Historic Knowledge Sets Steudte Builders Apart

Ben Steudte of Steudte Builders.
Ben Steudte of Steudte Builders.

By Gianna Volpe

If a skylight has sprung a leak, Steudte Builders say they’ve got know-how to undo the damage the right way. Attention to detail is what sets the German family company apart from the competition, according to third generation representative, Ben Steudte.

“Leak repair is not just about a specific area,” said the 33-year-old Hampton Bays resident. “If it’s leaking in one place, that doesn’t necessarily mean the water is coming in there.”
Mr. Steudte’s knowledge comes from decades of building up the East End alongside father and grandfather, Harald and Gerhard Steudte, who both moved to the United States in the year following the 1953 Uprising in East Germany. The elder Mr. Steudte created cabinets while his son—only four years old at the time of their immigration into the United States—expanded to entire houses.
“The only thing that was important for my family was making sure we had enough work and money to put food on the table,” Harald Steudte said of this strong work ethic, which has made remaining on the East End viable for the next generation of Steudtes. “When Ben was [becoming a teenager] I would take him to work with me because I wanted him to learn a trade; To be exposed to this, learn it and if he didn’t like it, that’s fine.”

This came in handy after his son—a graduate of Sacred Heart University with a degree in business management and marketing—moved on from Merrill Lynch following the recession.

“Ben’s literally been doing this work since he was 14 years old,” said his father. “Back then, he liked to buy toys—boats and motorcycles—but I wouldn’t buy them for him. He had to earn his own money to pay for them.”

And earning business is exactly what Steudte Builders does.

“We stand behind our work,” said Ben Steudte. “We’re not the cheapest and we’re not the fastest and we don’t want to be…We do a really nice job and though you might be paying a little bit more, why pay twice when you can pay once and have it done right?”

Both Steudte boys are big on “doing things right;” a perfectionist attitude they learned from pater familias, Gerhard.
“The patience of, ‘It doesn’t leave the shop if it’s not perfect’ was frustrating, but you learned and recognized that it had to be done real well or it wasn’t leaving,” Harald Steudte said of meeting his father’s high standard. “There’s nothing better than taking apart a job…and seeing what [went wrong.]”

The Steudte family’s strong attention to detail has won them contracts restoring historic homes in both Southampton and Sag Harbor villages, which Ben says has everything to do with the family’s background in carpentry.
“A roofer generally just does a roof, but we make our own trim and that comes in handy if you have a dormer on the house,” he said. “Anyone can shingle in a straight line, but what separates us is the critical attention to detail with weird corners and flashing valleys.”

Valley flashing refers to the place where two types of roof intersect, such as the spot where a section of flat roof meets a pitched one.
“A lot of times what we find is companies will install products that are not necessarily made for a certain application,” Ben said of some reasons why skylights ultimately begin to leak. “They’ll put architectural grade asphalt singles on a low pitched roof and that’s not meant for that. We’ve been working with Duralast for 12 or 13 years now for flat roofs because it’s a superior product to everything we’ve seen.”

The company custom manufactures roofs to desired specifications using advanced materials and methods, according to Mr. Steudte.

It’s all heat-welded together instead of adhesive or torch-down,” he said. “The technology has gotten so far advanced that it’s like, ‘Why would you want a black roof these days?’ You can put your hand down on a white roof in July whereas you can fry an egg on the black roof.”