New products and an already-booming market spell growth for roofing.
Throughout history, we have had a love-hate relationship with our roofs. While they give us protection from the elements, they haven’t always been the most reliable part of our homes. In our country’s earliest days, roofs were commonly made from thatching. Those roofs were prone to leaking and invited all sorts of critters such as birds, mice, and even squirrels to take up residence in them. As settlers began to move westward, sod houses became the norm during the migration, with roofs constructed from thin layers of twigs and branches that were then covered with grass and dirt — not exactly the tidiest living conditions, nor the most weather-resistant.
It’s a good thing technology has enabled us to leave thatch and sod behind and create advanced roofing materials that not only keep water off our heads but provide thermal, wind and ultraviolet protection. In fact, there are now so many roofing options that it can be difficult for the LBM dealer to know what to stock. Plus, with continuing raw material shortages due to the global pandemic and other supply chain disruptions, dealers may find themselves at the mercy of simple product availability. Nonetheless, there’s good reason to feel optimistic about the growth potential for the roofing segment.
Continued growth on the horizon
According to Expert Market Research (a market research and business intelligence company), the U.S. roofing market reached a value of about $15.47 billion last year. Furthermore, the industry is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of about 3.50% in the forecast period of 2022-2027 to reach a value of around
$18.96 billion by 2027, with growth coming from segments such as smart building construction, building automation construction, and changing lifestyles driven by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Manufacturers, however, also point to ongoing labor constraints, supply chain issues, and extreme weather patterns that have already wreaked havoc in the southern part of the country as potential growth disruptors through the next twelve months. Still, optimism remains high. “The rate of housing starts continues to coast at high levels, and residential homes are utilizing higher pitches, longer spans and more complex roof systems,” explains Kelly Harmon, LP Building Products’ senior national product manager for OSB and EWP. “We foresee the roofing market growing proportionately.”
Matt Minchew, general manager of ZIP System products roof applications for Huber Engineered Woods, shares that optimistic outlook, also pointing out the impact Mother Nature has already made on the 2022 market. “We would expect continued growth in this category based on a few factors,” he says. “New housing and remodeling remain strong, and additionally we continue to see increased demand stemming from historic levels of storm-related damage.”
Minchew isn’t the only one noticing the demand created by early-season severe weather. “We are already seeing growth in roofing accessories, specifically synthetic roofing underlayment like Grip-Rite ShingleLayment,” says Alex Barrego, product manager of proprietary building materials for PrimeSource Building Products. “Weather related events are a key contributor to the growth of this category, given the early hurricane and tornado damage this year throughout the southern regions, creating demand throughout Q1 that will extend into the back half of the year.”
Callie Shepherd, category manager for BlueLinx Corporation, echoes Minchew’s growth predictions, especially when it comes to underlayments. “We anticipate that the roofing market will continue to grow throughout the next twelve months,” she says. “We’re seeing significant growth with our synthetic underlayments and expect that trend to continue.”
Still, manufacturers recommend taking predictions cautiously, especially in light of how volatile the market can be, despite the best-made predictions. “Right now, we anticipate that the second quarter will continue to show growth,” says David Delcoma, operations manager for MFM Building Products Corp. “However, with the recent world events, it is hard to say what the third or fourth quarters will bring.”
Resilient products on demand
As mentioned earlier, severe weather is playing a part in the growth of the roofing segment, but it’s also a driving force for influencing product trends. Last year alone there were twenty weather events, each of which had losses in excess of $1 billion, and a total combined cost was $145 billion. With numbers like that, it should come as no surprise that roofing products that can deliver resilient properties such as wind resistance, impact resistance, and energy efficiency are growing in demand. “Today’s homebuyers are increasingly interested in solutions that address these areas,” says LP’s Harmon, “and as a result, we expect to see manufacturers drive more resources into developing innovative products that meet this need.”
Sheathing products in particular are evolving to meet resilient demand. “Overall, weather resiliency and performance has become just as important to roofing customers as sustainability, energy efficiency and aesthetics,” points out Ann Iten, director of marketing for Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions. “As concerns about climate change, and the increase in storm events caused by it, become more prevalent, customers are looking for roofing solutions able to withstand and perform in this area.”
ZIP Systems’ Minchew also sees a general trend towards resiliency, especially in the development of sheathing products. “Where ZIP System fits into this resiliency trend is as a sealed roof deck,” he explains. “The purpose of a sealed roof deck is to prevent bulk water from entering the attic in the event the finished roof covering is damaged or destroyed. ZIP System sheathing and tape can deliver this level of performance and are a simple, achievable path to a sealed roof deck. And while there are other ways to achieve a sealed roof deck, ZIP System sheathing and tape is the only warranted sealed roof deck system that meets FORTIFIED Roof resiliency standards.”
A program of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), FORTIFIED is a voluntary construction and re-roofing program designed to strengthen homes and commercial buildings against specific types of severe weather such as high winds, hail, hurricanes and even tornadoes up to a rating of EF-2. As well as set standards for product performance, FORTIFIED also sets fastener standards for roofing, such as requiring ring-shank nails installed in an enhanced pattern to help keep the roof deck attached to the structure.
