Hammered, battered and beaten
by storms, the question facing residential customers is whether
to opt for a metal or traditional shingled roof-and the answer
appears to be increasingly for the former, particularly in the
South and Southwest.
Strong storms continue to motivate
homeowners to replace traditional shingled roofs, and the
business has been able to offset the downturn in the
"There is so much hail damage down here
that when people need a new roof they want a metal roof because
of the longevity of it," a southwestern roof installer said,
noting that the storm belt has helped insulate his company
somewhat from the recession. "It (business) is off a bit, but
nothing major. It seems like we have just been running pretty
Business in the replacement roofing market
is far exceeding that for new construction, sources said.
"The one difference is that we are selling
more replacement roofs than new construction projects. But
selling into this market is pretty much a guarantee that people
will need to replace roofs because we get hammered by storms,"
the southwestern source said.
Sales to nonresidential customers have
taken a hit, except for agricultural roofs, which have been
doing well, the southwestern source said, noting that he keeps
about two months' inventory on hand, the same as prior to the
downturn. Lead times from his supplier also remain unchanged,
he said, noting that he is able to obtain shipments within days
of placing an order. "We buy so much from Central States
Manufacturing (Inc. in Lowell, Ark.) that they don't hit me
unless they have to," the southwestern roofer said.
One Ohio-based contractor said he abandoned
the shingle roof market nearly a decade ago in favor of metal
roofing. "Just like a car dealer can sell the best car or an
economy model, I decided to convert to the roof that offers the
best value to a consumer," he said.
The preconceived notion that commercial
endeavors are more lucrative jobs doesn't apply to roofs. "I
try not to do too much commercial even though I have a
commercial license because there is too much risk involved and
the profit isn't that great," said the Ohio contractor, who
specializes in residential metal roofing systems. "You have the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration breathing down
your neck, bidding is very competitive and there are theft
issues. It is a big hassle. Plus, you have to have more
Homeowners, tired of maintaining a
traditional roof surface, are actively seeking out metal roof
contractors. "Not only does a metal roof require less upkeep,
going from asphalt shingles to a fastener system builds value
into their homes and the metal is lighter weight. And it
eliminates the need to continue to go out and patch a roof,"
the Ohio contractor said.
Metal roofs can be installed year round
while traditional roofs installed during winter months might
not seal properly and are prone to becoming a maintenance
problem, the Ohio contractor said. "It just makes common sense.
Homeowners are looking for something that won't blow off or
face potential mildew and black fungus issues."
The recession has deterred some homeowners
from spending on a new roof, but that trend seems to be winding
down, the Ohio source said. "The pace of work definitely slowed
down, but the brunt of it appears to be behind us."
Since the replacement roofing market had
held up well, contractors who buy and install roofs haven't
been as impacted by the recession as other construction
"Let's face it. You might not remodel your
kitchen or expand your business while times are bad, but if
your roof becomes a problem you are not going to ignore it,"
the Ohio-based contractor said, noting that major housing
developments haven't yet incorporated metal roofs into their
architectural scheme. "People can be narrow-minded and there is
a misconception on metal roofs. People envision pole barns and
fail to recognize the aesthetics of it."
But the appearance of metal roofs has
changed over the past two decades. "Not only can you pick what
color you want, but you can also select a product that looks
like slate or tile. But the difference is that this roof is
going to last a long time," said an Oklahoma contractor who is
opting to sit out of the residential side of the market and
instead focus on commercial buildings and schools. "We put a
slope roof over a flat roof and it not only upgrades the school
but it enhances the building," she said.
Nearly 70 percent of her work is reroofing
and converting flat asphalt roofs to sloped metal roofs. "It
makes sense for schools to move to a sloped roof. Schools
historically have been plagued by flat roofs that leak over
time, and we can guarantee it will not require maintenance for
20 years," the Oklahoma contractor said, noting that she is
busier than last year and believes that American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act funding is helping to increase demand.
Her business, like others in Oklahoma,
hasn't felt the brunt of the recession like those in other
states. "Oklahoma just has not been as hard hit as other parts
of the country," she said. LISA GORDON