Editor's note: The following is the transcript of an interview with Jack Gottesman of IKO and Mark Zehnal of IBHS. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast here.
Heidi Ellsworth: Hello and welcome to another Roofing Road Trips. This is Heidi Ellsworth, an RCS partner, and I am here today and we're going to be talking about some very cool stuff with two of my favorite people out there in the roofing industry right now. I have to tell you, I am so happy to introduce Jack Gottesman and Mark Zehnal to the show. Welcome gentlemen.
Jack Gottesman: Thanks Heidi.
Mark Zehnal: Glad to be here.
Jack Gottesman: It's great to be road tripping again.
Heidi Ellsworth: I know here. We are again, Jack. I told you we'd get you back here and I have to tell you, I've worked with Mark for several years in Florida and different things. So, this is just like a little old homecoming this today, on the show.
Jack Gottesman: I love it. I love it. And then yeah with Mark on the East coast, then you and I on the West coast, this is a RoofersCoffeeShop, right from sea to shining sea.
Heidi Ellsworth: That's it. That's right. And we like that. [inaudible 00:01:09] and Canada. So, we're making sure we're getting in front of everybody. Well, Jack, I'm going to let you introduce yourself and your company, which I love so much. And just tell our audience a little bit about what's going on. What's happening with you again?
Jack Gottesman: Absolutely. So my name is Jack, like you mentioned before. I work for IKO and IKO is a manufacturer of building materials. And my specific focus within the company is on a residential roofing line and within the US. And it's a particularly exciting time to be a part of IKO because we are getting ready to celebrate our 70th year of business here in North America. So it's a nice milestone. Milestones like that just make you feel good.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah. Seventy years. That's a huge accomplishment and such an amazing company.
Jack Gottesman: Yes, it really is. It's a privilege. I'm very proud to work for the organization. We started in Canada. That's where our roots are, like you mentioned Canada before, but have since expanded on a mission to conquer the world. So here we go.
Heidi Ellsworth: Right. Well, I have to tell you, I've worked with a lot of awesome people, including Carol Perkins and a lot of amazing folks at IKO. So, we're just so happy to have you all part of the coffee shop. It really is a delight for us. So, thank you for being here today.
Jack Gottesman: Of course, it's my privilege.
Heidi Ellsworth: And Mark, I would love for you to introduce yourself and what are you doing now? Like I mentioned earlier, we've worked at a couple of different places or at least I have, I know I've worked in a lot of places, but tell us what you're doing now.
Mark Zehnal: My name's Mark Zainal. I work for IBHS, which is the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. And I am the senior roofing specialist there. And I work primarily with the FORTIFIED program, but I do help out with some of the research projects and helping with anything really that has to do with roofing. So, I think we'll talk a little bit about FORTIFIED program a little later, but that's pretty much what I'm doing, what I've always been doing since 1980. It's been a while.
Heidi Ellsworth: I was lucky enough, as you know, way back in my career I worked for Malarkey and I visited IBHS, to really see the wind tunnel ,to see the roofs, to see the houses and to really understand what the effects of weather do on the shingles, it was a humbling moment to watch that. And so when Jack came out and said, "Hey, we're just doing some amazing things with FORTIFIED, we want to talk about it." I was like, "Oh yeah, that is great. And everyone's going to want to hear about what's going on." So, for for the folks out there who are not familiar with IBHS, or the FORTIFIED program, Mark, why don't you start us off and just tell us a little bit what they're doing and especially around really this creating resilience.
Mark Zehnal: I appreciate the opportunity to do this. the FORTIFIED program has been around a while and I started with IBHS just about four years ago. It was September in 2016 that I came over and joined them and got involved in the FORTIFIED program. And I'll tell you, Heidi, if I was a contractor at the time, I would have been all over this. It just makes so much sense to me. And as I was doing trainings for the roofers for FORTIFIED, I'd have people come up to me and say, "This makes so much sense." And the funny thing about it is it's really basic stuff. And a lot of people are doing some of the things already. They just don't even know it. But IBHS is a unique facility. As you know, it's one of a kind, and it's six stories, on the building that has the fans, it's six stories on the inside. And we can put several buildings in there at a time, but we actually test the entire building itself. So, we look at the entire system, not just bits and pieces here and there. We see how it all works together, which is really cool because it is a system, it's an assembly, it's not just one piece. And I think Jackson will talk about some of that cool stuff later on with IKO, but for us, we test individual pieces like underlayment, flashing, shingles, we test tile, metal, we test a lot of different things, but then we test them as assemblies and see where the vulnerabilities are. And that's where all the FORTIFIED information comes from. We take that information, find where those vulnerabilities are and find solutions to them. And in finding those solutions, we incorporate them into the FORTIFIED program to get the best results that people can actually get. So. That's really where we come from. We've got some really cool people that work up there, the scientists that I get to work with. And it's just a great place to be. And it's funny, because my mom asked me, "Do you like where you're working at?" I said, "Mom, I get to blow stuff up. I get to blow stuff up." So, it is the thrill [inaudible 00:06:31]. I really appreciate the opportunity to be there and to be part of this cutting edge that's going on.