“Keeping in mind that correct installation is equally important, we are also seeing a trend toward products that have been designed with the contractor in mind, and are easier to install correctly,” points out Minchew. “That’s why Huber Engineered Woods puts so much effort into not only our products, but also into the ongoing education, resources and support for builders and the trades they work with.”
Metal gains ground
With upheavals in the availability of raw materials combined with labor shortages and manufacturing bottlenecks, roofing product manufacturers have had their share of challenges over the past twelve months. And while asphalt shingles continue to be the top player in the market, those manufacturing challenges have created an opportunity for alternative roofing products to gain market share. “Constraints on supply have had a real impact on the shingle manufacturer’s speed to market,” says Doug Sloane, director of product management, building materials for PrimeSource Building Products, “with new product introductions and those same constraints have created space for asphalt shingle alternatives to take market share, with metal gaining popularity and synthetic brands finding their niche.”
In a recent roofing industry study from The Freedonia Group, the U.S. demand for metal roofing is expected to rise 2.7% per year to 32.63 million squares by next year. It’s a prediction that’s not surprising, considering metal roofs can last 40-70 years, depending on the material, and if installed properly, many metal roofing products can sustain wind gusts up to 140 mph and offer more impact resistance than traditional asphalt products. Manufacturers also point to the benefits of fire resistance, increased energy efficiency, and the fact that many metal products are created using significant recycled materials—properties that particularly appeal to consumers.
“We continue to see homeowners gravitating towards lifetime or long-term products that offer the aesthetic appeal of natural materials like slate and shake, but are manufactured to be more environmentally friendly,” says Kurt Mohn, product manager of roofing for ProVia. “Homeowners like the idea of a strong, long-lasting metal roof, but don’t want the industrial look of standing seam. Manufactured slate and shake shingle panels provide a huge boost to curb appeal and fit in better with landscaping.”
Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions’ Ann Iten also sees demand for metal roofing as a growing trend LBM dealers should pay particular attention to. “Rapid growth in the metal roofing segment does appear to be happening,” she points out. “Stone coated steel roofing, for example, is not only great for new construction across many regional climates, but it is also optimal for retrofits because of its light weight, the strength steel provides, its ability to aesthetically mimic other types of roofing, and its resistance to many types of weather stresses.”
Solar roofing on the rise
In addition to the growing use of metal products, another roofing trend that’s just beginning to be a potential game changer is that of solar products. What would have been considered science fiction not that long ago, solar shingles (also referred to as solar roof tiles) are made of slim photovoltaic (PV) sheets that either overlay or replace the existing shingles on a roof, absorb sunlight, and then convert it into electricity.
Solar shingles are typically made from one of two materials. Most are manufactured from copper indium gallium selenide, a material that gives the shingles flexibility and a conversion efficiency rate of about 10 – 12% on average. Some, however, are produced using monocrystalline silicon—a more expensive material but one with a higher efficiency rate of around 15 – 20%. And while solar shingles are in their infancy compared to other roofing materials, manufacturers are taking note.
“2021 ushered in a larger focus on solar, which we believe will be a disrupter in the market in a few short years,” explains PrimeSource’s Sloane. “Tesla’s entrée into the solar shingle game put all others on notice and we continue to see massive investments from traditional manufacturers in creating an affordable solar shingle for the marketplace.”
James Durkin, senior vice president of steep slope system sales at GAF, also noted the growth potential of solar shingles. “Interest in solar roofing will continue moving forward,” he says, “as well as the demand for advanced materials including coatings and high-performance underlayments. One of the most important advances, however, is the movement toward sustainability, which will have far-reaching impacts on our environment and our planet.”
The power of partnerships
If you feel like the roofing market has become confusing, you’re not alone. Considering the shifting landscape of consumer trends and the ongoing supply chain challenges, it can be difficult for LBM dealers to be the best resource for their customers. It’s a situation roofing product manufacturers recognize, and they have strategies to help LBM dealers succeed.
First, manufacturers recommend dealers offer a complete system of products, including value-added options and those that work together to not only increase curb appeal but also increase installation efficiency. “Sell the system,” says PrimeSource’s Sloane. “Make sure that you are offering the shingles, ventilation, flashings, underlayment, fasteners, etc. From a product standpoint, there’s a great opportunity in upselling to a premium shingle because lead times tend to be shorter. We’re seeing all shingle manufacturers scale back their three-tab production and run more lines of premium shingles. Historically, the price gap between a standard architectural shingle and a designer shingle has been tough to overcome, but the availability of designer products has more builders and re-roofers winning on the upsell.”
As well, LBM dealers need to try to stay as current as possible with the value-added products in the market and the value proposition that each product brings to the table. “Today, most homeowners are looking for resiliency and efficiency in their homes,” says LP’s Harmon. “If you can combine the two with a single panel or product, it can both save labor steps and—in some instances—save money when they choose a better system that includes a warranty.”
