The Western States Roofing Contractors Association introduced “The Roofing Games” in 2014 at its annual exposition in Las Vegas as a way “to keep contractors on the trade show floor until the close of the show,” says Joel Viera, the group’s director of exposition and events.
The strategy worked. In just three years, the event—billed by the group as “the industry’s first official set of competitions sanctioned by a roofing association”—has grown to be one of the show’s most popular events.
The competition, intended to encourage pride and camaraderie among the participating tradespeople, challenges the roofer’s “knowledge and skill-set level pertaining to equipment, materials and processes used in the roofing industry that requires both brains and brawn,” the association explains. Contestants hail from all over western North America, including Hawaii, California, Oregon and British Columbia.
Nine competitors drawn at random from entries collected during the show compete in three heats. On stage in front of a cheering audience, each competitor must apply laminate shingles to a mock 32-sq-ft steep-slope platform in a “quality install,” using four nails within each shingle’s 1¾-in. nailing zone. Further, the top and sides of the shingles must be cut flush with the platform. Prior to the starting gun, participants were allowed two minutes to prep their work area, cutting open packets of shingles and precutting some of the necessary lengths.
This year, the association and event sponsor Malarkey Roofing Products brought back the two previous years’ winners, Sean Johnson and Brad Schmautz, to defend their titles. However, it was an industry veteran who now works more behind a desk than on a roof who earned the top prize of $500 (see story, left). All nine competitors received cash prizes of varying amounts.
Since the competition was launched, attendance at the exposition steadily has increased to more than 3,500 this year from 2,595 people in 2014, Viera says.
Veteran Roofer Tops a Competitive Field
John Miles owned his own firm for 22 years before joining Wicks Roofing earlier this year. In his current role as residential estimator and supervisor, he doesn’t get as much chance to practice his hands-on roofing skills, but that didn’t deter him from throwing his hat in the ring during “The Roofing Games.” A roofer for 36 years since graduating high school, Miles says construction has been a good career choice, enabling him to make a good income, support his family and purchase a house in the San Luis Obispo area.
ENR: What made you decide to compete?
Miles: I’ve seen the competitions before. I was at the show and my wife was prodding me to get in it, so I did. I thought I was a little too old and out of practice to do it. I’ve been on the roof a lot less and more in the office now. It was kind of nice because my wife and I aren’t really gamblers, but we were having fun on the slot machines until we started to lose some money. So, winning the $500 prize was pretty cool.
How did it feel to compete on stage at the regional competition?
I was nervous. When I was just watching the other guys, sizing them up, I just told myself, “Don’t finish last and don’t make any stupid mistakes.” It was nice that we were facing away from the audience, but I just didn’t want to embarrass myself or my company—and my boss was there. But once I calmed down, it was pretty easy.
You learn after doing a trade for a while not to waste any moves. If you move like crazy, it’s counterproductive sometimes. Get your stuff set up. Don’t keep putting your gun down every time you pick up another sheet, because you are wasting time then. This was a competition, but when you are doing work for yourself and you are trying to set a goal to get this much done during the day, all those little wasted moves add up. So, you don’t have to be running around with your head cut off. Just be methodical and slow, and as long as you are not wasting moves, you put the squares down.
What are the most important challenges facing the construction industry today?
The problem with our trade right now, at least around this area, is there are a lot of people who think [the work] is beneath them, despite the pretty darn good wages. To build our trade up, we need a lot more people training the new [entrants] how to do stuff. It seems like roofers used to be more well-rounded in their skill sets, and now they specialize. Shake roofs are a good example. We’ll get a shake job from time to time, and there aren’t many people around here who know how to do them. So, you have to train them. Whether that’s because the union isn’t around here anymore training them up, I don’t know.