Like many in the roofing industry, I followed family members
into the trade. I served most of my apprenticeship on a couple huge
pitch tear-offs at a St. Louis brewery and an automobile plant. One
day, after spending months scooping handfuls of stringy, chewing
gum-grade adhesive from buckets and smearing it on a wall that
seemed endless, my oldest brother asked me whether I wanted to fill
in for a journeyman who was out that day.
I spent the next eight hours tagging a felt layer or, in
layman's terms, chasing my brother with a push broom as he quickly
walked backward pulling the felt layer. The green smoke from the
coal tar pitch formed a cloud that shrouded me the entire day. My
lips were burned; my taste buds seemed irreparably damaged; and in
the coming days, I would completely shed all the skin from the top
of my shirt collar to the base of my hairline. The experience
convinced me there had to be a more pleasant way to earn $8.75 per
So when the company owner came to the job site the following day
and asked who wanted to learn how to install a new single-ply roof
system using a torch, I jumped at the opportunity.
The material was thick and the rolls were heavy, but we soon
became proficient installers of the new roofing technology. As
demand for this type of roof system increased, so did demand for
those of us with the skills to install it. It wouldn't be long
before the single-ply revolution would forever change the face
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