Heidi Ellsworth: I love that because I felt the same way when I was there. I was just like, "Wow." People out there are wondering, they have these huge houses and they build full houses, full roofing systems, full everything. How many miles per hour is the winds that come across those houses?
Mark Zehnal: They can go 130, 135 miles an hour. There's 105, six foot fans there. And they create this huge wall of wind, but they can also make turbulence. We can also include rain into it, eight inches of rain per hour. So, it really recreates an entire hurricane. And we recently had some testing that we had done and what they can take is the information that they get in advance from some hurricanes, how they put all these little instruments out in front of hurricanes, they collect that information. We can put it into the computers and actually simulate what was happening at that particular place. And our scientist has done that. It's really neat to watch that.
Heidi Ellsworth: That is cool. So Jack, I think the thing that's so amazing is when a manufacturer like IKO really says, "We know how great our products are. We believe in our systems, let's partner with folks like IBHS and FORTIFIED to really promote this and move the industry forward." So, tell us about your involvement and how this all got started and where you're at right now because I'm really inspired by it.
Jack Gottesman: Of course. Yeah. Thank you. And I will say that IKO has been working closely with IBHS for a long time, but we've really ramped things up. Mark, what would you say? Over the last year, 18 months, we've started really working closer together. And the reason is... I'll put it like this, we were doing a PR project with our friends at Apple Roofing in the Midwest recently. And one of them just said something that I love. They said that the roof is very important obviously, but it's what's underneath the roof that matters most. And I think that he nailed it. And when you have organizations like IBHS that are doing all this testing right there on the forefront, they are there. We want to make sure that we're partnering with them in order to make sure that people have the best roofing systems available.
Heidi Ellsworth: That's excellent because I think that you know what you're manufacturing, but when you bring all the parts together and you really can test it with a group, like IBHS, that's really what matters. And then people have that. We all need third-party verification. Right?
Jack Gottesman: Certainly. And then the idea is that hopefully people who live under the people, the human beings, who live underneath that roof, won't even need to think about it.
Heidi Ellsworth: Right. That's what we want, especially right now in the atmosphere that we have, the home is just more important than ever. And we want to know that we're being protected. So, when we're looking at that, Mark, can you share how FORTIFIED is working with the IKO? We know they're taking their products their, their whole systems getting them tested. What are you doing in return with these companies to really help promote this resiliency?
Mark Zehnal: So, part of what we do is, Heidi, is we try to get people trained in the pathway that FORTIFIED takes, because it is a little bit different, you said that third party verification. In most places in the United States, most of the roofing contractors I talked to, there aren't any inspections from the municipalities. Outside of Florida, it's scarce although there are some places that actually do it, but for every ,FORTIFIED roof that goes on, there's a third-party verification that's included. So the homeowner is getting somebody looking over the shoulder of the contractor. The contractor is getting somebody looking over their shoulder, which is a good thing for them, as far as I'm concerned, as a roofer. And also the manufacturers are having somebody watch what's going on, that information is documented through pictures and some other type of written documentation it's sent to our offices where we take it in and we verify that. And if it's not done right, we tell them and they have to fix it and then it comes back to us. And one of the things I really like, being involved with the manufacturers, is that I can call the technical people over at IKO. And if a contractor is having issue or something or a homeowner, and I can call them and like that we're able to deal with the problem immediately. We don't have to go around in circles. And then, usually we find that the contractors may be not doing something right. That's generally the problem. There's an issue with the contractor. I've been doing this for 30 years this way and one of those types of things. And a lot of those things are actually good, but in our trainings, we try to help them see the value of the manufacturer's installation instructions. They're the ones that have tested their products, whether it's for the physical properties or whether it's for wind resistance, there are certain things that they have to do. And those are the requirements that we look for and they're the experts in their materials. So that's why we like to partner with people like IKO.
