Commercial roofer

At Work

The man in charge stays well clear of the edge when it's 20 stories high


April 25, 2007|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to the Sun

Kenneth Benner

Superintendent of the service department

Magco Inc., of Jessup, a division of Tecta America Corp.

Salary --$65,000, plus bonuses

Age --44

Years on the job --15

How he got started --Benner worked various positions at Safeway for 14 years. During a companywide contract negotiation Benner was let go and needed to find a new job. He interviewed at Magco at the suggestion of a neighbor and was hired to work as a commercial roofer. He spent two years on a crew constructing roofs and then was promoted to the service department as foreman and later superintendent.

Typical day --The day starts at 6 a.m. and doesn't finish until the job is done. As superintendent, he oversees a department that deals with repairs and maintenance of commercial roofs. He must meet with clients to discuss the scope of the job. This includes measuring roofs, taking photographs and sizing up safety issues. Benner puts a package together detailing the work, which is sent to a service manager, who estimates a price and sends it off to the client. Much of this work is about sales, which Benner said he enjoys.

He oversees seven two-man crews who make various service repairs. The company's area includes all of Maryland and beyond if needed. He currently has crews in Delaware and Bermuda. If a job is running behind or if extra help is required to finish a job, Benner will pitch in.

Fear of heights --Only when he started. The first roof Benner worked on was 18 stories high. He said it took about six months to become comfortable on rooftops. "You kind of get used to it. You have no choice."

Safety --Magco works on commercial and industrial roofs exclusively. Most of these roofs are flat, which, Benner says, are typically less dangerous than residential roofing, where you are working on a pitch. Even so, safety is a top priority. "Some [of these roofs] are 20 stories in the air and you can walk right off the edge if you're not careful."

Green roofs --The company has a "green" roof division, which focuses on designing rooftop, plant-filled gardens that offer environmental benefits. Benner says he is getting more acquainted with green-roof technology as it becomes more popular.

Jobs he worked on --The National Aquarium and the Baltimore Convention Center.

Finding leaks --Some are more difficult than others. With many flat roofs, the leak is easy to spot and patch. Others are more difficult, like roofs layered with rocks. The rocks must be removed before the leak can be identified.

Grueling work --Benner said you have to be up to the challenge to be a roofer. "You need to be in shape. You need to be ready to do this because it is very hard work."

The good --"Being outside and interacting with a lot of different people."

The bad --"Keeping track of everything you have going on at one time."

Philosophy on the job --"Work smarter, not harder."

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest

Special to The Sun

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