Ken Duval’s Story

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At 17, Ken Duval literally had no roof over his head. But thanks to risk-taking on an unwanted property, the sacrifice of a place on an Olympic-bound team and a lot of determination, Ken has developed an industry-leading small business in Reading, Mass.

Duval Roofing now stands out as the only contractor in the area with its own waste transfer station, and Ken employs a tight-knit team of roofers with such great organization and leadership that they finish installing most new roofs in an astonishing 8-hour day.

Ken’s story and his hard-earned success caught the attention of the editors at Roofing Contractor magazine, the industry’s leading trade publication, and they put Duval Roofing on the cover of their magazine with an in-depth article about his humble beginnings and savvy business practices. Here’s a summary of that story.

An Unlikely Foundation

Living in his brother’s basement age 17, Ken couldn’t afford college, and instead went to work for a large roofing company.

After he was laid off during the late 80’s recession, Ken poured all of his funds into one truck and used it to take odd fix-it and roofing jobs. He spent his weekends kayaking, white water rafting and ice climbing. He even made the US Kayaking team after placing first in team trials, but had to forego training to qualify for the Olympics to devote time to his growing business.

Back then, OSHA regulations weren’t in full effect. Roofing was more like rock climbing – covered with adrenaline and danger. Ken’s day job was almost as adventurous as his hobbies.

Going The Extra Acre

Having saved up enough money for a small home, Ken found a one-acre property in historic North Reading (where he was born) that was commercially and residentially zoned. The house wasn’t much to live in, but the zoning regulations meant the Duval team could store trucks on the land.

A few years later, 2 adjacent acres became available. Ken added them on as part of his commercial property, making Duval Roofing the only roofing contractor in the area operating from a large piece of commercial land. The commercial property now houses a waste transfer station and roofing materials, which Duval can buy in bulk to save time and money.

Saving Green By Going Green

Unlike other roofing companies, which must pay to transport most waste to commercial transfer stations, Duval’s transfer station allows the company to recycle 90% of their debris, saving the environment (and dollars) on each project.

While other roofers have to go to the warehouse and pick up the materials for the day or have the materials dropped off, the Duval team can be flexible based on weather or customer needs.

Sky-High Tech

Ken’s eco-friendly practices also extend to his customer quote practices. Duval Roofing embraces EagleView’s Technologies’ aerial imaging and measurement technology to map roofs for pricing and materials. Thanks to the accuracy of EagleView, Ken doesn’t have to rely on guesswork for pricing. He can also assign specific worker roles based on EagleView’s diagrams so the crew works as efficiently as possible.

Duval’s take on new tech extended all the way to Minnesota, where Ken purchased a roof ice steamer in early 2015 after successive blizzards created a record number of ice dams on Boston-area roofs. Steam machines are the only way to remove ice dams from roofs without damaging shingles, decking or gutters.

The Duval Philosophy

dragondownspoutKen’s personal commitment to roofing craftsmanship is evidenced by the slate roof he installed by hand on his own home during evenings and weekends. He even added custom-made gargoyles and dragons for visual interest and to entertain the kids.

Ken uses EagleView maps for labor division, making sure work assignments are fair to the square foot. That may be part of the reason many of Duval Roofing’s employees have been with the company for more than 10 years. Ken’s management philosophy explains the rest:

“I’m part psychologist, really,” he says. “Without my team, where would I be?”