Heidi Ellsworth: That's excellent. And Jack, one of the things I've been seeing, going on with that topic of products, is I've been seeing your press releases come out that are talking about these very cool accessories and how they work to create this whole system. So, I saw Gold Seal and Edge Seal. Talk to us about that system, or approach that you guys are doing.
Jack Gottesman: That's a great question. And I want to even take what Mark said and take it even a step further, which is that one of the things that we really like to focus on is innovation. Okay? We listen to what our customers are saying, what the homeowners are saying, what the contractors are saying, what it is that they want. And we try to deliver and think forward. When we're innovating, when we are getting ready to release new products, like Edge Seal, and Gold Seal like you mentioned a moment ago, the feedback from organization groups like IBHS is vital. That was actually the first time Mark and I met, was earlier this year when we installed. We went to a job site together, we brought our new products and we installed them onsite on a house. We had gone through our rigorous testing system and they were ready to go. And we wanted to make sure that we had feedback from IBHS themselves and to show them what it is that we innovated. And we take those accessory products, pair them with our performance shingles, and together we have what we call our performance application system. And that's something that we've been working closely with IBHS on, over the past year. We debuted the performance application system at the IRE conference earlier this year in Texas. And it is essentially a system of performance, shingles, and accessories that was built to go in concert with the strict FORTIFIED methods. So, we broke it down into four steps. And when homeowners installed this system, it gives them an increased chance of resiliency and hopefully their roof will stand up against the elements.
Heidi Ellsworth: I like it. And I'm going to throw in some thoughts on that too, it's just the importance of that edge. And I think I remember seeing these wind tests and everything and how important it is that you aren't just thinking shingles, but you're thinking about how you're fortifying the whole roof. So as you put that system together, Mark, what are you seeing with that? The systems that are out there, that are really standing out.
Mark Zehnal: Well, one of the things that's interesting is that the FORTIFIED program doesn't always align itself with the code. And one of the main issues we've had in the past is that at the at the edge, the very bottom leading edge, of the roof, the eave, we require that the underlayment is underneath that edge metal. We want the underlayment to be secured. So, that edge metal actually is nailed on top. Where in the code, it generally says to put that on top. And now you don't have a connecting point for the shingles at the metal. And like you were saying earlier, the wind, it's at its worst, where it does the worst damages, right at the edge, at the corners and at the perimeters. So we look at things from a different perspective when it comes to that. And I think that's one of the things about what Jack was talking about with their products, as it helps reinforce that edge, it makes that connection stronger plus they have another piece they add in to help create more of a solid separation from the roof. Because like he said earlier, I said it in a different way, what we call it is protecting what is priceless. Somethings, you cannot replace with money or anything else. So as you know, they have edge seal, which goes around it and it covers up that little opening that's between the fascia and the sheathing.
Jack Gottesman: So that seal is a starter strip. And that's at the place at the even the rake and the Gold Seam is sealing tape or flashing tape that is put in the field, in between the roof panels and in that nice little spot that's... How big would you say that spot is Mr. Zainal? In between the roof deck and the fascia where it's big and definitely big enough for water or insects or rodents, or insert nasty thing here, to find its way into your attic.
Mark Zehnal: It's funny in construction. Those are the little features that seem to get missed when they're building homes. That little gap there that's created in different ways. But like Jack was saying, that tape actually is used on the deck because we have what's called a sealed roof deck. So, that needs to be included in the program, but they have an entire package basically, IKO does, that covers the FORTIFIED program.
Heidi Ellsworth: So it makes it easy. As easy as it can be, but it makes it easy for contractors because you really know you have this whole program, you have it all spelled out Jack, they understand how to do it. So, how do roofing contractors... And I'm going to go back to you, Mark. How do roofing contractors get involved with the FORTIFIED program?
