Case Studies

Donald B. Smith Roofing

A Family-owned roofing business with diverse capabilities

Donald B. Smith Roofing (DBS) has been in business since 1948 when Donald Smith founded a small residential roofing business in central Pennsylvania. For more than 65 years, DBS has grown.

Multiple family members are now involved with DBS, including Doug Smith, Donald’s nephew and president of DBS. “My father Pat was very involved with the company when I was younger,” Doug recalls. “I used to walk to the office after high school to work a couple of hours a day with him. It was something my dad made me do. At the time, I was not all that excited about roofing, but it was the foundation that would become a passion. It’s not a job to me.”

Doug started as a teen, working in the office on an inventory program. Soon he was sorting contracts and after college he joined the family business full time. Between 1989, when Doug started full time, and 1992 when he took over the business, he worked closely with his family members on the management end, learning how to run the company and building relationships with employees and clients.

Over the years, DBS has established a reputation for quality and professionalism. The team has already grown over the past year from approximately 60 employees to 80 employees. The company contributes to major new construction projects for commercial builders. The business has also established a growing market through service, repairs and replacements.

A strong portfolio

The company works out of a single location in Hanover, Pa. For the most part, work is within a one-hour radius of the shop, although the team has completed projects in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia and North Carolina.

Furthermore, the company’s in-house capabilities include an array of roofing and sheet metal services, including ES1-certified metal fabrication. Therefore, DBS has a growing presence in the commercial construction business and several distribution and big-box clients, as well. The team has also worked on smaller commercial projects, freezers, schools and high end residential construction, though the warehouse market has picked up in the years since the recession.

“We used to do a lot of high end residential work, but that market has not come back yet,” Doug clarifies. “We’ve completed, in the past year, distribution centers for Petsmart, a 700,000-square-foot facility, in Allentown, Pa., and 550,000-square-foot Subaru in New Jersey. The Subaru project will involve green features such as solar panels and white reflective roofing. We are in the completion stages of 1.6 million-square-foot facility in Shippinesburg, Pa., and a million-square-foot facility in Aberdeen, Md., as well as another 700,000-square-foot facility in Allentown, Pa.”

Doug notes another unique green project for the company to be for an Urban Outfitters. “There is a rooftop lounge area for employees, 450 skylights for daylighting and they will also put up solar panels on the roof of the 1,000,000-square-foot structure scheduled to begin roofing in Lancaster County, Pa., for May 2014,” he continues.

With a strong background in different aspects of roofing, the team is looking to break into some new markets. “There is a lot of room to grow in the solar markets,” Doug explains. “Now, owners are actually leasing their roof. We have also seen potential for growth installing building envelopes. Building owners have had a lot of issues so it makes sense to have a roofing contractor to waterproof the walls and install composite wall panels; all under one contract.”

In-house strength

The market has changed significantly since the recession hit in 2009. Doug and his team saw revenue drop significantly between 2009 and 2010, though the market has been gradually improving. “We had a large reroofing department, but the small jobs seemed to disappear,” he recalls. “In 2011 we were profitable again. Since then, we have started going after larger projects, especially warehouses. The market has not come back completely and we are traveling more. We have been able to secure several larger projects, which keep us growing, though. We had to adapt and the larger projects help us keep our volume up.”

In spring 2014, Doug has hired 20 new employees to continue growing the business’ strong relationships with clients, including building owners and general contractors. With strong and diverse in-house capabilities, the team rarely subcontracts anything out. Strong partnerships with suppliers and industry association also help DBS maintain a solid reputation. “Networking is an important part of our industry,” Doug notes. “We are involved in the National Roofing Association, as well as our regional association and the Associated Builders and Contractors.”

More than any other factor, Doug credits the company’s survival and growth to employees. “I always tell our team that they are our best salesmen,” he elaborates. “We measure our success by how many of our customers become repeat clients. We do not expect any punch-list after a job is completed by our expert installers. One item on a punch-list is one too many.”

Efficient and professional performance and support has attracted several major strategic partners and customers. As the business’ customer base grows, Doug and his team will be able to expand in the coming years. “We are going to really be able to dive into new sectors in the next few years,” he says. “We want to get more of a building under our contract.”

Moving forward, Doug hopes to provide an even more diverse range of capabilities to customers as time goes on, including composite wall panels, air barriers and solar panel installation. “We are excited and looking forward to another record breaking year for 2014,” he says proudly. Above all else, and to continue its trend of success, Donald B. Smith Roofing is dedicated to customer service.

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Spring 2018



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