To roofing contractor Steve Daly, an empty roof deck has always represented more than just a new business opportunity. It is a work of art waiting to happen-and deserves to be treated as nothing less. Small wonder where Daly developed such dedication to his profession. He was born into a family of roofers, with his grandfather, father, uncle and two brothers all plying their crafts on the rooftops of Kansas City, Kan., and the surrounding Midwest area for KAW Roofing & Sheet Metal Inc., a family business now over 81 years old.

"Our success is a direct result of allowing young promising roofers to work closely with the best ‘old-timers' to learn all types of roofing, but particularly with specialty work involving slate, tile, and composite roofing materials," states Daly. "These roofers must understand our staunch policies of quality work and performing the job right the first time."

Given their long-established standards for quality and workmanship, it's clear that not just any roofing material would pass muster at KAW Roofing. This is evident in the company's position on early composite roofing products. "Our conservative nature would steer us away from the first generation products, and we would sit back and watch the performance of these products in their early service stages before actually selling them to our customers," says Daly. In hindsight the company made the prudent decision, since several composite products were pulled from the market because of quality issues.

But recently Daly has seen his attitude change with regard to composite shingles, thanks in large part to the relationship his company shares with TAMKO Roofing Products of Joplin, Mo. KAW Roofing has done business with TAMKO "probably from their beginning," as Daly puts it, so the comfort level was very high when TAMKO introduced a new generation of composites-Lamarite Slate Composite Shingles. "I do not recall one failure while using TAMKO products," says Daly. The fact that Lamarite shingles offer Class A fire protection and are backed by a 50-year limited warranty further convinced him of the product's superior quality.

TAMKO touts Lamarite shingles as having the natural beauty of real slate with unnatural performance. The shingles, which are made of a colorized, mineral-filled polymer, are more durable than real slate, so they are less likely to crack under roof traffic or harsh weather. The shingles are also lighter in weight, allowing them to be applied to a roof deck without having to first secure additional weight supports. The superior performance of the shingles has earned the approval of Miami Dade County (Code 04-0512.05), as well as UL Standard 2218, Class 4, for impact resistance.

To Daly, Lamarite Slate Composite Shingles represent another trusted material he can use to create one of his company's signature works of art. And he is getting the opportunity to do just that on a 12,000-square-foot home in southwest Missouri. The home features a "cut-up" roof with very small elevation faces, creating many valleys, hips, ridges, dormers and wall details that call for careful attention in the roofing process.

The user-friendly nature of Lamarite Slate Composite Shingles is easy to appreciate under any circumstances, but particularly on a home of such special character and specific roofing needs. The shingles can be easily cut using standard roofing tools, and they are also nail-gun installable with 1-1/2-inch roofing nails to greatly speed the installation process.

If Daly acts even more eager than normal to see this particular roof take shape, it is most likely attributable to recent product additions made to the Lamarite shingle line. TAMKO has developed new pieces of 5-, 7-, and 12-inch widths and various sizes with a staggered butt for an exposure range of 7, 7 1/2, or 8 inches. According to Daly, these new pieces will enable him to create an even more realistic slate look and also will allow the installers more creativity for the greatest range of effect.

"Random widths and staggered butts will give a rougher appearance through more pronounced shadow lines, which, very simply, add character to this composite slate," says Daly. He goes on to explain how the new pieces will provide for a characteristic cobbled appearance and a unique, aged roof look. "The rougher the better in terms of a more look-alike to the real rock."

The installation of the roof using these new Lamarite pieces provides the added advantage of not having to align the vertical joints in a symmetrical pattern over the entire roof surface. The use of Lamarite's canted starter shingles and preformed hip and ridge shingles will help to further expedite the installation process.

A four-man KAW Roofing crew is handling the roof installation, and Daly expects the sizeable 110-square job to take roughly 30 working days from the setting of safety gear, to the removal and underlayment process, on through the installation and finishing detail work. "Specialty roof installation is best achieved by a smaller crew size," says Daly. "Attention to detail is time consuming and is required to achieve a highly functional roofing work of art."