Product performance and energy efficiency dominate in today’s roofing world.
There was a time when roofing materials weren’t paid that much attention to. Most homeowners opted for asphalt options, and they considered themselves well-served as long as those shingles delivered decent protection during the predicted product lifespan. Oh, how the times have changed.
More and more, roofing materials play an integrated part in the overall aesthetics of a home, and both homeowner and builder alike are constantly searching for a roofing solution that delivers a combination of good looks, energy efficiency and durability in the face of extreme harsh weather. It’s no longer acceptable to slap on shingles that merely dispel rain. Today’s roofing materials need to pay long-term dividends like never before, especially in light of predicted category growth.
According to the Freedonia Group’s Roof Trends and Opportunities Report, demand for roofing is predicted to in- crease by 4.9% per year to $19.9 billion in 2021. As well, U.S. demand for roofing is projected to reach 267.9 million squares in 2021, driven in part by the number of older residences that will need roof replacement. As well, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) predicts single-family housing starts will continue to rise in 2019, reaching close to a million starts—a 4.7% increase from 2018, and according to the recently released 2019 Dodge Construction Outlook, total overall construction starts for 2019 are predicted to hold steady at $808 billion. “We have seen steady growth in roofing across our product categories and anticipate that trend to continue over the coming 12 months,” says Peter Chalmers, product manager with Boral Roofing.
Growth, however, is not always even, and some roofing products may see more growth than others, either because of the material they are made from or due to the product’s specific performance characteristics. “The metal roofing category has demonstrated consistent growth for over a decade now and we do not anticipate this changing any time in the near future,” says Chris Doucet, vice president of sales and marketing for EDCO Products, a Minnesota manufacturer of metal roofing. “The growth of metal roofing is primarily being driven by increased consumer awareness around the significant benefits metal roofing provides,” he says. “Whether it’s the improved look and quality, reduced energy costs, reduced maintenance, reduced cost of ownership, or the fact that most metal roofing products are 100% recyclable, it is clear there is a growing movement towards metal roofing.”
So, too, will the performance characteristics of roofing products drive sales. Significant growth in the coming months and years may come as a result of weather patterns and sustainability goals. “As energy conservation continues to be an important consideration for homeowners,” says Brian St. Germain, director of OSB/quality and technical for LP Building Solutions, “expect to see increased adoption of radiant barriers in warmer climates. Conversely, more northern climates will see growth in thicker panels that continue to be used to support heavier loads due to snowfall.”
Let’s not forget that Mother Nature herself is also playing a leading role in driving the growth of the roofing industry. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center, there were 1,169 preliminary reports of tornadoes in the United States in 2018, of which at least 1,123 were confirmed. NOAA goes on to report that during 2018, the
U.S. experienced a very active year of weather and climate disasters. In total, the U.S. was impacted by 14 separate billion-dollar disaster events: two tropical cyclones, eight severe storms, two winter storms, drought, and wildfires. The past three years (2016-2018) have been historic, with the annual average number of billion-dollar disasters being more than double the long-term average. Considering these numbers, it should come as no surprise that weather is having a significant impact on both sales numbers and type of product sold. “Major storms are growing in frequency and strength all across the country,” says Alex Pecora, director of product management for Certain-Teed. “If we have another major storm season, it could spur an uptick in roofing sales. We’re finding that with the increasing number of storms, homeowners are more likely to invest in impact-resistant roofing materials. This includes heavier asphalt shingles and SBS (styrene-butadiene-styrene)-modified shingles, as well as metal roofing products, which are impact-resistant and weigh much less per panel than a typical square of asphalt shingles.”
Michael Cobb, president and chief marketing officer for DaVinci Roofscapes, also sees severe weather as a major disruptive player. “Due to severe weather conditions (including hail storms and wildfires), composite roofing materials are definitely on an upward trajectory for growth in the marketplace,” he says.
Simplicity and efficiency are where it’s at
When it comes to visual trends in roofing, simplification and authenticity seem to be the driving forces. Manufacturers are reducing the overall number of color choices while simultaneously focusing on natural appearances, something that Boral’s Chalmers calls ‘sensorial relief.’ “Recent research indicates that our continuous use of technology, as well as the constant bombardment of information from devices, ads, etc., is directly influencing our desire for sensorial relief in, and on the exterior of, our living spaces,” he says. “With this trend, we are witnessing reduced home ornamentation and a reduction in the number of colors featured on, and in, the home.”
