Above: CNC-machined dies with exact tolerances and durable Dura Coat XT40 paint allow Bridger Steel to produce high quality panels at high line speeds.
Bending or flattening won’t compromise this coating’s caliber
March 2014 - The exterior of a building or residence can either blend in with the scenery or make a statement. When designing a structure to ensure it meets all practical needs, function can sometimes trump design. There’s a lot more to a building than four walls and a roof, as one company thrives on creating customized facades for a variety of structures—turning the mundane into something memorable.
Bridger Steel, based in Billings, Mont., artfully crafts architectural metal—from panels and soffits to trim and concealed fastening systems—for builders interested in the design behind a structure.
“We buy steel and spec it out to be made for our specifications in multiple widths, grades and thicknesses,” says Eric Wolff, inventory manager, Bridger Steel. “We’re a custom shop. We don’t have stock stuff on the floor,” Wolff says. “Everything is made to order. We turn out most jobs in three days or less.”
Headquartered in Riverside, Calif., Dura Coat Products Inc. supplies Bridger Steel with Dura Coat’s XT40 Ceranamel super durable Silicone Modified Polyester and Durapon 70 PVDF Fluorocarbon paint systems, which are applied to a Galvalume substrate steel. Galvalume is a carbon-based steel coated with an aluminum-zinc coating made up of 55 percent aluminum, 43.8 percent zinc and 1.6 percent silicon. Steelscape Inc. produces the Galvalume product to Bridger Steel’s specifications in its Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., plant and then sends that product by train to the company’s Kalama, Wash., paint line to be painted.
Custom and quality
With each day comes a completely different set of demands from customers. “We’re not a wholesale type supplier. Dura Coat meets our quality standards and ... we go with them because they’re nice to work with,” says Dennis Johnson, CEO of Bridger Steel. “Dura Coat has been the easiest to work with compared to anyone else we’ve tried in the past.”
The manufacturing company has tried other options available in the marketplace but has found Dura Coat best suits its needs on a consistent basis. “Their scratch and scuff resistant coatings are the best we’ve tried,” Wolff says.
The coating Bridger Steel uses needs to hold up to a lot of abuse. “We take a piece of steel and bend it back on itself and flatten it,” Wolff explains. “That paint has to be able to make that 180 degree bend without cracking. That’s a lot of stretching to take without chipping.”
Dura Coat is able to offer such durable product because its coatings are rooted in ongoing testing and research. “We have strict quality control standards in the manufacturing of paint prior to it being applied onto any metal,” says Kevin Ebert, vice president sales and marketing at Dura Coat.
Bridger Steel is able to use Dura Coat’s color-matching abilities as an integral component in the custom construction business. “We like to educate people on why metal is just a superior product whether for use inside or out,” Wolff says. “You cannot find another product that’s as diversified as metal especially nowadays with new paint systems that companies are starting to develop and different textures and extensive multi-pattern paint systems—it’s exciting.”
In the construction market, there are typically three tiers of technology to consider when selecting a coating. There is architectural (Durapon 70), light commercial, which includes barns and more modest structures, plus siding (Ceranamel XT40), and there is rainware and other building components (light troffers, ceiling grid, screen doors, etc.), which use a less expensive version of Ceranamel (XT20).
Custom color for exteriors is a part of everyday orders where a company’s color request is not the industry-standard variety. “Sometimes you need a custom color matched in a very short amount of time and with other vendors, you’d have to send it back two, maybe three times,” Wolff says. “With Dura Coat, it’s one shot and done. When they send out their color match it is always spot on.”
Customers come to Bridger Steel with special orders all the time and Dura Coat works with the company to help meet those needs. “We had an unusual job where the customer wanted to put a metal roof on a building built on a peninsula that was on the East Coast, 1⁄10 of a mile from the ocean,” Wolff says. “Everyone in their area said they would not warranty a metal roof based on its proximity to the ocean. This company found Bridger Steel on the web and contacted us, and we went to bat for them with Dura Coat. Dura Coat came back with their Durapon 70 paint with a thick film primer and Edge Seal for the cut edges. Bridger Steel was then able to provide them with a 20 year warranty when no one else in their area would.”
On a different scale, another customer walked into Bridger Steel because he wanted to build a pole barn for his backyard. “He expected a pole barn with a red roof and white walls and didn’t give much thought to it,” Wolff says. “So we offered suggestions that took the project to the next level by adding different panel profiles, wainscoting, trim in a different color from everything else. If you show them how it might look like for a few more dollars, they get really excited about it. So that’s what’s fun, people come in thinking they knew what they wanted but they leave excited that they can do so much more.”
“It’s pretty amazing how much you can transform an exterior by taking the time to be creative with the design,” says Laura Kirkland, web design and media coordinator at Bridger Steel. “We may run panels vertically and horizontally and alternate multiple colors to get the desired effect. It could be a small building in your backyard or a large commercial building. That’s what’s fun about our sales process. There are other, larger shops out there but they just take orders. We engage customers in the design process and they leave thrilled with something they didn’t start out with.”
As 2014 progresses, Bridger Steel is optimistic as customers are more inclined to invest resources in quality. “It seems like the general consensus is people are starting to feel better and are building more quality products,” Wolff says. “From about 2009 to the first half of 2011, we were running the same volume of square footage but customers had switched to lower-end products. But we’ve seen a switch to where people are looking at high-end products again. People are building products they want to last a lot longer. That tells me that things are looking up and this will be a good year for us.” MM