should anything happen as a result of not following the manufacturer’s installation guidelines.
Shortcuts often void the manufacturer’s warranty. Make sure to never leave any exposed nails. Left to weather, the exposed nails will soon rust and eventually allow leaks. If a customer requests installation of new shingles over existing ones, only do so if there is one layer of existing three tab shingles. Never place a new layer over laminate shingles.
Ventilation Is Vital
Proper roof ventilation prevents condensation in winter and heat buildup during the summer. Improper ventilation can lead to moisture problems, shingle weathering and distortion, fungus in the attic and higher homeowner energy bills. Ensure the roof is installed with proper ventilation to avoid any problems down the road.
Hammer Home Smart Nail Usage
If a homeowner’s vehicle drives over roofing nails and incurs damage, contractors are responsible for repairing and/or replacing their damaged tires, which is an unwanted and avoidable expense. Additionally, nails lost in yards are an unseen hazard. Instruct roofing crews to be vigilant about not dropping or scattering nails anywhere on the job site, especially near driveways and parking areas.
Minimize Liability And Its Unnecessary Expenses
As a professional roofing contractor, minimizing business liability and risk is second only to the installation itself. Mitigate and troubleshoot any risks or damage that may occur during the time spent on a homeowner's property. This protects contractors from paying for repairs caused my accidents on the job or compensating customers for property damage.
Less Expense, More Goodwill
Minimizing job-site damage reduces unwanted expenses and instills goodwill in customers, resulting in recommendations and referrals. Incidents on the job site that cause property damage do happen, and can generally be repaired (albeit at some cost), but preventing them in the first place makes more sense.
Part Three: Post Installation
Ensure Homeowner Satisfaction
When customers have a good roofing experience and are satisfied, they will be much more likely to spread positive reviews and opinions. Thanks to the internet and social media, it's easier than ever for both happy and unhappy consumers to voice their opinions — and these judgments can help or hurt a contractor’s business. From sites and apps like Angie's List and Yelp, there are many ways for good and bad publicity to spread.
Make Satisfaction Come Standard
Talk to homeowners to ensure they are completely satisfied with the work and the roofing products installed, and the final state of their property. Some contractors use a checklist to cover points with homeowners, remind them of important items such as warranty registration (some contractors even register the homeowners’ warranty for them), inform the client of warranty expectations and other information they need to know. Conduct a walk-through of the (cleaned-up) job site. Together, the property can be inspected, making sure all debris and materials are removed, dumpsters emptied and tools collected.
Happy Customers Mean More Referrals
Roofing is a referral-driven business. A happy client is much more likely to provide referrals and help generate new business. Be open and honest with clients to instill trust and confidence in the job provided.
Nick Helms, of Jerry’s Roofing in Centre, AL, agrees. As he puts it: "Roofing's a highly competitive business, so you've got to do what you can to stand out. We do this by offering what we feel is the best customer service and a quality product. We establish personal relationships with our clients, so they trust us and come back to us, and tell their friends and family members about us. Referrals are what it's all about."
Satisfied clients can provide your best PR and advertising. Ask clients to write and post positive online reviews, or ask them to draft a letter that can be shared with potential new clients to boost future business. Contractors can even turn their comments into selling materials to attract new customers.
On the other hand, unsatisfied clients may post bad online reviews about contractors and their work, or make negative comments to neighbors, damaging future business opportunities. Good news travels fast. Bad news travels faster.
Success in the roofing business starts with making smart decisions. Address each installation with a plan and make sure the crew follows it. Using the available technology, adhering to proper safety protocols, local building and installation codes, and practicing sound customer service will keep the crews safe, homeowners happy and the phone ringing!