Shortage of Skilled Tradespeople Affecting Roofing Industry

Shortage of Skilled Tradespeople Affecting Roofing Industry

Many parts of the US saw severe storm activity in 2016 as winter storms, hail, and high winds combined to damage numerous roofs across the country.  Previously, roofing contractors and other construction professionals would view this surge in calls for reroofing jobs as a golden opportunity.  However, in 2016, a number of roofing contractors found that their efforts to complete this repair work were stymied by a shortage of perhaps of the most crucial component of any roofing job:  roofers

The US roofing industry is facing a shortage of skilled employees due to:

  • older roofers leaving the business
  • a lack of younger people interested in working in the skilled trades
  • concerns about a shortage of immigrant workers due to the change in presidential administration

Labor Shortage to Promote Use of Self-Adhesive Roofing Membranes

While the installation of roofing is in its nature highly labor intensive, contractors and roofing manufacturers are continually looking for ways to make it easier to install roofing materials.  One key innovation has been the introduction of roofing membranes with peel-and-stick adhesive backings.  Traditionally, low-slope roofing had to be installed using mechanical methods that require large crews of highly skilled workers.  However, self-adhesive membranes can be installed by removing the backing and applying the material to a roof deck.  This method takes less time and can be performed by a small crew of moderately skilled roofers.

Self-adhesive roofing membranes now see widespread use in the industry, including such products as:

Insulated Panels Gaining Market Acceptance

Interest in easy-to-apply roofing materials is not limited to that of the single-ply market segment.  The installation of metal roofing also requires skilled tradespeople -- increasingly in short supply -- to not only mechanically attach panels to each other and to roof decks, but also to apply sufficient insulation to ensure that the roofs meet building code requirements for energy efficiency.  However, the use of insulated metal panels (IMPs) and structural insulated panels (SIPs) offers contractors a way to reduce the need for skilled labor.

IMPs and SIPs consist of metal panels with attached layers of foam insulation.  Once used mainly as wall units, these materials are increasingly being specified for use as roofing.  IMPs and SIPs offer contractors a number of advantages:

  • Panels can be quickly and easily installed.
  • Moderately skilled crews can handle the installation.
  • A separate work crew is not needed to install insulation.
  • Most products meet local building codes for both roofing and insulation.

Continuing Shortage of Roofers Will Drive Use of Labor-Saving Materials

Going forward, use of such materials as self-adhesive roofing membranes, IMPs, and SIPs will continue to rise.  The number of roofers leaving the industry is expected to increase as workers age, while fewer workers will be available to replace them.  Increases in commercial building construction spending will further exacerbate this trends, as more low-slope roofs will need to be installed.  Roofers will increasingly specify products that require less labor for installation to meet deadlines.

For more information about the US roofing market, check out The Freedonia Group's latest study on the topic, Low-Slope Roofing in the US, or the rest of the roofing series:

About The Author:

Matt Zielenski is a Senior Analyst at The Freedonia Group, where he covers trends in the use of building materials and related construction products in the US market.