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Lars Walberg and Nick Piontek - Snow Retention Solutions: From Bars to Fences to Guards - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Lars Walberg and Nick Piontek - Snow Retention Solutions: From Bars to Fences to Guards - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT
January 17, 2024 at 12:00 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Lars Walberg of Rocky Mountain Snow Guards and Nick Piontek of On Point Contracting. You can Read the interview below or Listen to the podcast.

Intro: Welcome to Roofing Road Trips with Heidi. Explore the roofing industry through the eyes of a long-term professional within the trade. Listen for insights, interviews and exciting news in the roofing industry today.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Hello and welcome to another Roofing Road Trips from Roofers Coffee Shop. My name is Heidi Ellsworth, and here today is so ironic. We are talking about the importance of snow retention, and I have to say here in central Oregon, we have three feet of snow right now. So it's a perfect day for a talk about snow retention and really how do you protect your home and your businesses every building out there. So we've brought the experts from Rocky Mountain Snow Guards and On Point Contracting, Nicholas Pointek and Lars Walberg to talk about snow retention. Hello, gentlemen.

Nick Piontek: Hi.

Lars Walberg: Hi, Heidi.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I'm so happy to have you back. This is so good. So let's start with some introductions. So first, Nick, can you introduce yourself and tell us about your company?

Nick Piontek: Sure. On Point Contracting is a full service roofing and restoration company. We're based in Littleton, Colorado, but we also service Boulder, Summit County, Breck, Vail and surrounding areas. Although we still have that mom and pop feel as it's my wife and I that own the company, we've been growing quite rapidly. Some of the top items that we focus on here on point contracting are the new and existing relationships that we have, the service provided on each job, and of course the quality workmanship that is the backbone of our business. We're really lucky to have great team of people who really care about the work that they do, and I believe that's been the key to our success. It matters who you have on your team and as a boss, you really have to make sure that you're listening to your people and that they're getting taken care of. And we do that here at On Point.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I love it. Nick, we love to have our contractors on Roofing Road Trips, and I have a soft spot, as you know for Denver. That's where a lot of our team is at, and you guys get a lot of snow there.

Nick Piontek: Absolutely.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: This is going to be a great topic, Lars. Thank you for being back on the show. And can you please introduce yourself and tell us about your company?

Lars Walberg: Well, thanks Heidi. It is great to be back here on our Roofers Coffee Shop. Our company is Rocky Mountain Snow Guards. We've been in business since 2010, and I started out in the roofing industry 30 years ago representing various manufacturers. And along the way, I went to work with a company, one of our competitors now, a company that manufactures snow retention and got my education there. After a few years of that, I started Rocky Mountain Snow Guards in 2010. We're based in Denver, Colorado. We ship throughout the US and Canada and even into Alaska.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Wow, very cool. We are so happy to have Rocky Mountain Snow Guards on Roofers Coffee Shop. Lars, thank you. It's going to be an exciting year. And I think this is, like I said earlier, the perfect time to start to really be talking about snow retention. I know the perfect time is during the summer when you're putting all the roofs on, so it's the right way, but right now I think it is top of mind with three feet of snow outside your door. So let's talk, first, let's just start with the importance of snow retention and with your experience, Lars, and kind of where you've come from. Just talk about how important it is for contractors to really understand snow retention and to be talking to their customers about it.

Lars Walberg: Rooftop snow retention has gotten to be more and more important over the years as the mix of roofing products has changed. There are many more, what I would call, slippery roofing products being installed on roofs these days. Not too many years ago in Colorado at least we would see asphalt shingles and cedar shakes. That's pretty much the only two products we'd see, and both of those products are not particularly slippery. Asphalt shingles aren't slippery at all, and cedar shakes are a little bit slippery, but it typically takes a steeper slope and more snow.

So for a long time, that was kind of the roofing mix on sloped roofs here in Colorado. But things have changed a lot with the introduction of the composite roofing products that are basically a type of plastic, very slippery, snow slides. We also have membrane roofs going on sloped roofs now. That never happened before, and those membranes are slippery.