Mark Zehnal: That's a great question. So, one way is through your manufacturers like IKO, they have been a partner with us and they've actually helped organize training sessions where we can actually go out in the field and see people face to face and have good meetings. But now we have an LMS, a learning management system, where contractors can go online and they can actually take the program online at their own pace instead of being put in a room for three or four hours, they can do it on their own pace. And it costs a $100 to do the program. And if you want to get FORTIFIED certified, there's an exam you can take for an additional $50. So it's not to make you a roofing contractor. This is a program that's really designed for people who are contractors, who want to take the step into the FORTIFIED program. You'll learn a lot about the documentation and all the things that are required to actually be successful in our program, because you don't want to put a roof on that you're going to charge extra money for because there's some additional steps. And then at the end, not be able to get a designation for your homeowner. They're not going to be happy with you as a contract. They're not going to be happy with us, and they're not going to be happy with the manufacturers or anybody else. So, we want you to be successful. So, we would prefer people go through our training program and go through the steps to find out how to be successful.
Jack Gottesman: When you see these hurricanes, these extreme weather scenarios that go through, especially in the Southeast where IBHS finds their headquarters, you'd start comparing, and they have some great videos on their website, you start comparing the homes that were built using the FORTIFIED system versus the ones that weren't. When they have that sweeping shots of... That aerial shot of the neighborhood, it's easy to pick those homes out. So when we were putting this system together, right, we basically broke it down into four steps, which is what we mentioned before. So, number one is fasten the roof deck, then you seal the roof using the gold seam tape, then you secure the edges using the tape at the even fascia joints, as well as the eaves and the rakes. And then you install performance shingles, which IKO has in our Dynasty and Nordic lines, that's reinforced with the wide nailing armor zone and the reinforced woven band at the back. So, the idea is that based on the research and success that IBHS FORTIFIED has seen with their system, we want to be able to give contractors an opportunity to build homes using almost exclusively IKO products.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yes, I love it.
Jack Gottesman: We don't make the nails but everything else.
Heidi Ellsworth: Everything else. So, Jack keep going on that, because one of the things I'm thinking of as I'm listening to both of you is for a homeowner, obviously you want the best roof. You want something that's going to protect your home. But I also understand through insurance savings and through other benefits with the FORTIFIED product, it helps homeowners insurance. Is that right?
Mark Zehnal: So, yes, in certain areas, there are actually insurance discounts that people get and there's a couple of places where they can actually be helped through grant programs like in North Carolina and Alabama, that people apply for grants and they can actually get money if they get a designation. That's why it's so important to know the process. And one of the things that I always mention to contractors is, "Hey, if you have a manufacturer you work with, for instance, like ICO, they more than likely have all the products you need. They may not have the e-drip or the nails, but they probably have everything else you need to be able to qualify for the FORTIFIED program. And that way, you know exactly what's going down, the homeowner knows what they're getting and the evaluator can capture that information. And there's a single source instead of taking this from there and something from over there, you have a single source." And which I believe, as a former contractor in, is that I want to take something that I know that works and use it over and over and over again.
Heidi Ellsworth: And Jack, you're seeing the same thing with your contractors, right? When we talk about the IKO roof pros, what are they saying? And how are they using this?
Jack Gottesman: Absolutely, when someone can get a discount on their homeowners insurance, that's a huge win, right? Everybody likes saving money, but even if you don't qualify for that, for whatever reason, if your state doesn't do that, or you just live in the wrong area or you don't have a contractor who's enrolled in that program. We still strongly believe that taking these precautions and just really looking at the reality, looking at the statistics about high winds and looking about, and looking at the trends in terms of inclement weather, we find that even independent of that, and I don't want to mitigate the importance and value of saving money, but even independently of that, we find that people are attracted to these types of programs on their merits and that when people are more than willing and more than happy to go the extra steps because it's going to make them feel safe.
Heidi Ellsworth: Jack, last time in our last podcast, we talked a lot about marketing and how contractors should be marketing during this time of COVID and with the remote and everything else that's going on. In my mind, this program, FORTIFIED program, is the perfect tool for contractors to really be hitting what's most important to homeowners right now. What are you seeing marketing wise? Or what would you recommend to contractors? How should they use this?
Jack Gottesman: Yeah. The idea is that if they're doing this right, people should use the fact that they are using performance, shingles and accessories to distinguish and differentiate themselves from their competitors. Right. There are a lot of roofing contractors out there and everybody who's going door knocking as a roofing contractor has someone else potentially, who's going to be knocking a few minutes later. So, you want to stand out. And the way to stand out is by offering a system saying look, I'm not just here. The last time that we spoke, we spoke about how so many people think that you have the roof deck and then the shingles, and then nothing in that sandwich. Guys like me and Mark, we like a lot of meat in our sandwich. Right. Throw on the layers. So, that's what this is all about.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah. I like that. I like that. Picking a brand, that's going to stand behind you as a contractor and really be there. That is really what IKO has been built all around. And this FORTIFIED program just seems to fit right into that.
