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Real Talk with Amparo Sancen: The Journey from Healthcare to Roof Care

By Karen L Edwards

July 27, 2021

Amparo Sancen

Taking care of your health and your home are two of the most important ways to support ourselves and our families. Amparo Sancen understands this—and she excels at helping others do just that.

She grew up in Mexico watching her mom, who struggled with health issues, navigate medical appointments and doctor visits. This early exposure to the sometimes complicated medical world inspired Amparo to find a career that would allow her to help others. Healthcare was a natural fit, driving her to take a first-aid course when she was 13 years old. Once out of school, Amparo began studying nursing but then moved to Atlanta before she could complete those studies. There, she began working as a nursing assistant—until she learned more about the roofing industry, that is.

Getting Bit by the Roofing Bug

How does a nursing assistant like Amparo Sancen come to own a roofing company? Through friends, of course. Amparo said she met a lot of Latinos at the clinic who worked in construction. Through conversations with a close friend of hers, she began to grow curious about their work. After seeing some of the construction projects and meeting higher-ups within the industry, she recognized a new opportunity to provide for her children and continue helping others by caring for their homes.

"That was when I began to visualize myself [moving away] from what I had always loved to do," says Amparo. "I had begun to like construction, and I began to learn more. Once I was able to visualize myself with the lifestyle [that some of the construction professionals] had for themselves and their children, that was when I made the decision."

Finding Motivation and Overcoming Challenges

Amparo says that she's always been ambitious, but her daughters were the key motivation behind the switch to roofing.

"I wanted to give them a better lifestyle—to leave them a better future—and I think it was the best decision for me," recalls Amparo. "I didn't have a single hammer when I started. I didn't have anything, but I had many dreams and I wanted to learn."

It wasn't an easy transition, but Amparo was committed to making the change for her family. She took the necessary steps to start Sancen Contracting, register with the state, and print business cards. She wanted to feel fully committed to this new direction before leaving the healthcare field, and she says establishing the business gave her that sense of commitment.

When she submitted her resignation, the team at the clinic didn't want her to leave and even offered to pay her more. This just reassured her that she was making the right decision. It reinforced her commitment and dedication to whatever job was at hand—a trait that she has carried through into her roofing business.

That's not to say it was all smooth sailing for Amparo. She's faced challenges, particularly as a woman in a traditionally male industry.

"I started with the business 13 years ago and I had to dedicate myself 100%, because it was the only way to get ahead. I had no other option," says Amparo. "It was difficult [in the beginning] to knock on a door, for you to get to do a job where they saw you in the same way they saw a man."

While navigating these obstacles, Amparo has learned valuable lessons since starting her company. Perhaps the most important lesson has been that she can't do everything herself. She used to worry that something would go wrong if she wasn't there for every new project and delivery. She says she's learned to surround herself with a trusted team who can take ownership of different roles, allowing her to focus on managing and growing the business.

Following Big Dreams

When asked what advice she would give to others who may be thinking about making the transition to the roofing industry, Amparo stresses that the most important thing is to have faith.

"That's the most important thing: you have to have faith in what you believe in. Hold on to your faith . . . the most important thing is that we have to believe in ourselves and fight for our dreams," she says.

She advises that it's not always easy, and it requires discipline: "I think that little by little, you see the steps you take are increasing, but that is what is important—discipline and perseverance."

For anyone considering a career in roofing or looking to grow their business, GAF provides the resources roofing contractors need. With support from GAF, you have access to key tools and education to help you succeed in roofing.

About the Author

Karen L. Edwards is a freelance writer for the construction industry and has a passion for roofing, having worked in the industry for 20 years.

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GAF Community Contractor Program Celebrates Success in Seattle

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This ideal extends to the GAF Community Contractor Program, where GAF certified contractors can partner with GAF and give back through the following initiatives:GAF Habitat for Humanity Program. With over 1,500 local Habitat for Humanity affiliates in the U.S., GAF-certified contractors can partner with their local chapter to provide the labor to install fully-donated GAF roofing systems. Volunteers don't work alone. Homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labor into building their Habitat house.GAF Affordable Housing Reroof Program. This initiative encourages contractors to partner with any 501c3 nonprofit organization in their community for a reroof project, for which GAF will donate the shingles.GAF Roofs for Heroes. GAF-certified contractors can partner with a local 501c3 to perform roof repairs or replacements for local heroes. 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"This was Arlene's idea, and it was such a great one," Gladstone notes.Marks shares, "We try to make all of our events meaningful, so what was the best way that we could reach back out to these homeowners that we've already helped? The Welcome Home Kits were the answer."The contractors attending the event assembled toolkits containing basic items like screwdrivers, nut drivers, adjustable wrenches, pliers, hammers, safety glasses, and more. The kits also include a video message of encouragement from the program participants.Most of the individuals who are helped through the roof donations are first-time homeowners. Accordingly, many don't have the basic tools needed to maintain their homes. 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By Authors Karen L Edwards

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Contractor installing a residential roof
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When Is the Best Time to Replace a Roof?

