How we got started
The PRS EasyMetalRoof Story
The short version of the story is (with apologies to Victor Kiam) that we loved the product so much we bought the company (or, in this case, the aluminum shingle production machinery).
The longer version is more roundabout. In 1993, my home needed a new roof, and after getting the requisite 3 quotes, I chose the contractor with the middle quote. The company had been in business for a while (more than 5 years), the salesperson appeared to be knowledgeable, and I have seen the signs of the company in front of neighbourhood homes before, so they appeared to be reputable. I had been having problems with ice build-up along the eaves, and I was reassured when the roofer promised to improve the ventilation and provide the necessary waterproofing in the valleys and other sensitive areas. The roof was to be completed about a month after the contract signing, due to the backlog of work. The actual work took about two days, and it appeared to be well done. At the end of the job, I signed off on the warranty (10-year labour, 25-year shingle warranty), and paid for the job.
About a month later, we got our first real snowfall of the season, about 10 inches. As it was a Saturday morning, I took my time and lay in bed watching the snow swirl around outside. My wife went downstairs to get the paper and get the coffee brewing. Suddenly there was a blood-curdling shriek, which propelled me out of bed and down the stairs. I was convinced that someone was attacking my wife. At the base of the stairs, I saw her looking in horror at the dining room wall. Running down the wall was a curtain of water, which was creating a very large pool of water on the floor.
Throwing on some clothes, I dashed outside, to see a large build-up of snow in the back valley of the roof. That was not unusual after a snowfall. There seemed to be more icicles at the back, but I couldn’t be sure. I called the contractor and since it was the weekend, got the answering machine. In the meantime, water continued to run down the walls, and another sizeable puddle accumulated in the basement, as the water ran down the other side of the wall. We sopped up the water with towels and buckets, and tried to understand why this was happening. New roofs are not supposed to leak!
The following Monday, I managed to get a live person on the phone at the contractor’s office. They promised me they would send someone out to have a look. The following day, two men showed up. They told me that the problem was the accumulation of snow in the valley. As for why it was creating a lake in the dining room, they said unless I had waterproofed the entire back slope around the valley, I had no guarantee that water would stay out if there was an ice dam. Since I didn’t ask for it in the contract, it wasn’t done. The solution was, according to them, that I had to shovel the snow off the roof before the ice dams formed. Since snow is a normal feature of our Canadian climate, I did not regard that as a reasonable response.
Later in the week, I got hold of the salesman who sold me the roofing job, and reminded him of the promises he made me that if I was not satisfied, he would personally correct the situation. He replied that of course IF they were responsible he would do so, but as snow is an “act of God”, and since the leakage appeared to be due to snow accumulation, there wasn’t much that they could do for me. A trip to my lawyer to review my options revealed that the warranty, which I had put my faith in, was written in a clever way, basically absolving the contractor from any responsibility except for blatant errors. I didn’t know to ask for complete waterproofing under the shingles, so I didn’t get it. In addition, my lawyer told me, unless I could prove poor workmanship, I had little recourse using consumer protection laws.Click here to download the full PRS EasyMetalRoof story
How the PRS Easy Metal Roofing system was developed
From the beginning, we learned that many dealers and installers were fairly quick on the uptake of laying down our shingles but they needed significant training to learn how to install the flashings that were so important to the integrity of a metal roof.
Since standard flashings often don’t do the job on a roof if it has non-standard dimensions or configurations, we had to teach installers how to develop and bend their own flashings to accommodate the situation at hand. Some of the more problematic waterproofing challenges require a flashing solution that has to be developed from scratch. Our training taught installers the principles of flashing design, so that they could, if necessary, combine the various elements and come up with a flashing that was perfectly adapted to solve a waterproofing challenge.
If an experienced roofing installer has difficulty in the training situations, you can be sure that they will have even more difficulty in the field, under more challenging conditions and under the pressure of getting the job done. Our concern about the quality of the resulting installations made us look at ways of changing the flashings to make them more effective and more tolerant of installation errors.
In the meantime, we had created a website which we intended to use to recruit new dealers. Somewhat unexpectedly, we found ourselves responding to many homeowners who either were in a location where we did not have certified installers, or who wanted to buy the materials and do the work themselves. After countless inquiries, the light finally went on and we realized that there was obviously an unmet demand in the DIY marketplace. Of course, we could sell them the materials, but how could we be sure that the installations were done properly and the homeowners ended up with good value for their investments? We wanted sales, but I didn’t want to have bad installations haunting me.
I examined the systems used by my competitors, looked at the historical and traditional methods for waterproofing metal, and talked shop with experienced installers to learn if there were tricks to the trade that we missed or were not aware of. Unfortunately, it looked like we were using the state-of-the-art methods, but I already knew from experience that these required training and experience to install correctly. The inspiration came during one of those moments that you get when you are doing something else (in my case, driving down the highway to take care of some errands). The insight was to incorporate into the flashing design some of the characteristics that we were expecting the installers to supply using their knowledge and skill.
You probably know the saying that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. While the judgement of whether our innovations show genius I leave to others, I can tell you the 99% perspiration part is very true. It took much experimentation to develop the idea into a robust product. On one hand, it had to simplify installation while providing superior waterproofing and on the other hand it had to be simple to manufacture. We tested the effectiveness of our ideas by doing trial installations on our training mock-up, and by building test roofs, which we designed to create the worst possible ice dams. After more experimentation, we finally had the version 1.0 of the product. Since it incorporated a number of innovations, we applied for a patent on the flashing design (and finally received our official US patent in July, 2005).
