New Ridge Roofing’s attention to detail keeps clients covered
It wasn’t the first time that Joe Calderon, President of New Ridge Roofing (New Ridge), heard a prospective client marvel at the stark difference between his and another company’s cost proposal. “It’s pretty common I’ll hear about another company turning in a one-page bid. In contrast, our proposals are pretty comprehensive,” he says. “On this job, for example, we submitted a proposal that was 14 pages—three pages laying out the project and costs, followed by a site plan, spec sheets for all the materials and a safety plan.”
It’s this attention to detail that has earned clients’ trust up and down the West Coast and across the U.S., according to Joe. Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, New Ridge specializes in both shingle and metal steep-slope roofs for residential and commercial customers. The company most often works on multifamily, senior living and hospitality projects, as well as jobs for city, state and federal entities. New construction and reroofing projects span up to 500,000 square feet in size, and the company has worked on roofs up to 21 stories high in busy downtown Portland. Its sister company, Sterling-Pacific Commercial Roofing and Waterproofing (Sterling-Pacific), specializes in flat roofs and waterproofing jobs up to 100,000 square feet. “Some of our clients have properties with both shingles and flat roofs. Between New Ridge and Sterling-Pacific, we can do it all,” Joe says.
Protecting People, Plants and Property
According to Joe, New Ridge excels at working on roofs in occupied buildings. “We make sure safety is on point—not just for our workers, but [also] for tenants and all those in and around the building,” he says.
Joe cites the example of an assisted living facility. “Folks are older, and some may wander outside at any given time, so safety is critical,” he says. While the crew, foreman and superintendent focus on the job at hand, a specially assigned project manager is in charge of placing safety cones around the active job site, updating signage on doors and around the facility, and meeting with building management to keep them up to speed on the project. He adds, “Our project manager ensures that the owner and managers understand exactly where we’ll be working on any given day and how long we’ll be there.”
The company not only works to protect people, but to care for property as well. “We take extra special care of our surroundings. A client might have nice green grass or mature plants and trees. We protect plants by covering them, and when we do have to use forklifts across a grass surface, we employ protective mats to minimize our impact,” Joe says.
When he first visits a prospective job site, Joe takes the time to walk the property, making note of potential environmental issues. “If there are bird feeders or animals that might be disturbed by our presence, we want to be aware of that upfront,” he says.
On these initial visits, Joe brings along examples of roofing materials and takes the time to answer questions and explain the process to the site manager. “This is my opportunity to paint the picture of how the project will roll out. Some of my clients who manage these buildings aren’t around construction all day like we are. And this is very much a construction job. We’re essentially removing and replacing one of the largest pieces of that building. When I walk around the property, I’ll discuss the challenges of that particular job, the things we know and things we won’t know until we begin working,” he says.
“Spending that time educating the property owner or manager, answering questions and setting their expectations upfront, helps us begin to earn their trust. Then as the project rolls out, they can see that we’re doing exactly what we said we were going to do,” Joe adds.
Having that client trust is key when you run into potential issues, he says. “Things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes we uncover rot or something else unforeseen. But how you handle that and how you keep those lines of communication open throughout the project makes the difference in whether the client is happy at the end of the day,” Joe says.
New Ridge commonly works with general contractors and government agencies where safety expectations are at their highest. “Safety is engrained in our culture,” Joe says. Crew members gather each Monday for a safety meeting where leaders outline safety concerns on specific job sites. “Everyone signs our safety sign-in sheet so we can make sure all team members have heard the message and understand what to look out for before they get off the ground,” Joe says. Further, General Manager Manuel Milby serves on the executive board of SafeBuild Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to transforming the construction culture and eliminating incidents and injuries on construction job sites.
“Some of our clients have properties with both shingles and flat roofs. Between New Ridge and Sterling-Pacific, we can do it all.” Joe Calderon, President, New Ridge Roofing
Understanding Client Expectations
New Ridge and Sterling-Pacific typically keep four crews active throughout the year with the ability to ramp up quickly for out-of-town jobs. “We have a network of crews and traveling teams that go wherever they’re needed across the country,” Joe says.
