Case Studies

Western Fireproofing Company of Kansas Inc.: On Top of the Roof Deck Business

  • Written by: Western Fireproofing Company of Kansas Inc.: On Top of the Roof Deck Business
  • Produced by: Western Fireproofing Company of Kansas Inc.: On Top of the Roof Deck Business
  • Estimated reading time: 4 mins

Specialty subcontractor Western Fireproofing Company of Kansas Inc. (Western Fireproofing) has been successfully supplying structural roof deck systems to commercial properties in the Midwest since 1934. The company works with architects, engineers, contractors and developers to provide lightweight insulating concrete, engineered roof deck systems, and cementitious wood fiber roof deck systems for high-end building projects such as schools, churches, hospitals and jails throughout the Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska and Illinois areas.

To get an idea of the company’s long-term success and continued stability, A.L. Bontrager, Western Fireproofing’s current president, is only the third owner since the founding date. Bontrager purchased Western Fireproofing in 1987 after joining the company in 1980. He’s been heading the company for almost a third of its existence, and working there even longer. “I started in the construction industry in 1977,” reminisces Bontrager. “I started off getting to know Western Fireproofing from the supplier side when I worked for W.R. Grace, a big supplier of vermiculite for the roof deck industry. Western Fireproofing was the subcontractor I called on, and then I went to work for them.”

In addition to roof decks, Western Fireproofing provides Kwik Wall operable partitions for convention centers, Gyp-crete floors for hotels and apartments, and glu-laminated beams for commercial buildings, such as banks and churches. Western Fireproofing proudly self-performs all of its work. Western Fireproofing’s 10 office and 40 field employees help generate $15 million of annual revenue from the home office in Kansas City, Mo. Smaller offices in St. Louis, Mo., and Oklahoma City, Okla., serve as outposts for Western Fireproofing’s many projects.

That Was Us

Bontrager’s humble Midwestern manner belies the company’s professional capabilities. “We do a lot of high-end buildings,” he concludes offhandedly. “Some years ago, when they built the big IRS building here in Kansas City, we did the roof deck on that. When they built the Federal Reserve Bank also in Kansas City, we did the roof deck on that. When the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City was blown up, we did the roof deck on the Federal Campus Building, which replaced the Murrah Building.”

Western Fireproofing can say the company’s teams did the roof deck on a lot of things – all the schools in Manhattan, Kan., and most of the schools in Independence, Mo., Broken Arrow, Okla., and Tulsa, Okla. We are also getting ready to do some nice school projects down in the Springfield area,” according to Bontrager.

Building a sturdy business takes just as much finesse as constructing a roof deck. “We call on the architects, engineers, and build relationships with them. The industry is seeing less work, so opportunities aren’t there as much as they were in the past; you have to do the legwork.” It is very important to build relationships with architects and contractors.

Still, Western Fireproofing’s relationships aren’t suffering thanks to the company’s proactive, customer satisfaction-focused approach. The company works with ACI/ Boland, a major school architect in Kansas City, and also does most of the roof deck work for HMN Architects, an architectural firm in Kansas City that specializes in, among other things, hospitals. Bontrager knows relationships are crucial to his company’s success. To that end, he stresses, “We make sure a job is done right and cleaned up and has no issues.”

Community Spirit

Those involved in physically building a community also often have a strong desire to give even more to the community, and Western Fireproofing is no different. “Most people in the construction business are typically pretty good about giving back,” confirms Bontrager, who volunteers with his staff frequently for Catholic Charities, where Bontrager’s youngest daughter works. Western Fireproofing’s staff has also served meals at food kitchens, as well as helped some non-profits when they were remodeling by pouring the Gyp-crete floors for them. “It is just part of doing business to give back to the community,” says Bontrager.

The Western Fireproofing culture is a close one. There’s a feeling of family that fosters career longevity. “Everyone works hard and plays hard, and it’s worked out great,” beams Bontrager. “One of the nicest things about the business is we’ve have been able to keep people here. Some have been here with me for 20-some years.”

One of the surprising things that helps foster the cozy atmosphere is a competitive football season. There are a lot of worries running a business, but football season offers a dose of friendly competition. Jokingly, Bontrager explains, “Typically you’re always worried about keeping market share, or production. Now it’s football season, so I’m worried about my football team.” Bontrager is also worried about whether he’s going to have to buy a round of barbecue from Oklahoma Joe’s if the Sooners or the Chiefs let him down; the office enjoys standing football bets where the loser has to pay in barbecue.

Raise the Roof

While Western Fireproofing is doing well, maintaining both its activity level and its sense of camaraderie, the economic downturn has slowed things down the past several years. Bontrager, however, sees the construction industry improving.

Bond referendums put through during the last election are set to put more school projects in the works and Western Fireproofing will be kept busy. But true to his matter-of-fact nature, Bontrager doesn’t see the fuss over Western Fireproofing’s 78th year in business. Steady and modest is the way for Western Fireproofing. It’s worked since 1934, and should continue to work for years to come.

Published on: March 10, 2013

Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in US Builders Review” badge that links directly to your article!

Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing tag) where you want to display our review banner.


Spring 2018



  • * We’ll never share your email or info with anyone.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.