So snow retention over the years has gotten more and more important. And the reason for that is because, well, there's this idea out there that snow slides, if you have a slippery roof, that snow's going to just kind of slide off as the snow falls, and that's not true at all. If you have a slippery roof surface, snow falls, and you actually do get an adhesive bond for a while and that you can see a great example of that in a wind ribbon snow star where the snow actually sticks to the face of a stop sign. So you get that adhesive bond and the snow builds up and builds up, and then it all comes off in one fell swoop in an avalanche, and those avalanches are heavy and damaging and can actually be deadly.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah. I'm seeing it. It sticks. It's big, and then it slides. And of course-

Lars Walberg: All at one time.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah. And that's been the case for a long time with metal roofs. So metal roofs have used snow retention very successfully over the years. But Nick, what are you seeing about snow retention and how are you visiting to your customers about it?

Nick Piontek: Yeah. So a lot of our clients are calling us because of that first avalanche that they've experienced, and when they come to us, they're, what can we do about this? And luckily, we are able to work with Rocky Mountain Snow Guards that has a great free program of creating these architectural snow retention plans, and we can send them the engineering specs or a satellite measurement of the roof, and they're able to put together a detailed plan for us. They take into consideration, of course, the snow loads for the region, type of roof, pitch, roofing materials, size of each facet and other factors. They send us a detailed quantities and installation instructions and diagrams. Once we have all that, the installation of the snow retention system is as simple as following their instructions, and it gives us real peace of mind knowing that we're working with professionals here and they know what they're talking about with whatever they're recommending to us that we're selling to our clients.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: And I think you're right, after that first avalanche, we all know the dangers of it falling on children, on pets, but there's also just the basics of plants and grandma's roses. And so, to be able to really go to owners and protect what's around the building, what that I think is so important. So let's talk, Lars, a little bit about the kinds of systems that are available. If you could run us through that for the contractors out there, because I tell you the one thing I want to mention is you may not have snow before, but you're getting snow now. So no matter where you are listening to this, maybe not Florida, but you never know the way things are going, you need to be aware of what's happening.

So Lars, can you go through the different snow guard categories, snow fences, some of the other key initiatives, and things that you would like to share about snow retention from your company?

Lars Walberg: Okay, Heidi. Well, first I'd like to say that with Rocky Mountain Snow Guards, and what we've observed over the years is that you have to have the right product for each situation. And one of the things that we learned fairly quickly was that plastic snow guards generally have issues. So everything that we sell is metal. All of our snow retention products are metal, lots of aluminum products, some stainless products, lots of powder coated steel. That's what we do. And everything that we sell is made in America.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Nice.

Lars Walberg: So, we have the right product for every conceivable roofing application. Composite roofing products like DaVinci metal panels, both through fast and standing seeing and metal shingles. In addition, we offer systems for clay and concrete tile roofs, asphalt shingle roofs and of course natural cedar shake and natural slate roofs. We also offer products for commercial membrane roofs like TPOs, EPDMs and PVCs. And just as an aside, I touched on this earlier, those membrane roofs are possibly the slipperiest roofing products that can be installed on a sloped roof.

Last but not least, we offer a system for existing and new rooftop solar panels. We've found that most solar contractors don't warn their customers that snow will slide off the panels once the panels are installed. The homeowners didn't have that issue prior to adding the solar panels. Our solar system works with all types and manufacturers of solar panels and is not dependent upon the strength of the solar panel racking system. I'd also like to mention that we are the only major snow retention manufacturer that offers free shipping on all of our products to the 48 contiguous United States, and that's a big deal. Freight costs for shipping dimensional goods like eight-foot bars and eight-foot tubes is expensive. With Rocky Mountain's free freight policy, there's no freight surprise.

And, in the snow guard category, we offer three different series. Our Rocky Guard, which is the strongest snow guard available, the Snow Trapper series, which is a smaller, traditional half round style snow guard is especially popular in the Eastern US. Then we also have the Yeti Snow Guard that mimics the style of the snow trapper in a larger and stronger configuration. On all of our snow guards, we have different straps, and the straps come in different lengths and sizes so they can fit every different kind of roofing product. On snow fences, we have standing seam clamp on systems and we have bolt down snow fences for most shingle applications.

And I would say, here that we're the largest distributor of the S-5 ColorGard bar style snow guard system in the Rocky Mountain region. And S-5 is the undisputed leader in standing seam attachment products, with load testing on just about every seam gauge of metal standing seam panel. That's particularly important to us because if we sell a product that doesn't hold up and comes off the roof, well then we're not doing our job and we're not doing right by the customer.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: And what a great partnership with S-5. I love that.

