Lumberjack, carpenter, tool and die maker, Army veteran, swimming pool installer, pilot, and salesman … throughout his life, Duro-Last Roofing, Inc. founder John R. Burt wore these shoes and then some. Along the way, he endured many struggles. Yet with only an eighth-grade education, he reached deep down inside and, at the age of 58, started a small business that has since grown into a multi-million-dollar conglomerate of companies. John Burt’s humble upbringings in rural northern Michigan helped mold his self-sufficiency and work ethic - two character traits that shaped the business that would become Duro-Last.
In the mid-1960s, Burt started Bridgeport Pools with two friends from the construction industry, and soon bought them out. By 1975, the company was doing over $2 million in annual sales. Then disaster struck when a shipment of pool liners turned out to be defective. Replacing them all was time-consuming and very expensive. “We almost went broke,” Burt would later admit.
In fact, the liner disaster turned out to be an opportunity in disguise. Burt decided that the only way he could be absolutely sure of the quality of his pools was to manufacture his own liners - a business move that became a precedent for vertically integrating the Duro-Last roofing operation years later.
Burt got a loan, bought $20,000 worth of materials, put his house on the line, and named his new endeavor Tri-City Vinyl. Then another disaster provided a new opportunity for Burt. When a ship coming down the Saginaw River hit the Sixth Street Bridge and cracked a fuel cell, city officials needed a fast repair to keep chemicals from leaking into the river. Burt was willing to take on the project, but his pool liner material didn’t have the necessary chemical resistance. The problem was finally solved when the government furnished Burt with a new kind of plastic material, and Tri-City Vinyl made the patch.
With the material he used on the fuel cell project, Burt saw real possibilities. It was chemically resistant and also resistant to ultraviolet rays that destroy plastic. When he used the material left over from the fuel cell patch job to successfully patch a leak on the roof of the Tri-City Vinyl building, it was the beginning of a brand-new business direction for Burt, and Duro-Last Roofing was established.
Today, 30 years later, Duro-Last delivers quality-assured products by completing 80 percent to 85 percent of roof deck membrane seaming in a controlled environment. Duro-Last also produces a complete line of standard and custom fabricated accessories. They are made from the same membrane as the roofing sheets, in the factory rather than with labor-intensive field fabrication on the roof. This novel approach means that only 15 percent to 20 percent of the seaming is done in the field, greatly reducing the likelihood of installation errors and subsequent leaks.
Duro-Last’s sister companies manufacture the membrane, as well as screws, edge details, gutters, coping and other components. The company’s vertical integration approach - unique in the roofing industry - allows Duro-Last to control the manufacturing process top to bottom, ensuring that customers receive the highest quality roofing system available on the market today.
John Burt passed away in 2003, but his corporate philosophy lives on in the company he founded. “My philosophy is this: if I’m going to manufacture a product, that product better be the best of its kind and do what it’s supposed to do,” he said. “That’s why today, we have the highest quality roofing system in the industry and are well-known for backing that system with outstanding customer service and excellent warranties.”
For more information, visit www.duro-last.com.