Gutter Opportunities, August ’08

Stone-coated metal roofing products, as previously reported in these pages (see “Metal Up Close,” December 2006-January 2007), are quickly gaining a share of the market. One metal roofer in California, who installs products with the look of tile and shake, predicted that “stone-coated metal shingles have the potential to be the top seller of the three.” Another installer in Nebraska commented that stone-coated metal roofing shingles “haven’t been on the market as long as tile and shake facsimiles, but the shingles are getting more popular.” And a Kansas roofer concluded, “I think that metal shingles will eventually outsell the metal shake and tile products.”

So if stone-coated metal shingles that faithfully recreate the look of asphalt shingles are catching on — then could stone-coated metal gutter covers be far behind? After all, one of major challenges for gutter contractors is blending the gutter profile with the homeowner’s roof. If the gutter covers rise up too high, or if the colors don’t match, then customers aren’t too happy.

Thus it stands to reason stone-coated metal gutter covers, because they recreate the look of asphalt shingles, might offer an aesthetically seamless blend. Or at least, that’s what president Steve Tenute of Gutter Cap believes. Based in Naperville, Ill., the company in 2006 introduced its Gutter Roof product with the slogan, “Put a Roof over Your Gutter!”

“With domed gutter protection products,” Tenute explains, “the finish has always been an issue. Baked-on enamel finish, which is used by most metal dome systems, eventually fades. Dirt and tree resin forms an unsightly crust that also affects the overall performance. And many homeowners simply don’t like the noticeable contrast between the enamel finish of the gutter protection and the gritty texture of the roof.”

Thus in January 2008, continues chief operating officer Patrick Huff, Gutter Cap launched its Gutter Roof as “a metal dome gutter protection product with roof granules incorporated into the finish. We made the finish so that it’s very similar to the stone coating on high-end metal roofing and has the same durability. Our aim was to provide a product that would look different than other metal dome gutter protection products, blend in better with the roof line and increase the water cohesion. The roofing granules helped us to achieve this purpose.”

From a marketing standpoint, Tenute affirms, the distinctive look of its stone-coated gutter cover has enabled the company to set itself apart from the dozens of competing systems on the market. “The product can’t be mistaken for another product,” he states, “is almost invisible on the home and handles a large magnitude of water without the fly-over that’s common with many metal dome systems that have smooth finishes.”

By featuring a stone-coated finish, Gutter Roof enjoys “the best of both worlds” by lending itself to installations on either asphalt or metal roofs. “We’re getting interest from both sides of the roofing business,” Tenute points out, “because in its appearance, Gutter

Roof actually becomes your first row of shingles.” The company sells six colors which, he notes, allow installers to blend the product with nearly 40 different roof-shingle colors.

Yet the product is also proving itself through solid performance. “The granules slow down the water, as well as providing more surface area, so that you get better cohesion and reduced fly-over,” states Tenute. And because Gutter Roof is a retrofit product, rather than a one-piece gutter-and-hood system, contractors can install between 300 and 500 feet per day. A proprietary installation system, developed for the company’s original Gutter Cap product, cuts installation time and labor.

Tenute patented his Gutter Cap system in 1993 and launched his business a year later. “I’d been installing siding since 1976,” he recalls, “and then after a hailstorm in 1983, I started doing additional jobs on the side. Since the economy was coming out of a recession, it was a good time to go into the siding business for myself.” That company, Selective Seamless Siding, was renamed Home Improvements USA in 2005 and now installs siding, windows and gutters throughout the Chicago area.

Gutter Cap did well in Chicago and soon attracted dealers nationwide. With its premium Kynar finish, plus the proprietary one-piece installation system that eliminates brackets and straps, the product “is mostly sold around the country through high-end window companies,” says Tenute. “These companies are really savvy marketers. With all respect to gutter contractors, the window companies know how to sell the benefits of a product.”

Those benefits include a durable X-10 metal alloy, no vertical openings to clog, plus a unique no-clog channeling system. And since Gutter Cap does not fasten with clips or brackets, it can even be removed and re-installed on a replacement roof.

“Yet with so many gutter protection products on the market,” Tenute recounts, “you’ve always got to be looking for ways to gain an edge. So we took our basic 1993 patent for Gutter Cap, added stone coating and came up with a new Gutter Roof product that meets a real need. Hood systems are commonplace today for both contractors and consumers. But a stone-coated product really makes people do a double-take.”

Since Gutter Roof was introduced in January, Tenute and Huff have been recruiting dealers nationwide. The product is sold direct from the manufacturer only to home improvement companies. Installers who enroll in the company’s Gold Program pay a deposit — which goes toward promotional materials and displays — and receive training in installation, marketing and sales at the Gutter Cap corporate offices in Chicago.

“We provide classroom instruction,” says Huff, “and then have three different rooms where we teach practical applications. Each room becomes progressively harder. By the end of the course, you’ll encounter every roof application imaginable. And until you demonstrate consistency and proficiency in one application, you can’t progress to the next room.”

The training is rigorous, Tenute maintains, because “we measure our success by the success of our dealers.” Though he realizes that installers have a wide array of gutter protection products from which to choose, he also knows that “installers need to set themselves apart from the crowd — and we’ve designed Gutter Roof with that need in mind. It’s made to be a product with distinctive benefits that you sell to your customers.”

Tenute believes that Gutter Roof can capture at least a 10 percent share of every market where the product is sold. “But for us and our dealers to grow together,” he says, “as an installer you must be willing to always sharpen your skills in order to get better and succeed. Often times, gutter installers only think about installing more linear feet. But you can’t think that you’re too busy to learn new things.”

In fact, Tenute advances the heretical thought that “maybe you should be willing to install less feet — and instead learn how to sell better. Your objective isn’t just to be the lowest-cost provider. Your objective is to identify solutions for homeowners and then educate them so they can see how your solutions provide them with real value.”

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