Coming Out on Top

Malarkey Roofing Products
Written by Mark Golombek

Malarkey Roofing Products, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of roofing products for both commercial and residential applications. The company offers an impressive range of top quality shingles, commercial systems and sustainable roofing solutions.
Asphalt is a misunderstood product. Seen by many as dirty and smelly, it is a surprisingly emvironmentally friendly substance. About 65 million tons of asphalt is reclaimed every year, and of that, nearly 99 percent is either reused or recycled. Though commonly thought of only as road surfacing, it is also used for roofing, waterproofing, fuel and a host of other uses. Asphalt shingles are one of the largest asphalt-using industries, and Malarkey Roofing Products has been employing asphalt to create innovative roofing solutions since 1956.

The family-run business started by his grandfather began as the Herbert Malarkey Paper Company and made what was called roofing felt, a thick paper mixed with asphalt that is now better known as tar paper. Four years later, the company had grown and begun to produce other roofing products. Through the 1960s, Malarkey was similar to other roofing companies with standard shingle products.

“In the seventies, we began to outstrip our capacity to produce paper,” says Senior Vice President Greg Malarkey. His uncle then began using fibreglass in roofing. “In 1975, we went operational making a fibreglass mat for shingles. In fact, we were the first fibreglass mat plant in western North America. This was a big thing, and a huge jump for the industry.”

In 1977, the company produced its first polymer-modified roofing product – the first of its kind in North America – for commercial purposes. It was a base sheet to be laid over the roof deck with the roof then installed over it. By the early eighties, Malarkey had a complete line of polymer-modified products. In 1986, it introduced its first polymer-modified asphalt shingle it named ‘The Alaskan’.

“The Alaskan blew people away! Standard asphalt shingles should generally not be installed below forty degrees Fahrenheit, as the asphalt becomes brittle, but, the poly-modified shingles are flexible down to zero Fahrenheit. The boys in Alaska thought that was the cat’s meow as they could now roof more than two days a year!”

It turned out that The Alaskan was also incredibly good at resisting wind. Malarkey came out with the first hundred-mile-per-hour wind warranty, and the product was incredibly successful. After Hurricane Andrew, Dade County re-wrote the building code, demanding a higher-performance product. At the time, the Alaskan was the only shingle that could adhere to the new code.

“All of the other manufacturers refused to test their products, so we had a de facto monopoly for almost eight months. One of the other places that our shingle went was Calgary, Alberta where they can experience some very damaging hail. We started to get reports back that our polymer-modified shingles stood up to the hail storm. It was shocking! We sent up a consultant to confirm that, and it ended up being true.”

When the Texas Department of Insurance created the first testing for impact-resistance, Malarkey’s shingle was the first to pass at the highest level, which was the catalyst for increased sales throughout the Midwest.

Temperature is another factor. A standard asphalt shingle will not last as long in somewhere like Arizona, as it would in Toronto as it would in cooler climes. Malarkey’s shingle is more tolerant of sweltering temperatures and lasts longer. “So, in a hot climate, oxidization rates are higher than in a cold climate. With the polymer-modified shingles, it continues to perform dramatically better.”

Greg was in Arizona about two years ago and saw one of the company’s early polymer shingle roofs. The thirty-year-old roof was still performing beautifully and looked like it did on the day it was installed. Asphalt roofs in that market typically only last ten years and are usually painted silver to keep the temperature down, allowing the asphalt to last longer.

Malarkey considers every aspect of the product when designing. It is not just about how it looks or the pricing. It starts with the extraction of raw materials and continues throughout the manufacturing process, taking into account the service life, installation and end of life issues.

“I was involved in designing the first polymer modified laminate shingle that we built. It was called The Legacy. That was exactly the kind of thinking that we are putting forth and driving into that product. That was back in the early nineties and has been our mantra all along.”

Malarkey thrived during the recent recession because quality in roofing products matters. Both contractors and building owners see Malarkey’s shingles perform as well as or better than anything else available. The company is thoughtful in the designs of its products. One of its patented features is called The Zone and is a tapered extension of the nailing strip for easier laminate shingle installation. This creates less waste on the job site, faster application and less cost to everyone involved.

“The state of Washington Department of Ecology did some testing about two years ago. They found that asphalt shingles produced very low levels of metals. This was during rainwater runoff testing. It performed substantially better than other products as it is not water soluble. Even if you do not recycle it, it will not create a lot of pollution.”

If you are not making roofs or roads out of asphalt, it can be turned into fuel. It can be put through a coker in another step of the refining process to produce gasoline and diesel. “So what we are doing is depriving the product going into the fuel stream, by diverting it to roads and roofing.”

Malarkey’s Portland plant was recently GreenCircle certified, and its two other plants are to follow. At the Portland factory, 94% of all waste is diverted from the landfill. One way that this is accomplished is via an incentive program wherein all recyclables are sold, and the money is given to the employees.

Greg’s uncle was driving past a sewage treatment plant in 1984 and saw the flaring off of the methane gas. He approached the facility about buying the methane, and a pipe was fitted to pump methane from the sewage treatment plant to Malarkey’s plant. The move reduced consumption of natural gas at the plant by almost eighty percent. To this day, most of the plant’s energy needs are still provided by what would otherwise be waste methane. The plant was the first facility in Oregon to rely primarily on sustainable energy, and, in 1984, it was awarded the governor’s award for energy independence.

According to the National Asphalt Paving Association, asphalt may be one of the most recycled products in North America. “Sustainability promotes good business. We have been doing that long before it became fashionable. Today it is a buzzword, but we have been doing it forever. We just thought of it as good business, because realistically we are all on this planet together, and everything we do here affects everyone else there.”

Greg is adamant that the perception of asphalt by most people is generally wrong, and that asphalt is fundamentally a natural product. “Oil is the second most abundant liquid on earth, and mother nature actually makes its own asphalt. People have been using asphalt from natural sources since biblical times. The La Brea Tar Pits in LA have natural asphalt.”

What the asphalt industry has done is to take this natural product and use the ingenuity of mankind to make it function better.



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