Jack Gottesman: Yeah. Yes, it really does. That's why, in addition to the performance shingles, those accessories underneath, just as an extra level of precaution and protection to keep yourself and your loved ones and your valuables safe, it's a great partnership. We love working with them.
Heidi Ellsworth: That is so great. So, Jack, how can contractors, one, get involved with IKO and their ROOFPRO program? And then through that, how are getting people involved with FORTIFIED also?
Jack Gottesman: For sure. So, to get involved with ROOFPRO, which is our loyalty program, I recommend that people do a quick Google search for an IKO ROOFPRO, it's really easy and you'll find ways to enroll. And there are a ton of benefits involved with being a part of our ROOFPRO program. And if you want to learn more about them, I recommend that after you listen to this podcast, you go on and listen to my colleague, Nicole Gray, who we took a wonderful roofing road trip with Heidi earlier this year. And she talked about it and she talked about all the many benefits of ROOFPRO, but one of those benefits is the continued education. And that's something that we really think is important, not just to educate people about IKO and the products that we offer, which are excellent, but to take it a step further and to talk about the roofing industry in general, trends that we as the manufacturers are seeing, because a lot of times a roofing contractor will really understand their market, but you go two or three markets or two or three states over and things could be different. So, by being a part of the ROOFPRO community, that's something that we can help people understand more national trends or international trends and get some cool swag, maybe along the way.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah. Some good stuff. And be involved with programs like FORTIFIED and what's happening over there. So, Mark, how do contractors get involved with the FORTIFIED? Where do they go? What should they do next?
Mark Zehnal: So, you can go to check out our website at fortifiedhome.org and you'll see all the available information there. If you want to get trained, you can go to fortifiedys.com and that will take you to the available trainings. And we have two different standards that we use. We use what we call Hurricane and then High Wind and Hail. So, obviously the hurricane is the coastal parts. And that's what we've primarily been talking about here. So, this is for people all over the United States, not just the places where they can get the discounts and to the point of being able to market for contractors. If you actually take the training and pass the exam and get certified, you have access then to marketing material with FORTIFIED licensing that you'll have to do with us. I don't know if you've seen them, but they're actually yard signs. You can do signs on your vehicles. You can actually put on your contracts and things like that. So, we're happy to help the contractors do that, to help them to be successful. So, there are good advantages to being a FORTIFIED contractor.
Heidi Ellsworth: I also want to say that due to our partnerships with FORTIFIED and IBHS, and of course are very excited about working with IKO. All of this is on Roofer's Coffee Shop too. So, you can go to the directories, you can find it on the ads, you can find it all over the place because we really want this kind of information to be out to the contractors. We want them to be able to look at it, to be able to be involved with quality manufacturers, contractors, testing, and all of these types of installations that are out there. So gentlemen, thank you. Jack, any last words? Any other thoughts?
Jack Gottesman: Last thoughts? Yes. Thank you, Heidi. I think my last thoughts are first of all, to thank you for having me back onto the podcast and to say that really when it comes down to it, knowledge is power. The more that people know, the more that people are informed, the better prepared that they're going to be in order to have that conversation with their contractor and get the best possible roofing system on their house. Which is why at the IRE, Mark and I did seven wonderful presentations together, showing people the system and how to put on this type of roof using IKO products. And I hope that people will take the time to learn and to educate themselves because the bad weather is probably coming to a neighborhood near you. So, you're going to want to make sure that you're asking these questions now and not waiting until the storm.
Heidi Ellsworth: That is so true. The weather is just crazy. And I have to tell you, Jack, again, I need to have you back on this podcast because they're always so great. And tell you what, I love this knowledge, this advice, the things that are really helping contractors with their business, especially during this time, you have to differentiate. You have to really take care of the customer more than ever. And so this has been great. Mark, thank you so much for being here today and Jack. Oh, sorry. And Jack as always, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I hope you guys all have a nice day and everyone who listened today, thank you so much for tuning into these podcasts. You can find us on all podcast channels. As we said, we're under the read list and watch section of the Roofer's Coffee Shop. You can find Jack's podcast. You can find other podcasts from FORTIFIED. You can find Nicole and Carol. There's just so many cool podcasts, so be sure to go and check them out and join us on our next Roofing Road Trips. Thank you and have a great day.