Westlake’s Ann Iten shares similar insights, adding, “As important as it is for dealers to offer a range of materials and aesthetics to meet resiliency, efficiency and design needs, it is equally important that dealers also prioritize offering innovative components that address the needs of contractors as well as the roof’s overall performance.”
Equally important, manufacturers say, is the ability for LBM dealers to be repositories of knowledge on all the products and components they sell, and be prepared to share that knowledge with their customer base. “As companies bring in new products, we recognize the importance of direct access to manufacturer’s technical team, local sales reps and marketing to make product adoption in the area a success,” explains ZIP System’s Minchew. “Research consistently shows builders look to LBM dealers for product education, to make economic tradeoff decisions and ultimately understand the pass-through value to their customers. At Huber, our representatives and marketing team are there to partner with LBM dealers every step of the way from driving builder demand, providing OSR education to developing collaborative marketing solutions.”
Even more of a necessity, say manufacturers, is for the LBM dealer to recognize that they’re a partner with their customers in regard to business growth, and be prepared to provide clear communications and product solutions that deliver wins for the customer. “Unfortunately, it is still a challenging time to be a builder,” points out ZIP System’s Minchew. “On one hand, demand is booming for new homes and appears to be poised for solid growth in the years ahead. On the other, there are numerous dynamics to keep up with in the current environment. What we hear from builders is that they want products that last, provide tangible value to their homeowner, and are backed by service and support from their suppliers.”
That communication, however, isn’t a one-way street. Manufacturers are taking steps to talk with building professionals about what they expect to see on all business levels over the next few months—a critical step LP’s Harmon says manufacturers should take to help combat some of the headwinds the industry is facing. “In the past, manufacturers could practically go hand-to-mouth with inventory levels, but today that is not an option,” he explains. “When builders can look ahead and communicate what they are foreseeing to dealers and distributors, they (distributors) can then pass that information onto manufacturers so we can help them better build and manage their order files. The more notice and time, the better it is for everyone.”
BlueLinx’s Callie Shepherd also sees the importance of communication when it comes to customer service, pointing out, “LBM dealers should focus on monitoring inventory levels and maintaining frequent communication with suppliers and customers to reduce gaps in service.”
Still, manufacturers say to be prepared for unexpected hiccups. “Expect the unexpected,” cautions MFM’s David Delcoma. “Many manufacturers continue to evoke price increases and/or extended lead times due to material and labor shortages. MFM feels good about our ability to provide products to the marketplace.”
The return of in-person training
With pandemic restrictions loosening across the country, manufacturers are re-introducing in-person training events while strengthening virtual events to spread product knowledge and installation techniques.
For example, GAF was able to hold in-person meetings and training events again, specifically with its Center for Advancement of Roofing Excellence (GAF CARE). “We look forward to capitalizing not only on the ability to hold hands-on training, but also taking the learnings from the past few years with virtual programs and expanding our hybrid offerings,” says GAF’s Durkin. “For example, the GAF PRD Learning Academy is an online platform that provides access to courses that are designed to deepen the PRDs’ professional knowledge in easily consumable 10-15 minute modules.”
Likewise, LP is conducting product training sessions both in the field and virtually. “The majority of our training consists of not only educating our audience about the structural product portfolio, but also about solutions and resiliency in homes today,” says LP’s Harmon. “We want builders and homeowners informed on how to build strong, more efficient and long-lasting homes.”
Huber Engineered Woods is continuing its Home Building Crossroads seminar that delivers building science information but is transitioning from in-person training to virtual event webinars with well-known industry experts. “We were also in attendance at the International Builder’s Show,” adds Minchew, “where industry professionals discussed popular building science topics and Tech Team members answered individual questions. The best way to stay up to date with Huber’s event offerings is by following us on Instagram (@huberwood) or checking the events section of our website huberwood.com.”
Similarly, ProVia is expanding its Installer Training Program. Last year, it added Ben DeGraaf to its team as a job site trainer. “We take the unique approach of sending him to our dealers’ first installation job to perform onsite training and make sure that issues are taken care of on the front end,” explains ProVia’s Mohn. “This proactive approach ensures an expert installation and cuts down on callbacks for the contractor.”
And in the case of PrimeSource, it recently hosted its first post-pandemic sales meeting in Las Vegas while continuing to work on supplementing in-person trainings with content that can be readily accessed online.
In looking forward to the upcoming twelve months, it should be obvious that the potential for significant gains is a very real thing. Still, the smart LBM dealer will take the lessons learned over the past year and be ready for unforeseen upheavals. New COVID-19 subvariants may bring about new rounds of shutdowns, while continuing shipping bottlenecks, product shortages, and delivery issues may force to dealers to quickly pivot to meet their customers’ needs. The key to success is to stay flexible amid any chaos that might—and will—occur. “As we continue to operate in a period of high demand coupled with the challenges mentioned, it’s as important as ever to be diligent about communication and planning between LBM distributors, manufacturers, and the customers we ultimately serve together,” reminds ZIP System’s Minchew. “There will always be obstacles to work through; our focus is on adapting to the current landscape and finding solutions.”
Michael Berger is the former managing editor for HANDY Magazine and has been writing about home improvement and construction for the past 20 years.