For 34 years, Desert Sage Wall Systems LLC has been the go-to exterior plastering contractor in Idaho. The company, which has generational roots, is a member of AWCI, NWCB, EIMA and ASA.
Frank Freeman got his introduction to the company through his father, who had a commercial construction business and needed help in the summer of 1980; he is now the owner of DSWS. The company has a staff of approximately 30. “I was just out of high school and was planning on being a pig farmer. I ended up falling in love with EIFS and plastering. The rest is history.”
According to Freeman, who—along with his brother—has seen a lot of growth in the Northwest, it seems “quality of life matters.”
The company reports that business is great. “Construction in the Northwest has always been unique,” Freeman says. “Our ability and willingness to travel has helped my business be successful throughout the years.”
Watching the change in technology has been huge for the company. Freeman says he remembers having his first fax machine; now everything is digital and mobile, which helps the business.
“The toughest part has been getting older. And dealing with the modern, younger generation, who are so advanced technologically to me but who don’t have the real-life experience or the tough skin like us ‘old-timers’ had to develop,” Freeman says.
Desert Sage Wall Systems reports that the rest of the year looks strong, adding that they have work well into 2025.
“My long-term goals are to keep breathing. At my age, health has become a big deal,” Freeman says. “I want to be around a long time to watch the company succeed under my nephew’s wing and watch my grandchildren grow.”
Having been in the plastering business for years, many new products have presented themselves. Freeman says the products he is most impressed with are the fluid-applied membranes that have been developed, which he says have been huge for the industry. “I truly believe they saved the EIFS industry when they were developed, and now seeing them used under all claddings just shows how well they truly perform,” he says.
The company primarily uses Sto and Dryvit products. Its main distributor for EIFS and stucco materials has been Chris Burrows at Evergreen Building Products. Burrows and the company have developed a true friendship over the years. Its EPS distributor has been Northwest Foam Products.
“I am one of their oldest customers and have enjoyed growing old together with that family as well,” Freeman says.
According to Freeman, his greatest achievement with the company has been his long-term, faithful employees.
“Seeing my crew grow, and now their children come and work in the trades has been great,” Freeman says. “I also feel that my relationships with my suppliers has been a large achievement and helped lead to our success.”
“I was 18 and trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life,” says Russell Freeman, manager of the company. “My uncle (Frank) showed up at my house one day and told me I needed to do something in the meantime, that I should come to work for him and I could figure out my life as it went on. He wasn’t going to allow me to sit and do nothing until I decided to grow up.”
Since Russell joined the company, business has grown and Frank has invested heavily in the business and equipment. The company has traveled all over the Northwest and beyond.
“[Presently], business is great. Last year was a bit more challenging, as we did a greater number of projects of a smaller size,” Frank says. “But this year we are back on track to complete larger projects, with the potential for growth and continuing to re-invest in our company equipment.”
According to Russell, construction in the Idaho region is growing. Everything seems to be getting taller, he says, and the company is experiencing an influx of out-of-town general contractors and subcontractors coming into the area.
“I enjoy everything about the job. From the pre-planning to making the finishing touches happen,” Russell says. “Being on the exterior finish side of things is very rewarding knowing that the work we complete is one of the first things people see on the building.”
The biggest challenge Russell feels is part of the job is dealing with scheduling. The company is seeing many projects fall behind schedule very early on in the project, and very few of these projects are having the completion date adjusted to reflect these delays. With Desert Sage Wall Systems being on the finishing end, the subcontractor is being looked at to make the time up. However, quality workmanship and finishes cannot be rushed, he says.
“My long-term goals are buying the business from my uncle, watching it grow and continuing to succeed, while also having the opportunity to watch him enjoy his retirement,” Russell says. “I have already started instilling the importance of hard work in my children. And, I believe giving them the opportunity to learn a trade is important. College isn’t for everyone, and tradesmen can be just as successful in life.”
Scheels All Sports
Location: Ten Mile Crossing, Meridian, Idaho
Owner: Scheels All Sports Inc.
General Contractor: Plenium Builders
Architect: R.L. Engebretson
Desert Sage Wall Systems was contracted to install EIFS/DAFS and fluid-applied membrane behind non-EIFS claddings. The company is also erecting scaffolding for other trades at all gable areas and the clerestory on the roof.
The company began its work in April and is scheduled to be completed in August.
“The biggest challenge we have had on this project has been coordination with the other trades that need our scaffolding, and the large cornices at mid-wall height,” Russell says. “We are erecting scaffolding for the other trades to use at four gables (gable peaks are 85 feet above finish grade).”
For this project, the Sto products were supplied by Evergreen Building Products out of Renton, Wash. Northwest Foam Production out of Twin Falls, Idaho, supplied all the EPS and Dow caulking for all EIFS-related joint sealants.
“I believe the architects are always looking for quality and the exterior finishes to ‘pop.’ Lines need to be clean and crisp,” Russell says.