A Sign of Success: Kalkreuth Roofing & Sheet Metal Grows From Humble Beginnings to Emerge as go-to Building Envelope Specialist
Like the children of many small business owners, John Kalkreuth grew up sleeping, eating and living the family roofing business — working it through junior high, high school and college. But being shaped with a blue-collar work ethic early in life enabled Kalkreuth and his future business partner and co-principle, Jim Hurley, to impart to their employees that same sense of pride in a job well done when it was their turn to lead Kalkreuth Roofing & Sheet Metal.
The roots of the business date back to 1920 when John Kalkreuth’s grandfather and his grandfather’s brother started their roofing company in Wheeling, W.V. The business changed hands but stayed in the family throughout the years until Kalkreuth and Hurley were given the opportunity to take over in 1984. Both graduate engineers, the two men had a vision for the company that led it to become one of the premier roofing contractors in the nation.
It started with a re-roofing project for Fort Steuben Mall in Steubenville, Ohio, in 1985. “We started in November of 1984 — winter,” said Hurley, who obtained his industrial engineering degree from West Virginia University and his mechanical engineering degree from Penn State. “So, we had been doing a lot of small repair jobs, many for the Fort Steuben Mall. Then, in June of ’85, the mall’s owners decided to do a re-roof and we got the call. It was a big job for us then. It came at the right time and helped us get a positive for our first year of business.”
From there, the company steadily branched out into other locations, additional product offerings and expanded services. Kalkreuth Roofing & Sheet Metal can today be found in Wheeling, W.V.; Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh; Frederick, Md.; and Lexington, Ky. These offices allow for an extensive territory of operation that includes West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Kentucky and Washington D.C. However, the company has the ability to travel anywhere in the United States for the right project and scope of work. “Each office operates as its own profit center,” said Kalkreuth, “and each one has its own separate service division with separate personnel. So, each office is responsible for its own financing and financial statements, and then there’s an overarching corporate structure for things like marketing, accounting, IT and so on.”
Known for Making a Difference
If there’s a big-name general contractor or construction management firm east of the Mississippi, Kalkreuth Roofing & Sheet Metal has likely worked with it since, according to Kalkreuth, the company works with a lot of the regional and national firms. These larger firms know that they can rely on Kalkreuth Roofing & Sheet Metal for a number of reasons.
Topping the list of eye-catching qualities for a big-name GC or owner are the services offered. Among the thermal and architectural exterior envelope applications tackled by the company are:
- Architectural insulated wall panels
- Vegetative roofing
- Low- to steep-slope roofing
- Metal roofing
- Metal wall systems
- Photovoltaic roofing
And with as many manufacturer partnerships that Kalkreuth Roofing & Sheet Metal has made, the company is capable of handling just about any job. “We have a lot of good, long-standing relationships with general contractors and others who call on us when projects are large, tough and require a broad scope of work on the exterior,” said Kalkreuth. “Tough projects are our bread and butter.”
The company’s ability to take on a wide-ranging scope of work is backed up by its in-house expertise and financial capacity. “Today’s market has changed. It’s no longer simply about submitting a bid to a GC and then waiting to see what happens,” said Kalkreuth. “It’s as much about costs as it is about constructing a building from the nuts and bolts. We really understand all the intricacies of the construction industry beyond the roofing aspect.”
When a point of emphasis is made on a company’s ability to tackle large, complex jobs, those claims have to be backed up when the call comes. Kalkreuth Roofing & Sheet Metal employs about 300 roofers and 100 sheet metal workers. Its facilities include an extensive sheet metal shop capable of fabricating just about any need a project might have for metal. “So, when a large company calls up for a flat-roof project where different metal types meet at a lot of different points, we know we’ll shine,” said Kalkreuth.
Of course, having an extensive shop means little if the expertise of the people running the shop is lacking. That’s why Kalkreuth Roofing & Sheet Metal takes employee retention seriously. When jobs require field staff to spend time away from their families most of the week, good communication between field employees and project managers becomes paramount to maintaining morale. Kalkreuth said that company newsletters and involving employee families with work-related events help toward that goal. What the company is doing is working, too. “We’ve had people that have served their apprenticeship with us that are starting to retire with us,” said Kalkreuth. “For us, that’s pretty cool.”
For those firms who have retained the company’s services, it’s really cool. The type of employee hired by Kalkreuth Roofing & Sheet Metal is one who takes pride in his or her work. “What truly sets us apart is the quality of the workforce,” said Kalkreuth. “Wheeling, like Pittsburgh, is a very blue-collar area where pride in what you do is still a big deal. We have a lot of very skilled craftsmen that, really, is why we’re able to install large, great projects in wide geography.”
Whether it’s a government, sports, higher education or some other type of commercial or residential endeavor, the Wheeling, W.V.-based company has done it. Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., home to Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals, is one example of Kalkreuth Roofing & Sheet Metal’s capabilities. While a stadium doesn’t naturally jump into mind when one thinks of roofing projects, the amount of roofing it entails is actually surprising, according to Kalkreuth. “Take a look at left center field sometime. There’s a lot of vegetative roofing.”
Other projects include work for Penn State University, West Virginia University, Ohio State University, Maryland’s Fort Detrick, Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, and the new Marriott Marquis hotel in Washington, D.C.
“We have a wonderful in-house engineering department,” said Kalkreuth. “Our shop drawings are second to none in the industry, so we can interface and coordinate with CAD. We’ll take the architectural drawings and blend them with the manufacturer’s details and requirements. We can aid in value engineering the thousands of changes that occur with a new construction job.”
It’s more than just the fabrication and installation, though. It’s about continued service after the installation has been completed. Seeking to serve customers with any and all roof maintenance, Kalkreuth offers services such as:
- Roof inspections
- Roof repairs
- Roof replacements
- Roof restorations
- Sheet metal fabrication
“We want to be there for the customer when it’s time to service the roof as it goes through its life cycle,” said Kalkreuth. “We’re ‘cradle-to-cradle’ folks. I love that term.”
The people and companies who have worked alongside them love Kalkreuth Roofing & Sheet Metal and its staff. The confidence that that has been shown by GCs and owners in the company’s abilities to help get the job done is a constant source of pride for John Kalkreuth and Jim Hurley.
“When we complete a job, we want our customers to feel that we always did the right thing by them,” said Hurley. “From beginning to end, we want them to feel that they could trust us.”
“When GCs call us, it’s like watching your son score a touchdown. It’s that same sense of pride,” added Kalkreuth. “When we get calls wanting us or an individual project manager or foreman back, that’s a sign of success.”