Part of this embracing of cleaner, simpler design can be found in the rise of the modern gabled home. A blend of modern and traditional, this style of architecture features a gabled roof combined with modern design accents to create a clean, simple silhouette where the roof plays more of an aesthetic role rather than simply one of function. Says Chalmers, “Boral Roofing just introduced a CEU course on this topic, which is available to architects who want to learn more.”
As well, more manufacturers are offering product lines that replicate natural materials but perform better over time. For example, Ply Gem’s engineered roofing utilizes a process that digitizes the look of natural slate and cedar and then engraves that image into forms to produce a hyper-realistic roofing product that requires little to no maintenance. Likewise, DaVinci Roofscapes’ composite slate and shake roofing features the look of natural materials but is resistant to hail, strong winds, fire, insects and algae.
“Home and business owners are looking for roofing products that look great, last longer, reduce costs, require less maintenance and have a reduced impact on the environment,” says EDCO’s Doucet. “In addition, home and business owners are asking for unique profiles and/or designs that match the character of not only their home or business, but also their neighborhood. We are even seeing metal roofing products being used in sidewall applications on buildings as accents alongside other substrates.”
Just as the weather is having a major influence on the sales growth of the roof material category, so, too, is it driving trends in manufacturing and homeowner purchase decisions. Energy efficiency and product resiliency to combat hotter summer and colder winter temperature, and durability to withstand the severe storms that appear to go hand in hand with these temperature extremes are trends that show signs of only increasing. “Over the past several years, much greater emphasis has been placed on energy performance in roofing products,” says Boral’s Chalmers. “Another common concern is the durability of roofing products, specifically in the face of storms and severely inclement weather. Roofing products are increasingly being marketed for their resiliency benefits. Those benefits matter more to both residential and commercial owners as climate change and its negative effects—hurricanes, droughts, fire—are increasingly spotlighted in the news.”
CertainTeed’s Pecora sees similar trends, noting that product choice is more often being based on the frequency of high winds and storms all across the country. “Homeowners in some parts of the country where hail is frequent have to repair or replace their roof shingles multiple times a year,” he explains, “so homeowners are investing more in heavier, impact resistant shingles that stand up to the elements better.”
Value and performance drive product choice
Because a roofing purchase is often a one-in-a-home-ownership decision, contractors and homeowners alike want to know they have made the best decision. Aesthetics, product performance, product durability, and overall value all play a part in the decision-making process, and the successful distributor will know how to address each of these concerns. “Choosing to invest in roof replacement is a big decision because the roof is one of the most important features of a home,” explains Jerry Blais, general manager of Ply Gem Roofing and Trim. “It protects a house from Mother Nature and represents a large surface delivering on curb appeal, so a roof needs to be beautiful, make a statement and perform. Whether a homeowner is building a new home or replacing a roof because it has met its existing life expectancy or been damaged by a major storm, they are seeking a solution that provides the best aesthetic and performance for a good value.”
While it can be tempting to always gravitate to the least expensive option, manufacturers warn that path often leads to being penny-wise and pound-foolish (as the old adage goes). Less expensive options often do not deliver on aesthetics, performance or overall durability, meaning that the roof will need to be replaced multiple times during the average ownership period. While a higher quality product may be more expensive initially, it delivers by potentially lasting much longer and providing better energy performance. “If you purchase a roof that will need to be replaced multiple times instead of the higher quality option that will last a lifetime and will enhance energy savings,” explains Boral’s Chalmers, “you aren’t actually saving money in the long run.”
EDCO’s Doucet echoes Chalmers thoughts on the true nature of value. “While it’s ultimately the homeowner’s decision in working with their contractor, the final choice comes down to which product is going to provide the most value. It sounds simple enough, but in the end, the roofing material selected is going to protect your most valuable asset and you want to make the right decision. Some of the things to consider include what look you want, how long you will be staying in your home, what climate you live in, how often you are willing to replace the roof, how important the environment is, and the warranty offered by the manufacturer.”
But how, exactly, do roofing products deliver on increased performance? Oftentimes, it comes from contractors utilizing a unified roofing system, and distributors should be prepared to stock complete solutions for their customers and be able to tout their benefits. “First and foremost, homeowners should look for a unified roofing system with starter shingles, underlayments, hip, ridges and shingles from the same manufacturer,” explains CertainTeed’s Pecora. “This ensures all parts of the roofing system will work as intended according to the manufacturer. Having underlayments from one manufacturer and shingles from another may create a situation that leads to moisture intrusion, susceptibility to ice dams and accelerated roof system failure.”
As LP’s St. Germain says, “Homeowners and contractors both need to do their homework before choosing a product for a new roof in order to invest in a product that will deliver long-term value.”
