Landed a commercial laborer / helper position in MN, looking for tips / advice

Hello everyone!

I had my first day as a commercial roofing laborer today after being offered the job on Friday. I’m a 26 year old guy and I have absolutely no construction experience of any kind. I’ve worked a few manufacturing / production jobs though and have driven forklift so I’m used to handling materials and running at least a few pieces of equipment. I’m extremely excited and eager to finally have a chance to learn a trade and develop some skills. Today consisted entirely of safety training and filling out paperwork for HR. We’ll be back at the shop tomorrow for a few hours completing the last of our safety training and most likely on a job site by Wednesday or Thursday. I got a lot of good information from the training material they provided (which was a ton of videos and discussion about the content) and was able to get the questions I had as we went along answered. It was a lot of information though and we honestly blew through it pretty quick. I was hoping this community might have some advice or pointers about being a laborer, as well as recommendations for what brands / types of tools I should go with. I understand that starting out, my main responsibilities will be staging the materials, housekeeping of the job site, running supplies, and various other duties as assigned which im confident I can manage once I get in the swing of things. As long as all that’s taken care of, I plan to offer to help / observe / learn entire the process any way I can and ask questions if I don’t understand something. Is there anything else you folks would suggest I can do to be an asset to the crew?

Sorry this became a wall of text, I’m just super enthusiastic about this opportunity and want to do well!

Thanks so much for your time.

NEVER back up on a flat roof.


Work hard and ask questions. Showing a sincere desire to learn will take you a long way as will maintaining humility. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve learned it all in your first 6 months. No one likes that guy…

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Sound advice, thanks!

I am also not a fan of that type of person, so I try not to gas myself up. I just do my job and try to improve however I can. I take criticism really well and I know I’m going to make mistakes so I don’t mind getting some shit for it when it happens. Unless someone is being hostile or toxic towards me, it’s a learning experience, they just want me to get the job done right.

You have all you need.
What a great attitude!

Once they are willing to let you cut and hammer the basic needs are a pouch you can stuff about 10 rolls of roofing coil nails into
Along with your hammer and i use a estwing drywall hatchet has been my preferred hammer. You need a knife that holds utility blades. Pick up a pack of hook blades for your knife.
This is all you need to really get started.
Next you’ll need tape measure, a great pair of snips and a chalk box.

It kind of sounds like he doesnt plan on you wearing a tool belt right away.
Its going to be a lil bit.
But if you come to the job site right away with these things, he will be impressed and see you are ready and willing to get right to learning about the installation and that you want to install.
Also you want a bottom sole of your shoe to feel nice and grippy. No stiff, hard compound bottom.

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Thank you, this is exactly the advice I needed! I have a good pair of boots and they gave me an extremely generic list of tools that I’ll need, like hammer, knife etc. But I didn’t want to grab anything before I got some recommendations first. I really appreciate it! Laborers, at least at this company specifically start at $19.80 / hour, making this the best paying job I’ve had so far. After 30 days they do a review and decide if you’re working out / what you’ve learned with the opportunity for a raise at that point. I figure as long as I show up on time, do my job, make an effort to learn the process and not burn the place down, I should have an ok shot at turning this into something I can build on as a career. If nothing else, the experience itself will be really helpful getting my foot in the door of construction / trade work going forward!

Hi YoungRoof,
What kind of commercial roofing are you involved in; Low slope membranes or shingles?

You can do even better than that. When I started out at 17 years old in ‘85 I was a complete dumbass. I made up for it by running everywhere I went, packing more bundles or tile than the other guys and bleeding and sweating all over the roof. I made myself impossible to fire and eventually grew out of being a knucklehead. It’s a lot different now with OSHA(hard to run when you’re attached to a leash) but you get my drift. Don’t worry about embarrassing anyone by outworking their ass.

Primarily low slope, we might do shingles but if we do it must be rare.

Haha thanks! This makes me feel a lot better about not having any experience. I’m also a dumbass, but if I don’t understand or if I’m not sure about something I’m not afraid to ask questions and figure it out. It might take me a bit, but when I get it down and get into a routine it’s on.

I really appreciate the encouragement, advice and recommendations, everyone. I’ll definitely be popping in over the next couple weeks to let you know how it goes!

Single-ply membrane details are your best friend. Low slope and steep slope are both roofing, but they are 2 different animals. Make sure that you carry a field guide with you, either from the manufacturer or the NRCA low slope guide.Get to know your detail and architectural drawings. What city are you in, YoungRoof?

As a teen, I moved up because I showed up. I was always on time for work. Let the boss see he can trust you will be there.

We learned about both low and steep slope in our orientation, I’m definitely glad we primarily do low slope projects lol. I went to the nrca website and downloaded the low slope materials guide PDF, is that what you were referring to? Thanks for putting me into that, it’ll be really helpful! I’m in Rochester.

Sounds to me like you’ve got a great attitude and will do a good job. I wish you luck and a prosperous future! Be sure to check back in and let us know how it goes after a few months. Always glad to see people learn a trade!!!

Make sure you have a retractable utility knife. 22 oz rip hammer will do most every job, flat bar, snips, always a spare tape measure in the truck. Good pair of fiskar scissors for membrane work, pencil and a small notepad for critical specs. Learn and retain as much as you can, I hate daily retraining! Most important… If you don’t know, ask! NEVER misrepresent your knowledge! It gets expensive quick…

The ideal guide is The NRCA Roofing Manual Membrane Roof Systems—2019. It’s a big, fat, thick binder full. I had a staffer print it out in high quality color and it took most of a day to do. Manufacturers typically have little minute details that separate them from each other. Find out which manufacturer your company primarily uses and that you are installing. Get your hands on an architectural drawing or field guide. Sleep with it. Understand it. Learn to weld and spot bad welds. Do you know what kind of material you are installing now?