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Of course, energy cost savings are not guaranteed and the amount of savings may vary based on climate zone, utility rates, radiative properties of roofing products, insulation levels, HVAC equipment efficiency and other factors. What about the roof membrane? While there are many choices when it comes to the type of membrane, the most common discussion revolves around the color of the membrane. For a typical building, maintaining a comfortable space involves both heating and cooling, depending on the season. For the typical building, the color selection of the membrane has a greater effect when the interior of the building is being cooled. A highly reflective (light colored) roof membrane offers extra benefits when the interior is being cooled, because it will reflect heat from the sun. Similarly, for a Cold Storage building, it is beneficial to select a lighter-colored roof in order to reflect the heat from the sun to assist in reducing the already high costs related to cooling the building. Reflecting heat from the sun will decrease the heat radiating into the interior, which means the cooling equipment will not have to work as hard to maintain interior temperatures, and will ultimately work more efficiently. What about roof attachment? We discussed the concept of thermal bridging and how energy loss occurs at discontinuities between the joints of the insulation, but thermal bridging can also occur where there are fastener penetrations through the roof system, as seen in Figure 1. Fasteners are used to attach the insulation and the membrane to the roof deck, which is referred to as a mechanically attached system. 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In Figure 3, labeled as the 'better' scenario, only the first layer of insulation is mechanically attached and subsequent layers are adhered. By adhering the subsequent layers, air flow into the roof assembly is greatly reduced. Reducing air flow assists in maintaining interior temperatures, which can result in energy savings for the facility. Figure 2: "Good Scenario" with staggered and offset insulation and a mechanically attached roof membrane. Figure 3: "Better Scenario" with the first layer of insulation mechanically attached and subsequent layers of the roof system adhered, greatly reducing the air flow into the roof assembly. The Devil is in the Details The result of limiting air flow through the roof assembly of a Cold Storage facility is not a matter of occupant comfort, but a matter of occupant safety. In a traditional building, such as an office building, a poorly detailed roof termination could result in drafty offices or temperature complaints. In a Cold Storage facility, those same drafts condense due to the large temperature differential between the interior and exterior and the condensation can turn into ice. The ice can form on various surfaces including locations where air leakage is occurring, such as at roof-to-wall interfaces, but also on the Cold Storage floors where the surface of the floor is cooler than the air above it. When ice forms on the floors, it can cause slips, trips, or falls, and can also impact operations if a particular area of the facility has to be avoided. Ice formation inside a Cold Storage facility is the result of improperly designed or executed details. Details, such as those at the wall-to-roof interface, or sealing around penetrations, are crucial to not only keep out rain, but to conserve energy within the facility. Similar to the loss of energy created by thermal bridging, air flow through the roof created by poor detailing results in considerable loss of the cooled temperatures required in the space below. Additionally, air flow that condenses can collect within the roof assembly, including within the insulation, and freeze. Frozen insulation is a common side effect of a Cold Storage roof that is not functioning properly. Frozen insulation is exactly what it sounds like — insulation that has had moisture accumulate within it and then freezes. Frozen insulation has properties similar to wet insulation and is ineffective, since it provides virtually no insulating properties. A frozen roof is almost like having no insulation at all, and the energy used to maintain the interior temperatures goes through the roof! Proper detailing of a Cold Storage facility begins during the planning stage. Determining the type of interior spaces, the sizes, and the overall usage of the facility should be taken into consideration. Once the overall layout of the Cold Storage facility is decided, the construction materials, including the roof assembly, will need to be determined. Once the roof assembly is selected, design of the roof details is crucial. Typical details, including roof-to-wall interface and penetrations, must be meticulously thought out and designed. Roof-to-wall interfaces and penetrations must be sealed to prevent air from entering into the roof assembly. Even the smallest gap that allows air flow can have detrimental effects on the roof assembly. The most common method of ensuring sealed terminations and penetrations is the use of a closed-cell spray foam. Closed-cell spray foam is typically installed at the intersection of the exterior walls and the roof insulation at a width of one inch and extends from the deck level to the top of the insulation. At wall-to-steel deck intersections, it is also best practice to install spray foam in the deck flutes a minimum of 12 inches from the wall. The closed cell spray foam helps to seal the interface so air cannot enter into the roof assembly. Figure 4: GAF Detail 201C Coated Metal Roof Edge at Insulated Wall Panel Proper execution of the roof installation is critical and requires a contractor with Cold Storage construction experience. Having the right partner who understands the importance of their role in the project and collaborates with the team can make or break the project. A future article will dive into these details. In the meantime, for information on GAF-certified contractors, talk to GAF first. The benefits outweigh the risks. Seemingly insignificant decisions made during the design and construction of the roof of a Cold Storage facility can impact the functionality and energy usage of the building for the lifetime of the roof system, which is typically 25-35 years. Once air leakage occurs into a roof assembly, the damage that occurs is often irreversible. Ice accumulation on the floor can be a serious hazard for occupants and workers. The challenge of identifying where the breaches in the roof assembly occur, let alone remediation, can be difficult and costly. Remediation of the identified problems generally includes removal of frozen insulation as well as addressing the identified problem areas which are often attributed to detailing and air leakage. The associated consequence of a poorly designed and installed roof is the cost of the energy loss. Mechanical equipment having to work harder to maintain temperatures will result in higher costs due to an increase in energy use, and the effect of the equipment working harder often leads to premature mechanical failures. The benefits associated with designing and installing a proper Cold Storage roof far outweigh the risks. A properly designed and constructed roof will save energy, prolong the life of mechanical equipment, and protect both the building's occupants and the goods being stored inside the facility. Need to talk to an expert regarding Cold Storage roof design? Talk to GAF first. Email us at coldstorage.assistance@gaf.com for design questions, detailing assistance, and expert advice.

By Authors Kristin Westover

January 26, 2024

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