Thomas Builard

Copper Theft In Home Construction

This blog posting is being written on the somewhat infamous one-year anniversary of the theft of a copper roof in north Metro Houston. No, not just the gutters or downspouts, but the entire copper roof.

The home was situated on a country road in a remote part of Fulton County (such remote areas are rare around here, but they do exist) and had fallen into foreclosure. Thieves cut through a gate and took the roof and gutter system along with all the copper wiring and pipe they could get from inside the structure. For the price of salvage the home was destroyed.

So is it any wonder that you can scarcely go anywhere these days without being under the watchful eye of video surveillance? This might be a weird way to get to the point of all this, but bear with me. Being videoed while we shop for our dog food is creepy enough, as is the idea that I can go online and find my house in full-color graphics (thank God not in real time … yet). But these advancing technologies have a positive side to them.

The advent of digital photography and inexpensive electronic recording devices has changed the world and the roofing world is no exception. For instance, “aerial oblique photography.” Aerial photos taken of real estate said to cover 80 percent of the nation’s population form the basis for roof estimating services.

More and more roofing contractors are taking advantage of these services, and for good reason. You simply cannot perform the same task live as easily and inexpensively as you can by ordering take-offs online. Yes, you still need to show up and you still need to get into the attic (not all roofing contractors do this, but the ones who do not are missing a good trick). The drawing it all up and measuring it and reducing it to a clean and readable presentation is handed to you online with the aerial take-off services.

Around my shop we store millions of dollars’ worth of roofing alongside our millions of dollars’ worth of garage doors, equipment that we use to deliver all that roofing. Some bad guys came and stole one of our tractor/trailers with a load of roofing last year, and in spite of the fact that we got the equipment back (damaged), the roofing was all gone. And the pain of being without our tractor/trailer for six weeks and our forklift for six months was no party.

So, we put in a video system. I should say “another” video system. Our original system recorded the guys leaving the yard with our truck as they rammed through the fence. And no, that did not do us much good.

The new video system is high-definition system that is monitored overnight. So we do not just see the guys driving out with our stuff, we see them walking around the yard as they are shopping for which truck they want to steal. Now the police get the call from us while the bad guys are on our yard. This is not your average alarm system call … the folks who monitor the system can tell the police which part of the eight-acre yard the bad guys are in.

The police really hate answering most alarm calls because quite often they false alarms. They really like taking a call when they have a better-than-average chance of catching a bad guy.

So, yeah, a lot of video surveillance still creeps me out. But I really like our video surveillance scheme. It is not, by the way, very inexpensive. In fact it is fairly pricey to install the equipment and pay for the monitoring. But the tractor/trailer forklift and load of roofing combo sets us back, on average, around $180,000. And I cannot even put a price on the peace of mind, but I can tell you I like it.

A roofing contractor sacramento that would like to remain anonymous but left this comment on plumbing and other construction related theft. "It's really bad on the construction industry and makes us loose credibility. One thing I have noticed is people do not care to secure materials at job sites and wonder why it goes missing. The market for stolen construction goods is a big one and it makes it hard for legitimate business to compete on pricing jobs."

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