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A good night’s rest

image L-R: Michael Zatopek, Liz Zatopek and Vickie Jones of Light Gauge Solutions

DALLAS/FT WORTH - The next time you’re staying in a hotel, ask yourself: “Is this thing going to collapse on me while I’m sleeping?” If Liz Zatopek and her team at Light Gauge Solutions made it, you can sleep well. It won’t fall down.

 

 

 

 

    Light Gauge Solutions produces steel framing for load-bearing walls and trusses, mostly for commercial structures. It has done a lot of hotels.
    Liz’s background, interestingly, was not in construction, but software engineering and testing. “I didn’t have any,” she laughs, when discussing her background. When she had her two kids, she took time off to be the mom. Once her son, Michael Zatopek, graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology, fabricated products in Juarez, Mexico provided an opportunity to get into this business.
    “I’ve always been interested in architecture, engineering and construction,” Liz said. When this opportunity came up in Juarez, she and Michael decided to form Light Gauge Solutions in 2005. She was now in the light gauge framing business.
    When she started the company, Liz rented out a warehouse, bought their first roll former and a forklift.
    “The learning curve was steep,” she said. Liz had to learn how to build and bid projects and the industry lingo and culture. Fortunately, she had plenty of assistance from mentors who guided her and double-checked her work.
    Vickie Jones came on board in 2008 and provides invaluable business savvy and customer-project management. Michael is the lead designer.
    Liz must be doing something right, as Light Gauge’s biggest competitor went out of business around three years ago.
    “There are not a lot of people who do what we do,” she said.
    Light Gauge Solutions has done work in Florida, Louisiana and the Virgin Islands. The company was involved with the rebuild in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It also built a house there that was still standing after 240 mph hurricane winds hit it. Light Gauge Solutions built a women’s clinic in Africa as well.
    Steel framing is more expensive than wood, but, as Liz said, “If you build a building and intend to keep it, steel is a much better way to go.” One might even get some insurance breaks as well. The framing is more precise, and the studwork is much more straight.
    Right now, Light Gauge Solutions is doing a lot of five- and six-story hotels.
    For her day-to-day operations, Liz does all of the bid work, the accounting and payroll, and helps with production as needed. She has a shop foreman and hires out when the project calls for it. All in all, Light Gauge Solutions has nine full-time employees. They fabricate the frames and trusses in their shop and then ship them out. Liz uses a regular installer.
    “The challenge [of their work] is we’re on the front end, which is nice,” she said. “On the other hand, we’re on the front end, which means everybody is waiting on us.”
    “We do a lot of consulting on the front end of a project,” Liz explained. “We focus on making sure it’s done right.” Liz will stay in a hotel and sometimes wonder who made it and what’s it made out of.
    With the type of software available today, precise calculations and designs can be made, further ensuring that when you stare at the ceiling of your hotel room, the ceiling will stay in place. Of course, that’s assuming that Light Gauge Solutions made the steel framing for it.
    “We see it through to the end,” Liz said.
    The end of your stay in the hotel, that is. So get a good night’s rest.
    Light Gauge Solutions has its shop in Arlington. -dsz


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Dan Zulli dan@constructionnews.net