Our next challenge was to figure out how to teach homeowners the necessary techniques, without making them come to Montreal and take the full training course. After considering various possibilities, we decided that an instructional video had the most promise. So we shot, edited, narrated and produced our own video. That last sentence took us six intense months to carry out in practice. Finally, after much work, we could try our ideas on real customers.
Our early buyers of the system were customers who found us on the internet and contacted us asking to buy the materials. Despite our warnings that the system was really “experimental”, some brave souls decided to go ahead and do it. We found out, to our relief that the installation process was not as difficult as we had feared – in fact they found it relatively easy and straightforward. There was still, in the back of my mind, the fear that maybe we just got very lucky and the first installers were actually very capable handymen who could make even the very difficult tasks seem easy. We got good feedback as to areas where we needed to focus more attention and some areas, which we had not discussed at all. While we were able to resolve these with telephone calls and e-mailed instructions, it was clear that more information needed to be added to give us a comprehensive product.
This on-going contact with our customers also taught us some important lessons. My previous experience with felt underlayment lead to our ongoing recommendation to use a waterproof membrane with auto sealing capability around nails on all PRS roof installations. It was also clear to me, that to really understand the state of your roof, you must strip off all old roofing material before installing a new covering.
Then, we realized that people in general were much more capable that we gave them credit for. In retrospect, this is not surprising, given the growth of the big-box construction materials stores. Secondly, people were bombarded with information, much of it misleading and some of it wrong, while the solid facts that they were searching for were unavailable or obscured by marketing hype. Thirdly, most people are quite willing to work with you, if you are honest with them and give them the truth about the strengths and weaknesses of the system. Out of these interactions, we have developed our current approach – giving solid information about roofing in general, and our system in particular, helping our customers determine what their needs are, working with them to identify and solve potential problems, deciding which accessories best meet their specific situation, and then providing our customers with support during the installation process so that they are always in control of their project and are able to use our knowledge to move forward.
Our self-serving goal is to get happy customers from each sale, since each happy customer becomes our best salesperson. It also allows other prospective customers to decide whether this type of project is within their ability to carry out, and whether they will also be happy with the results.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our little history lesson and it gives you a good understanding of what makes PRS EasyMetalRoofing tick. We thank you for your interest in our product and hope that we can help you build your new roof.
The Aluminum Shingle Company EasyMetalRoof Story
Our story is a bit different from Paul’s. Kevin, my brother and business partner, has installed The Aluminum Shingle Companies products (The Perma-Lock Roofing Systems) for 25+ years – hundreds and hundreds of installations (both commercial as well as residential systems) and possibly even in the thousands of roofing systems. He was not an owner in the company when he first started installing metal roofing. Kevin quickly grew into becoming the largest client of The Aluminum Shingle Company. Business was booming for Kevin and his reputation was spreading as a true craftsman. About this time, the owners of The Aluminum Shingle Company came to Kevin and asked if he would be interested in buying the company (Both owners wanted to retire).
Kevin ended up buying the company in partnership with a very large residential and commercial roofing company. After a number of years in that partnership, Kevin approached me, Rick, his older brother, and asked if I might be interested in buying out his partners. I took a look at the business and decided, based upon the quality and reputation of the product that I would buy out Kevin’s partners.
Kevin has been a co-owner in The Aluminum Shingle Company for something like 16 years. Remember that The Aluminum Shingle Company has been around since 1948 (please be reminded that Kevin and I are not that old). Kevin and I have now co-owned The Aluminum Shingle Company for going on almost 7 years now. The company has grown very nicely every year over time. In fact, (this is being written in 2009) this year has been a very tough business climate with many of the large economies in the world falling into a deep recession/depression. In spite of 2009 being a very tough business climate, The Aluminum Shingle Company still had it best year ever. What does that say about the company and the quality of the products that we offer to the marketplace?
What is most interesting to me is that, over the years, we have never had problems with our roofing system. In fact, we have homes in the greater Portland area (which is where we do the manufacturing) that have had our roofing system installed for more than 60 years. Just the other day we got a call from one of our satisfied home owners in the Portland, Oregon area (his roof was installed over 50 years ago) that was adding onto the home and wondered if he could get some product for the addition. This roofing system is amazing. It will last and keep on lasting. There is absolutely no reason why these homes that have had our roofing systems installed on them (50 – 60 years ago) will not go another 50 – 60 years.
The success of this product depends on the quality of the installation of the system. We are absolutely committed to providing our clients with whatever resources they need in order to be successful. We will not settle for anything less than happy satisfied customers and we will do whatever it takes to achieve that. Our reputation is probably our most important asset. We cannot afford to have our clients stumble and not be happy and/or successful. These resources, to help our clients succeed, include DVD’s, paper based installation suggestions and techniques, access to our crew chiefs for on the job installation questions, etc. Our reputation is impeccable and we want to keep it that way.
We are excited to partner with PRS in this easymetalroofing venture. There is not a problem that we have not seen in terms of the installation of these world class aluminum roofing systems that we don’t know how to solve. We are organized to help you do-it-yourselfers succeed every step of the way.