Customers crave performance
While roofing products possess many individual characteristics that deserve to be touted, there are a few key qualities that, according to manufacturers, take precedent for the distributor. Manufacturers agree that product performance, durability, and energy efficiency are at the top of the list, and distributors need to be prepared to address these product characteristics with their builder and contractor customers. “We believe that energy efficiency, durability and resiliency are three of the most important roofing features that should be emphasized,” says Boral’s Chalmers. “If a builder or contractor is accounting for all three of these in the roof they ultimately provide to their customers, then those customers are going to get a roofing solution that endures over many years or decades and that renders lasting energy savings and provides the best protection possible from inclement weather events.”
Performance isn’t limited to the shingle; it extends throughout the entire category of roofing materials. LP’s Brian St. Germain recommends dealers pay particular attention to how specific products deliver savings over their lifetimes. “Dealers should really emphasize the value that LP TechShield Radiant Barrier delivers to builders and contractors by upselling to a value-added product rather than a commodity one,” he says. “They, in turn, can bring the long-term cost benefits to the attention of the homeowners in terms of reduced cooling costs and overall energy consumption.”
David Delcoma, product marketing manager for MFM Building Products Corp., echoes the comments from St. Germain. “Dealers should emphasize the protection levels offered by the various brands of underlayments on the market,” he says. “How long will it be between installing the underlayment and the finished roof system? Underlayment manufactures can provide UV exposure ratings (30 days, 60 days, 90 days, etc.) which means that the underlayment will not lose any performance characteristics during that time. And for metal roofing systems, the choice also includes the installation temperature range. Metal and tile roofing systems generate a large amount of heat, which can break down an underlayment, which can lead to potential problems. Overall, high-temperature rated underlayments offer a 230°F or higher temperature rating. The contractor must use a high-temperature rated product when installing these types of roofing systems.”
Of equal importance to builders and contractors is ease and speed of installation, especially in light of the fact that there still remains a big shortage in skilled tradespeople. According to the Associated General Contractors of America’s 2019 Construction Survey and Business Outlook, 73% of polled construction firms reported a need to add tradespeople to their payroll, yet 66% said they were having a difficult time finding people to fill those openings. The best way to fight against that labor shortage is to offer contractors a product lineup that speeds the installation process. “Product features that improve speed and accuracy are very important to builders and contractors,” says CertainTeed’s Pecora. “The more time a contractor spends at the job site is money that’s not being made somewhere else. It’s a big advantage to have a product that is consistently accurate and easy to install.”
Take advantage of training
It should come as no surprise that product education and training is of vital importance to the successful distributor, and most manufacturers offer an array of methods and materials to meet those needs. Traditional tools such as samples, brochures and installation training remain mainstays of distributor and contractor education, as do online resources such as videos and downloadable materials.
“We have a number of continuing education programs for sellers, architects, contractors, and homeowners,” says CertainTeed’s Pecora. “Our website includes access to continuing education courses, helpful videos and print resources, as well as a business resources catalog which is filled with selling aids, sales training guides, brochures, financing resources and other information to help dealers close the sale and know as much about the product as possible.”
In the case of Boral, it offers a wealth of online training materials, educational sessions, product displays and samples to help its sales channel, along with trained field reps who are there to educate both distributor and contractor. Likewise, MFM offers its distributors a wide variety of product literature, sample packs, and POP materials, along with training for its salespeople at the company’s headquarters that includes classroom education and hands-on installation demonstrations. Similarly, EDCO offers to its distributors a variety of sales tools that includes a state-of-the-art website, in-store product displays, product samples, color brochures, print and video installation guides, and certified CEU training courses for both architects and contractors.
Many manufacturers, though, also put their unique spin on training, and the successful distributor will take advantage of as many of these opportunities as possible. For example, LP routinely takes its training on the road through an event it dubs the LP House Party. “It’s a unique way to train and educate dealers on LP building products,” says LP’s Brian St. Germain. “By meeting dealers where they are, we have revolutionized product demonstrations and educational opportunities. This approach allows dealers to learn about the portfolio of structural solutions like LP TechShield Radiant Barrier so they feel informed and empowered to sell higher grade products to builders and contractors.”
For the spring of 2019, EDCO is launching what it calls the EDCO ELITE Certified Installer Program which will offer contractors/installers the opportunity to receive hands-on metal siding and roofing installation training at the company’s campus located just outside of Minneapolis. “Installers who complete the course will be acknowledged as an ‘EDCO ELITE Installer’ and will receive additional benefits from EDCO,” explains Chris Doucet. “We believe metal siding and roofing provides a significant opportunity for installers looking for a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors and we are confident our ELITE Installer Program will do just that.”