Lars Walberg: It is a strong partnership with S-5 and yes, we'll leave it at that.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Well, that is an amazing selection. You really got it covered across the board. And so Nick, you've used a variety of these products from Rocky Mountain and on a lot of different types of roofs too. How do you determine which of these products you use for each of your jobs?

Nick Piontek: Yeah, so like I mentioned earlier, they have a great program in which they help us determine the right snow fence for the job. We send them either the diagram of the roof or a satellite imagery and they put together the material that we need, how much of it we need and we incorporate that into our contracts with our clients. But I wanted to talk a little bit about the ColorGard system that Lars was mentioning. We just did one of those recently. One that comes to mind is the new WoodSpring Suites and the Suburban Hotels, WoodSpring Suites is over in Littleton and they just finished building this roof. Well, it's a hotel and the roof is a standing seam metal, and after the first snowstorm, it was avalanche-ing off. So I walked into the hotel and asked the staff if the avalanche-ing snow was a problem.

Of course, everyone jumped up and said yes, and they put me in contact with the decision maker. At that point, I went to Rocky Mount Snow Guards with their building plans and Rocky Mount snow guards put together a plan with that ColorGard system. We were able to incorporate that into our contract with WoodSprings Suites, and they jumped on it immediately. And then they had referred us to the Suburban Hotel up in Westminster. So, we brought in a 60-foot boom, lift safety procedures, fall protection and got the job done. Part of that ColorGard system is that they have different colors for it. The suburban hotel had a green roof, so we used the evergreen color for that ColorGard and matched perfectly.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I love it. I love it. And I love the problem solving where you're like, do you guys have a problem? Yes, we do. Please help us. That's really what the roofing industry is all about. So as you're looking at some of these properties, Nick, and different roofs, you take the pictures and you take the information and you get it to Rocky Mountain. Do you also kind of as you're... I know this sounds obvious, but I'm just really interested, as you're walking up and you're looking at getting ready or even looking at a satellite ahead of time, are you already kind of thinking, yeah, I know what we're... we're going to need to get with Rocky on this?

Nick Piontek: Yeah. It is great being able to work with Rocky Mountain Snow Guards for the past couple of years. So we've really been able to learn a lot of all their offerings that they have. And so when I'm walking up on the job, like you're saying, I already have in mind what that client needs. So I'm able to talk to them briefly about what we're recommending and what I think Rocky Mountain Snow Guards is going to recommend as well. So I tell the client, Hey, we're going to get a satellite view of their roof. I'm going to send that over to Rocky Mountain Snow Guards. They're going to tell us the pattern which we need to use on that particular roof for the most optimum ability of holding that snow on the roof so it doesn't avalanche off. And the clients love that there's a lot of coordination that's going on between the supplier of the materials and the contractor as well. And so a lot of the homeowners feel very confident in moving forward with us because of the support that we get from Rocky Mountain Snow Guards.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, to me as a homeowner or a business owner, I would be like, wow, an engineered plan. Okay. This is giving me peace of mind. This is what I need. And I kind of want to take it one step further, Nick. What about the peace of mind for your crews, for your team that is up there installing this? I know there's a lot of safety considerations. You have to make sure, but then also installing. Tell us how that works. What's some of the feedback from your crews, from your installers on actually installing the snow retention, and how that engineered planning helps them have a plan?

Nick Piontek: Yeah, absolutely. So a lot of the work that we do is on these DaVinci Roofscapes roofs. They're fantastic roof product, but they are slick. And so we have a lot of, we will tie off rope and harness up there making sure that we're putting a retrofitted snow retention plan on those roofs. And so we have to take that into consideration. And for us, it's about following the plans that Rocky Mountain Snow Guards gives us. And we've been doing this for several years and we have not had any problems with any of the snow retention systems that we've installed with Rocky Mountain Snow Guards. In particular, one of the things I wanted to mention is that a lot of roofers that are doing the DaVinci Roofscapes, they don't really think about needing the snow retention system that goes along with the DaVinci roofs.

