RWC Locals: An Interview with Ryan Saber

We recently caught up with Ryan Saber, the owner of Saber Roofing. Ryan might remind you of a guy from another era, with his rugged beard, candid honesty, and a genuine focus on doing good work. You can immediately tell from the way that he talks about his business and his team that he takes immense pride in what he does and wants to give his clients a great experience.

Saber Roofing has been in business since 1980, and Ryan took the helm when his dad retired. To say their work has been in demand might be an understatement, with El Niño bringing in plenty of rain, and roof leaks, this year. Ryan squeezed our interview into his busy schedule and it was great to catch up. (Fun fact: we all went to high school together.) We met up at his office and showroom over on Douglas Ave. and chatted about how he got started in roofing, his favorite family night out downtown, and tips for folks considering a new roof.

Can you tell us a little about your business and how you got into roofing?

I have pretty much been on the roof since I was four years old. I guess that’s what you get when you’re dad is a roofer. I realized pretty quickly that I was more comfortable up there than I was down on the ground. There’s too much going on down here. Up there, you get peace and quiet. So I realized I was more comfortable up there and comfortable in a trade that most people aren’t. Then, when I was thirteen, I started working in the summers, just for play money and to help my dad, learn his business, and see what he does.

And then, I learned really quickly to get off the roof and into management because it is brutal work. It gave me a ton of appreciation for what my crew does though.  I realized how much I love meeting new people, being outdoors, and doing something different every day. There are always new jobs, new people, kids, pets, all day long. Roofing itself isn’t the most exciting industry in my opinion, but being in a service industry and getting to meet new people is great. I started working here full-time when I was eighteen and it was a perfect fit for me, and a perfect exit strategy for my dad, so it all worked out really well. We’ve been so busy that I practically live here sometimes, but I love it every day. Even when it’s challenging, I really love it every day.

How long do roofs really last? What are signs that people should start thinking about a new one?

It really depends on what you currently have and what kind of maintenance you do. If a new roof is installed well, and actually maintained, which very few people do, you can get 35-40 years out of it. With the average home, you might get more like 25-30 years out of the roof because people fall behind on maintenance.

What kinds of things do you recommend people do to maintain their roof?

It’s really about cleaning off the roof and cleaning out the gutters. It’s not a fun do it yourself project, so most homeowners just don’t do it. I cleaned off the roofs at my mother and mother-in-law’s houses for years and it’s not a fun thing to do by yourself. Primarily it’s small maintenance and getting it inspected every few years.

When it’s time to get a new roof what should people look for in a roofer or a roofing company?

I would say the main thing to look for is honesty. It’s actually a highlight of my day when someone calls me to check an estimate or give a bid on a roof, and I come down and say, “Everything is fine. Call me in five years.” It’s a good day for me, because they smile and they’re happy, and I know that when they actually do need to replace the roof, they’re going to come back to me. There are so many other roofers out there, who will just say, “Yeah, here’s a quote for a new roof.” And that bothers me a little bit.

We know your schedule has been totally booked! How have things been holding up with El Niño this year?

It’s been pretty intense, especially after such a long drought. A lot of roofers start drying up with regards to their workload because it’s not raining, so nobody needs a roof. We’ve had a good amount of rain this year and we’re getting hundreds of calls a day. I mean it’s intense. I would be lost without our incredible office manager. She handles everything and every homeowner gets a call back. Unfortunately, we can’t take every job — we’re already booked into the fall this year. The crazy thing is that a client will call for a new roof, we’ll give them a quote, and they’ll want to go with us, even though we’re booked months out. That’s the craziest part: that people will wait for us.  

Is there a time of the year where things slow down a bit?

When it’s raining, every roofer is in high demand and there isn’t much we can do other than quick fixes and patches. The slow time in an average season is March. It’s right before tax time, so most people don’t want to spend money on their roof. Or between Christmas and New Years. Other than that, we’re usually booked pretty solid year round.

So is that when you take your vacations too?

Take a what?

So how long have you lived in Redwood City and do you have any favorite hangouts?

I’ve lived in Redwood City for over 20 years. Back in the day, I didn’t want to be here. We were always going to San Carlos, Palo Alto, somewhere else. But now, everyone wants to come here. We love going to the Magic Lantern Show. It’s awesome. I think they just started them up again. We bring a bottle of wine, some snacks and blankets for the kids. I would definitely recommend that. There’s such a huge variety of things going on downtown. It’s fantastic.

Connect with Ryan Saber // Saber Roofing
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RWC Locals is focused on the people that live and work in Redwood City. We believe that small businesses add so much vibrancy and character to the city and are a huge part of what makes Redwood City such a wonderful place to live. We are looking forward to meeting more folks around town and supporting their work and business. If you know of someone or a business you would like to see featured, let us know!