Pushing the Limits of Design
A 2013 report from The Journal of Safety Research reveals that roofers on residential construction sites accounted for 67 percent of all fatal falls in construction. Epilay applies itself to making roofing much better and the roofer’s life a lot safer.
Construction is no place for the faint of heart. Everything is either heavy, high, or hard. But of all construction specialties, roofing is still the job most likely to hurt you.
By 2010, Epilay Inc. had been in the woven polymer fabric business for over 20 years. Its President, Kamal Doshi, saw an opportunity to expand into the home construction business. Epilay would take the company’s materials expertise and human-centered design knowledge and focus on waterproofing and weather barrier products for roofing projects with an extra element – improved safety for workers.
Fast forward ten years and Epilay now creates and sells synthetic and peel and stick roofing underlayment, as well as geotextiles and silt fence, weed barrier fabrics, spun bond nonwoven, privacy screens and packaging materials. Epilay also creates custom work on request. Its products are used all over the U.S. including Hawaii.
Epilay’s materials expertise and focus on human-centered design is evident in each of its products. Its first roofing product to market is a study in exactly that.
The real issue
Doshi recounts the company’s leap into construction fabric. “We knew how to make good quality products, but we had to take time to learn this new industry. We talked to a lot of contractors about the common issues they had. They told us the products they were using were really slippery. When they rolled the product down, it would start to slide. So they would have to be very careful. Many needed extra fasteners.”
Epilay’s aim was to create a quality product that was equal or better to what was already on the market, but with a strong focus on human-centered design. For roofers, that meant an easy-to-install, safe roofing product.
At the turn of the millennium, very few companies were focused on this – like so many building products the focus was solely on the waterproofing aspect and didn’t take into consideration ease of application or the safety of the roofer. Underlayment came in many forms, but almost every roofer had experienced the same heartstopping situations caused by the slippery surfaces of most waterproofing materials.
“Many existing products on the market were more like tarps – there was very little anti-skid in the product,” says Doshi. “When they’d roll the product and walk on it, it started skidding and contractors would fall on the roof or slip and get injured.”
Epilay took almost two years to bring its first building product to market due to extensive and meaningful R&D. Its first product had a special coating layer on the underlayment that was designed to stick to a roof, vastly reducing the number of fasteners needed to hold it and prevent it sliding down the roof.
Sticking to it
“The anti-skid product we developed used special polymers,” says Doshi. “We used a combination of five different polymers to make it a very skid resistant surface. So when you walk on it, it grips the plywood and won’t slide.”
Not only does the underside provide traction between the roof and the underlayment, the top has a ‘unique non-woven layer textured’ walking surface designed to give high traction to construction boots and accommodate the way roofing workers move – without slippage even on steep slopes with moisture on the surface.
Epilay’s Facebook, Instagram and website are full of comments such as this one from Carlos Garcia on June 29th, 2019:
“I can vouch for this felt. It’s all my crew uses on houses. It’s easy to install and more importantly easy to walk on. I’m talking about walking on houses that have a 10/12 pitch and you won’t slip. It’s honestly amazing. Synthetic felt has come a long way since it debuted.”
Not only did Epilay’s R&D address the major issue of safety and performance, but it also solved storage problems.
“There were a lot of concerns about UV exposure,” says Doshi. “Contractors wanted to leave the product in the yard and have it retain its quality. Most of the products out there in the industry have a 90-day to 180-day UV-exposure allowance. All of our synthetically fastened products have a one-year UV-exposure rating.”
Epilay’s product is easier to roll out and therefore cuts down on roofing time. It’s also easy to store. Incredibly, it’s competitively priced.
Epilay has four types of underlayment from to 6.5 MIL to 17 MIL thickness, with warranties ranging from 10 to 40 years. Common underlayments are made of #15 and #30 felt. Epilay’s products are up to 35 times stronger and ten times lighter.
Epilay also carries a peel and stick roofing underlayment that has a 48 MIL thickness and can withstand temperatures from -40F to 260F (-40C to 126C).
All of Epilay’s underlayments are premium products that are 100 percent recyclable.
Epilay’s quality assurance is a gold standard in the industry – all products are manufactured to code, and adhere to a strict manufacturing and monitoring system.
“We sell in excess of 400,000 rolls per year, and our quality is very consistent,” explains Doshi, “Our variant in product is plus or minus one percent by weight.” Rolls are independently tested by outside auditors as a verification of Epilay’s own rigorous standards.
Every single roll has a four digit number that lets the company know which lot it came from. “The four digit number appears on invoice and is printed directly on the product, every forty inches,” says Doshi. “If there is a problem, we know exactly where it comes from and we take pictures of every single container and tier that we stack.”
If customers have any questions or concerns about a roll, Epilay can track things down quickly. Epilay has a 98 percent customer retention rate due to its incredibly user-focused product development, rigorous testing, continual quality monitoring and a passion for doing everything to the highest quality.
Agile and immediate
Part of that retention ratio relates to its close relationship with customers due to its smaller size. “We are not a very large corporation. We are a family corporation and we believe in customer service,” says Doshi.
Epilay’s sales staff – 40 of them – and four regional managers maintain these close relationships. “We build really good relationships with our customers. At the corporate level, as well as at the branch level, and with users and contractors.”
Epilay’s agility also means orders are processed quickly. “A lot of companies spend a long time processing the order. When we get an order, the confirmation goes out the same day, and 99 percent of the orders go out in 24 to 48 hours of receiving the order.”
With its four regional facilities, Epilay can get products to customers quickly. With its inventory monitoring, it will ship from any warehouse to ensure products are delivered as fast as possible.
Epilay’s sales team and clients form a continuous feedback loop that continually leads to improvements in products, or leads to new and unique product designs, including customization.
“For me, woven products are in my blood. This is what I’ve done for 40 years,” says Doshi, “I can immediately respond to the needs of a customer. When a customer asks me to make something, it’s very easy for me to figure out how to do this.”
Hard jobs made easier
For a moment, Doshi ponders his own meticulously designed, bespoke solutions for those people at the danger end of construction, versus much of what he sees in the market. “There are a lot of other people who are not in the industry who are just making the product and selling it,” is his verdict.
At its heart, Epilay – taking its lead from Doshi – is an innovative company with a serious focus on designing a product that is both useful and makes doing a hard job easier. And with a history of extraordinary success at this.
Epilay’s first roofing underlayment product went through fifteen iterations before the final product was put on the commercial market. It continues to develop new products and has some new ones on the way. Doshi cannot talk about them until they launch, but he’s excited.
“We are working on a couple of very, very unique products which nobody in the industry will have, but I’m not ready to disclose at this time.” He chuckles when pressed for details. “It’s related to the roofing industry – I can tell you that much.”
No way back
Doshi doesn’t just talk the talk. He is quietly certain that if you try one of Epilay’s products you’ll never go back to what you were using before.
“We believe in the philosophy of ‘try it before you buy it’,” says Doshi. “We give our free samples to people, no questions asked. Anybody that asks can have a free sample. If you’re happy, then you’ll buy more. That’s how we’ve created our markets.”
Epilay with its ‘human-centered design’ has created better products and much safer products for customers who care about their work and their staff – you can’t get better than that.