A lot of the time they just install, they're focused on getting the sale for that roof. It is a higher end roof and it is expensive. So they're getting that sale and they're missing out on the snow retention side of it. So we get a lot of these retrofits. We use the wood binder screw from Rocky Mountain Snow Guards. That's absolutely phenomenal. And this actually goes and penetrates through the DaVinci roof, and it creates a watertight seal with the EPDM ring at the top of the wood binder screw that prevents from any water getting in there. And again, we have not had any problems using these products retrofit on these existing roofs.

Lars Walberg: I'm glad you mentioned that, Nick, because we've done... We've been using that wood binder system on our snow guards, gosh, now, 13, 14... Well, even when I was representing the previous company, we were doing the similar systems, and we've been... Those systems, many of them up in Vail and Beaver Creek and places where there's a whole lot of snow and we've never had an issue with a leak or a snow guard tearing off the roof. So I am a believer in those as well.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: That is great. It's so good that you have that retrofit solution if people need it. And I think that's really important that contractors realize they can retrofit if other contractors aren't offering that. But Nick, I also want to kind of just go back. We started with this a little bit and we circled around it, but I just think it's so important when you said a lot of times if people are selling a higher end product, then they don't want to put the extra cost of snow retention. But not only are they losing money, but they're losing a little bit of their reputation, don't you think?

Nick Piontek: Absolutely.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Because they aren't offering the right safety and the right solutions.

Nick Piontek: Yeah, absolutely. And it is kind of crazy. We talked to the homeowners that we're doing these retrofits on and they go, "Why didn't my last roofer tell me about this?" And for us, we just we're more of along the lines of shrugging to them. I don't know. But we do know. And the reason why is because, as a salesperson and you're going and you're trying to get these roofs sold, they're not thinking about all the different details. They're just thinking about that one sale that they're trying to make, and it's really hurting their reputations, not thinking about the future with the type of snow that we get in Colorado. And the DaVinci roofs are a fantastic product, but they are slicker and they do need a snow retention system for roofs up in the mountains.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: And you know what? I think that's... Go ahead, Lars.

Lars Walberg: I'm sorry. So yeah, kind of an interesting aside. Now, up in the mountains, I'd say 95% of the new roofs that are going on have snow retention. So if it's a retrofit or whatever kind of roof it is, if it's a new roof going on, it's got some kind of snow retention up there. But in Denver, I'd say it might be 25% of the roofs that go on have snow retention, and the rest of the time they don't. And then we get the call, or you get the call, Nick, from homeowners saying, golly, snow sliding off and nobody told me.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah. We have a house right next to us up in the Oregon Mountains that is metal. And they didn't use any snow retention... They didn't ask me, obviously... And it piles every year. So it's not just about the danger of it following, but it's also those piles sometimes don't melt till June or July here. I think they melt faster in Denver, but around the country it is pretty crazy. But along that same line, Lars, I wanted to say that there are a lot of amazing DaVinci contractors like On Point Contracting that are using your snow retention. And one of them, I'd love for you to share one of the projects that just came out as a DaVinci Masterpiece Contractor 2023 Project of the Year award from Umbrella Roofing. And it was in Avon... I hope I said that right?

Lars Walberg: Yes.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Avon, Colorado. Can you tell us about that project?

Lars Walberg: Well, the job actually is... Umbrella Roofing put it on, it was a re-roof project. It's a big custom house that's actually on Beaver Creek Mountain. And Beaver Creek is a ski area, so naturally they get a whole lot of snow there. That's the name of the game. In some parts of our mountains, you can get upwards of 200 pounds of snow per square foot. That's what they're rated for. So you get a whole lot of snow. And this particular job went with the DaVinci multi wood shake. And the roof itself has a fairly high slope actually. And a lot of valleys, which is also common with those roofs up there. They seem to be fairly extravagant in a word, and difficult. Difficult to roof, difficult to keep the snow on, just difficult all the way around.

But that adds to the importance of effective snow retention. In a situation like that, we put our rocky guards on the upper parts of the roof, and then at the eve we put a row of our snow flash snow fence. And the combination, it's kind of like belt and suspenders to keep your pants up. The combination keeps all of the snow on the roof and nothing comes off. And that keeps the family safe when they're there in the winter. So that's our objective. Keeping people safe.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: And it's beautiful.

Lars Walberg: And it's beautiful.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: It's beautiful. Yeah, I know. I think that's the key that a lot of people think, well, is snow retention really that pretty? It is. It just fits the design, especially when it's engineered and done correctly. So Nick, talk a little bit just about your snow retention system success stories. What are some of your success stories that you've had out there that you can share with other contractors?

