A CUT ABOVE

BY BARRY WALDMAN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

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If you had hired G&S Supply Company to install a roof with ordinary asphalt shingles back when the company opened for business 26 years ago, you likely would be hiring them again now. Shingles last, on average, 20 years and are generally warrantied against high winds for just 10 of them.

That’s because asphalt shingles, whether architectural or plain, degrade over time. They curl up and lose granules. Eventually, their ability to defend a roof against the elements becomes compromised.

If you were to hire G&S to install that roof on your house today, in eye-candy metal, your roof would be warrantied against 140 mph winds for 50 to 100 years. With standing seam metal—where the fastening system is hidden from view—the protection is there for the full life of the product, which can be five times as long as shingles. In addition, metal roofs do a better job keeping your house cool in the summer. Given the climate and high winds of the South Carolina coast, metal roofing is tailor-made for this region.

Metal roofs cost two to three times as much to install as conventional shingle roofs, says John Steele, founder and owner of G&S. Most of his customers are remodeling or building coastal homes worth half a million dollars or more. They want to make a long-term investment to protect their valuables in the not-unlikely event of a hurricane or other natural disaster. Or, they just like how sleek it looks.

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One thing about metal roofing: It can’t be installed by a garden-variety roofer. Special expertise is required to fit the metal segments tightly for a hermetically sealed building envelope. A metal roof must be precisely measured, since it is not simply nailed to the roof deck. G&S crews attend special installation programs offered by manufacturers before applying metal roofs. Moreover, “there are specialty tools necessary that you can’t just run down to the hardware store to buy,” says Steele.

Here are the usual steps in installing a metal roof. First, a homeowner orders a roof and hires a qualified installer. Next they wait three weeks for the product to arrive from the manufacturer. If there’s a challenging corner, extra cuts may be needed. Let’s say the installer needs two more segments. That’s another three-week wait. Meanwhile, you have an unfinished roof.

G&S avoids all that by having its own fabrication shop. When Steele’s crew needs another piece of roofing, they can call the shop—a 45,000-squarefoot warehouse on Ashley River Road—and have it cut and delivered an hour later. Better yet, their fabricating machines are mobile, so segments can be shaped right at the worksite. This limits waste and reduces costs compared to other installers.

Of all the roofing materials available, metal provides the biggest return on investment. For every dollar spent installing a metal roof, a typical homeowner will recoup 86 cents when they sell the house. That’s superior to the resale value of homes with asphalt shingle roofs.

G&S was founded the year after Hurricane Hugo. Steele estimates that he and his team have roofed or sided 8,000 homes during that time. “We don’t sell metal roofing,” he says. “We sell a phone number people can call if they have a problem. It’s hard to say we’ll be around forever, but after 26 years we have some credibility.” Indeed, following the historic flooding last fall, G&S spent the next three to four months working through a backlog of requests for help from customers. Steele says he tries to show his customers compassion, even if the issues with their houses are beyond the scope of his work.

G&S begins its second quarter century in business by offering good customer service and a great roofing product. “People see the sleek look of a metal roof and say, ‘Wow, I really like that.’ I see a metal roof and say, ‘That’s gonna stay on,’” Steele jokes.

Barry Waldman is principal of Big Fly Communications, a PR/marketing firm for nonprofits and small businesses.