1951: Lawless Roofing is founded
After working with other roofing companies as a young man, Lewis Lawless strikes out on his own. In 2012, more than 60 years later, Lawless Roofing remains the oldest single-owner roofing company in southern Oregon and northern California. “Lew decided it’s what he had to do if he was ever going to get anywhere,” Witt says. “He’s a very entrepreneurial man.”
1972: Pioneering the 20-year, No-Dollar-Limit Roof
According to Witt, Lewis is instrumental in putting together a plan for schools that includes this roofing guarantee. “If it’s been 19 years, 10 months, and 5 days, and one of our roofs fail,” Witt says, “we’ll still replace it at manufacturer’s cost.” As a result, schools remain one of Lawless Roofing’s largest sources of revenue even into 2012, but the firm still takes time restraints into account when approaching new projects. “There was one recent summer when some 12 school projects were available,” Witt says, “and we only bid six or seven. … We’ll only ever bid the number of projects we know we can complete.”
1972: Donald joins the company
Donald Lawless, who grew up learning the roofing trade from his father, accepts a position during a time of great growth. Lawless Roofing at this time is employing 40–45 people and is considered one of the largest crews in the area.
1995: A new facility
Just over the hill from its original home, Lawless Roofing purchases a large acreage and constructs a 15,000-square-foot warehouse (right) where the company can store materials. Top-of-the-line equipment—scissor-bed trucks and cranes, hot tar kettles, trailers, forklifts, etc.—is kept in a paved, secured yard.
1998: More schools and A Fort from 1855
The company continues to work on commercial, industrial, and school projects, including the Grants Pass High School (below), but the company also performs work on historic buildings. At Fort Briggs, originally built in 1855 in Josephine County, Oregon, Lawless Roofing constructs special shingles to match the original roof.
2000: Strengthening relationships
Lawless Roofing subcontracts for retail projects, including Walmart and K-Mart stores in California. “Because we’re one of the oldest roofing companies in the region, the amount of work we can do is quite a bit more than most around here,” Witt says. “General contractors on large jobs like this are confident of our labor and materials capabilities.”
2003: Sheet-metal fabrication
When a Portland-based sheet-metal-fabrication company closes down, Lawless Roofing expands its capabilities by purchasing some of the equipment and hiring the Portland firm’s former co-owner, Witt, as its new vice president.
2011: A Historical Challenge
Lawless Roofing tackles the Bend Amateur Athletic Club, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The firm is required to pay special attention to historical guidelines during the project, which includes new insulation, resheeting, reshingling, and the installation of a built-up water system. “The challenge here was the radius coping metal,” Witt says. “We had very specific criteria, and we built prototypes to be approved by the historical society before the work even began.”
2012: Still specializing in schools
In January, the company completes work on a country school near Days Creek, Oregon. Because elementary, junior high, and high school students are housed in a single building, the structure is fairly large, so Lawless Roofing has to install a 20,000-square-foot, built-up roof with a four-ply system and shingling.
2012: Looking for the next Generation
Witt acknowledges a degree of decreased interest in learning such a physically difficult trade. “Roofing’s not a very glamorous job, by any means,” he says. “Some days guys come down from the roof for lunch and just keep walking. But when you possess the kind of trade knowledge that Lawless Roofing does, you want to pass it on.” ABQ