Nick Piontek: Yeah, absolutely. I got a great one for you. In Denver, there's a nice neighborhood, and the homeowner came to me. We ended up doing a DaVinci roof for her. What her main concern was that there's a sliding door that leads to the pool area and her kids are running in and out slamming that door. The pool's heated, so you can go out to the pool in the winters.

That was a question-

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Nice-

Nick Piontek: I know that's not [inaudible 00:23:35].

Lars Walberg: Well, I am that-

Nick Piontek: That would be important to mention. It's a heated pool with a hot tub in the back. It's a nicer neighborhood. But again, the kids are running in and out and there's snow on the roof. And one of her main concerns was that the snow is overhanging off the eve, and I really want to make sure when we get this new roof put on that it's not going to avalanche on and off and hit my kids or my dogs or it looks dangerous. And it really is dangerous. And this was actually really how we formed our relationship with Rocky Mountain Snow Guards. We came to them and we were really concerned about this as well. We were like, "Hey, we really got to make this work. It cannot avalanche off this eve."

I spoke to Lars and the team, and they put together a system for us, and they were telling us we're pretty much close to guaranteeing that it's not going to avalanche off the back of the roof. And we put it all together and we have a before and after photo, which I can share with you later, Heidi, where you can see how much the snow is actually hanging off that eve before we did the roof. And then after we did the roof with the, I believe we used the RG-12's on that project and the snow holds up. It was funny, we did it in, I think, in January or February, and we had a week between two very large snowstorms, both of them, between 18 to 20 inches. And so we have a photo before with the overhanging and another photo where it's held up on that eve. And she was absolutely ecstatic. That particular client is one of our better clients, and she keeps calling us for other work inside the house as well. She's looking to do a very large remodel, and she's having us do that.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: That is great. What a success. And I'm just seeing, you just don't want that snow coming down on kids in bathing suits, going out to swim in the snow.

Nick Piontek: Nope. Nope.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Only in Denver.

Nick Piontek: Only in Denver. It's a heated pool with a hot tub. I mean, it's really nice. I would love to have that for myself. But yeah, it was a real concern with that snow hanging off that eve.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: What a great success story. I love it. So Lars, for everyone out there who wants to be like Nick and On Point Contracting and really make this a big part of their company and differentiate themselves, how do people get in touch with you and how do they kind of get that this special engineering that you've done with Nick and you do for other contractors around the country?

Lars Walberg: We make it very easy for contractors to get ahold of us to get the ball rolling. Either they can put in a plan and do everything through our website so they could go to rockymountainsnowguards.com and input the information. Then we contact them if we need more information, we put together the quote and the layout and send it out, and then they can approve it digitally if they'd like, and they can pay right there on the phone. So we try to make that part as easy as we can. And there's a lot of people that aren't that tech-savvy like me. I'm not that tech-savvy. And so we have someone always during business hours, always answers the phone. And so they could just call us up and we can walk them through the process and take care of them that way. So either way, we try to make it as easy for our customers as we can to get the right answer.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I love it. I love it. I think you're going to see more and more, obviously, already you're seeing this, but across the country, especially with the snowstorm we just had over the last couple of weeks. There's a lot of people who are going to be looking at this even closer in the new year. So gentlemen, thank you so much for this information. This is great information and I think really important for contractors to start including into their business offerings like you have, Nick. Very impressive.

Nick Piontek: Yeah. It's been wonderful to work with Rocky Mountain Snow Guards, and we're really grateful to have that relationship.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, it really works.

Lars Walberg: We appreciate you, Nick, and appreciate you, Heidi, for having us on.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Thank you so much. And of course, everyone out there, you can find all this information, how to get ahold of Lars, how to get ahold of Rocky Mountain Snow Guards on their directory, on Roofers Coffee Shop, and be sure to check out all of our podcasts with all the information. This is the kind of stuff that can really change your business. So for all the Roofing Road Trips, check out under the navigation of the RLW Under Roofing Road Trips or on your favorite podcast channel. Be sure to subscribe and set those notifications. We will be seeing you next time on Roofing Road Trips.

Outro: Make sure to subscribe to our channel and leave a review. Thanks for listening. This has been Roofing Road Trips with Heidi from the Roofers Coffee Shop.

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