An affordable housing project for Northwest Housing Alternatives in Milwaukie, Oregon, kept crews busy for two months. “This was a new construction project with five buildings that required both shingle and flat roofing,” Joe says. For the shingled roofs, New Ridge worked closely with the architect to source a special type of solar shingle. “This solar shingle has really good energy performance properties, but you can only get it in California,” he says. While other companies prefer to “blow and go,” speeding through projects, according to Joe, sometimes it’s best to slow down to go fast. “With this project, we had to periodically pause work and check with the architect and general contractor on issues like how the roof should transition along the wall. While we understand our craft, it’s sometimes necessary to slow down to make sure you understand exactly how a client wants something done.”
In addition to the special materials, the close proximity of the buildings necessitated working above and around other tradespeople. “There were a lot of different trades working on the interior and exterior of the buildings, but we know what to look for and how to safely work in these tight spaces where there’s not a lot of open air,” he says.
Joe finds it gratifying to work on affordable housing projects like this one. “These types of projects have come about because of a bond—the community wanted this housing project. So you become a piece of that story,” he says.
Joe not only finds it an honor to work on affordable housing projects, but works to give people in need a chance to find a career in the trades. He has served as a board member of Constructing Hope, which helps to rebuild the lives of people in the community by encouraging self-sufficiency through skills training and education in the construction industry, and has recently become a member of Business For A Better Portland, which works to address Portland’s greatest challenges, generate shared prosperity and advance social justice and equity.
Joe explains that he started his first roofing company in 2007 with the aim of helping someone in need. “I was in my 20s and working in the mortgage industry. I had just purchased a rental property and found out that the tenant was an out-of-work roofer who had been injured falling off a roof. So my buddy and I started a roofing company and hired the guy. We had that business for about a year before I became involved in sales and marketing,” he says.
In 2015, Joe was looking to transition once again and decided to reenter the roofing industry. “Online advertising had changed our business model, and I was looking to pivot in my career. I retrained my sales and marketing team to focus on roofs,” he explains.
Joe found the industry had changed in the years he’d been absent. “There were a lot more players in the market, and labor was more difficult to find at first,” he recalls. But when crews found Joe could keep them busy year-round, his labor force grew.
“We have a tight-knit group,” Joe says. “One of our guys just got married and we were all there for the wedding. Employees know I’m not some owner rolling up in a Mercedes-Benz. I’ve got my truck and I’ll sometimes work right alongside them to get jobs done.”
Working in Concert with Other Trades
Crew members recently worked closely to complete a four-month project for the Beaverton Public Safety Center in Beaverton, Oregon. “This job required two different types of roofing systems—a torch down roof and liquid-applied flashing,” Joe says. He explains that a roof company must be specially insured and certified to install a torch down roof, which involves using a propane torch to apply multiple modified bitumen membranes. “The crew had to provide a fire watch for the entire time they were using the torch and even after the fact for several hours.”
The job was further complicated by a relatively new building material, cross-laminated timber, which is weather sensitive. “We had to make sure the deck was protected and completely dry before beginning work,” he adds. Further, the team had to carefully manage the schedule to accommodate the installation of solar panels. “We coordinated work with this trade partner to deliver the roof system in concert with the solar system.”
Another project had the company working nights and weekends to complete a roofing job for Portland’s downtown performing arts center, Antoinette Hatfield Hall. “We couldn’t close down any streets, and we had to install the roof while the building was occupied with employees and performers,” Joe says. Furthermore, the building’s siding was being replaced at the same time as the roof. Crew members applied over 30,000 square feet of Kemper System waterproofing and installed pavers over the rooftop patio. “Kemper System told us this was their largest waterproofing job in the Pacific Northwest,” he notes.
While the crew worked tirelessly to complete the project on time, there were some perks to the job. “Modest Mouse was performing at Antoinette Hatfield Hall, and we got to meet the band,” Joe says.
With every project the company takes on, Joe’s goal is simple. “I want to minimize the client’s worry and anxiety about the project. Building managers have a lot to deal with on a day-to-day basis. I don’t want them to worry about this construction project. And that starts with educating clients and setting expectations out of the gate,” he says.
“Construction is cool. We get to work with big equipment—there’s nothing like watching a crane load a 21-story building—and we get to use our hands to create something useful. Plus, every day is different on the job. I like that we get to think through issues and come up with solutions. That keeps me going,” Joe says.