The Last Roofing Expert You’ll Ever Need

Barrett Inc.

In the bigger scheme of things, roof quality tends to be one of those necessities that go unnoticed until one is faced with either a new building project or a defective roof situation. The latter is likely to hit at the most inopportune time and is usually unbearably costly to rectify. Which is why, when spending that average twenty-five percent of total building cost on roofing a commercial premises, it may be a good idea to get it done properly – the first time – by Barrett Inc.
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“While Barrett isn’t everyone’s first call, we’re always their last call,” says Vice President Michael Lucchesi. The business has eighty-four years of experience and has become prized for its quality roof installations and related services. “Everyone wants a Barrett roof because of its great quality, but it’s not within everyone’s means,” says Michael. However, to those who understand the importance of a decent roof to the structural integrity of a building, value comes first.

Barrett Inc. operates in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts and provides a full portfolio of commercial roof contracting services to its loyal customer base. These services include architectural sheet metal installation on roofs as well as wall cladding, low and steep slope roofing, waterproofing and paving for roofs, plazas, parking decks and more.

It also offers a visionary green roofing solution engineered from seven layers of protective material that is topped with a specially formulated substrate, followed by vegetation in the latest craze to hit the roofing industry in New York. These roofs assist in managing the city’s water retention challenges.

Green roofs have become a means of storing water rather than letting it flow away into drains. For Barrett, the greatest challenge on these roofs is currently the gap between the suitability of plant species and extreme weather conditions and landscapers’ vision of layouts. Choosing the correct plants for each space is paramount to the success of any green roof, and the company finds many landscapers lacking in their knowledge of this area. Be that as it may, green roofs are here to stay and the company is collaborating with specialist suppliers, allowing it to install the best green roofs available.

Another interesting trend that has come full circle is that of the hot-tar or built-up roof. Years ago, it was pretty much all there was when it came to commercial roofing choices, but after nearly vanishing from the market, the material is making a comeback thanks to its superior durability. Barrett Inc. never stopped installing these roofs and is one of the very few contractors who still have the knowledge and the skills to complete them.

Multiple layers of felt are melded together with hot asphalt, derived from oil. As oil became more expensive, the method fell nearly out of use entirely, but when the oil price dropped around 2015, it became a feasible roofing option once more. “While it measures up to a number of other materials in terms of longevity, it is well-known for stronger durability than most,” says Michael.

Michael’s great-grandfather started the business in Bridgeport, Connecticut back in 1934. His name was Kleinknecht, and his partner was called Barrett. The partners split up after less than a year, and Mr. Kleinknecht kept the company name. “Which is interesting, because the Barretts, who have also stayed in the roofing industry in Connecticut, have never been able to use the name Barrett,” says Michael.

His grandfather opened the Danbury branch in his parents’ garage in 1955. That operation moved to the company’s current premises in 1966, and in 1992, Michael’s father, John A. Lucchesi Jr. took over and remains the company’s president. Michael started coming to work every Saturday since he could walk and has been going up roofs with his father since he was a toddler. His teenage years and early twenties were spent working in the field, running jobs, crews, and as superintendent for a while, officially taking up his new role in 2000.

Michael is very proud to be the son of a long line of honorable men who lived for this company. He believes in allowing people to do their own thinking, so micromanagement is out of the question at Barrett Inc. “We review work to ensure that it is heading in the right direction, but we don’t smother people,” he says.

Thanks to this progressive approach, it is not just the business that has been around for a long, long time. The Barrett team has an impressive tenure, forming the mainstay of the business’ success. The company is proud to have several father and son duos, one of which has three sons working for the company alongside their father. Its employee turnover is impeccably low, and the company outsources very little of its work, choosing to perform as much as possible in-house.

“From our people in the office to our salespeople and our mechanics in the field, we really have a good team of around 120,” says Michael. When such a good team provides quality service, long-term customer relationships naturally flourish.

The fact that this company is willing to do just about anything is another contributing factor to Barrett’s reputation for getting complex jobs done right from the beginning. In fact, its vice president describes a typical Barrett job as one that nobody else wants, and exceeding customer expectations is a given. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on roofs where facility managers have met me with disbelief when they realize what we’re capable of doing,” he says.

One such difficult project was the reroofing of the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, Connecticut in 2012. The hardest part was either removing or strapping down every single piece of material when the helicopter came had to land, lest it be sucked up by the helicopter’s rotors causing a crash. At its first arrival, the crew had about two minutes’ notice, and while the next six months proved hard, they never lost one piece of material off the roof, nor were there any incidents where materials affected helicopter operations.

“To top this off, there were massive crane challenges, a hurricane, and a Nor’easter, and to this day, the roofing manufacturer reckons that’s one of the nicest roofs he’s seen,” says Michael. After watching the company overcome endless challenges and deliver superb service, the hospital has become a loyal customer.

There have been countless more proud moments over the years, and one of its latest flagship jobs is the Resorts World casino in Monticello, New York that opened in February this year. The company completed three thousand square feet of roofing on fifty levels with really tough access, and it took some serious creativity to work out how to get the materials craned up.

Doing the right thing also extends from the quality of its work out to its greater community, and the company gives generously to many local Danbury causes, like the police and Boy Scouts. It also donates to the Connecticut Roofing Contractors Association and some universities’ scholarship funds. Education is increasingly important, and Connecticut State University’s school construction management team has been approached about arranging internships at Barrett. The initiative no doubt will welcome a new generation of great roofing professionals.

One of Barrett’s greatest strengths is that, unlike typical roofing companies that lose fifty percent of the workforce every year, Barrett might lose only five percent thanks to its unique skills retention strategy. The company works nearly year-round, where others work mainly between May and October, causing employees to seek work elsewhere in the off-season – a problem that Barrett does not have, thanks to this business model.

Another important difference is the smaller crew sizes with which it generally works. While others run twenty-man crews, Barrett’s teams generally range between six and eight. While it does run larger crews when necessary, it can break its entire team down into twenty to twenty-five two-man crews if that is what the market demands. “We have that many people who are responsible and creative and confident enough to get the work done,” says Michael.

Regarding its business success, the company believes that a good reputation is one of the most important aspects, and Michael believes that there is no substitute for doing the right thing every day, especially in this industry where superintendents and project managers change jobs and remain mobile within the same circles for decades. Barrett Inc.’s good name has stood it in good stead for decades because someone working on a big project remembers having had a good experience with the company years ago.

Hard work is its next important factor, especially once the money starts coming in. For youngsters starting out, Michael’s advice is never to forget why and how you started making money in the first place. Hard work also has no substitute, and while it will not always be rewarding at the time, it certainly will be in the long run.

While most other contractors are recognized by one or two manufacturers, Barrett Inc. is recognized as a top-level installer by twenty, and this is not surprising at all considering that next-level problem solving is its claim to fame.

Industry Changemakers

The construction industry has historically been slow to evolve, drawn to tradition over technology. As the industry is in a state of rapid innovation and advancement, organizations like the Toronto Construction Association (TCA) are working tirelessly to build strong member businesses that won’t fall behind.

June 16, 2019, 1:50 PM EDT