The Roofing Industry Goes to Washington

The Roofing Industry Goes to Washington

Today, hundreds of roofing professionals will converge on Capitol Hill for the National Roofing Contractors Association’s inaugural Roofing Day. During the summit, which runs March 6-7, numerous contractors, manufacturers, distributors, service providers and other roofing professionals will meet with lawmakers to discuss issues critical to the roofing industry, including labor shortages, regulation, and other policy issues, according to the association’s press release, “on which the entire roofing industry agrees.”

As current events attest, such cooperation is unlikely to extend across the aisles of the House and the Senate – or even between the Capitol and the White House, which are both controlled by the same party. Nevertheless, roofing suppliers remain optimistic:

“There has certainly been a perception – backed in some part by the use of the Congressional Review Act – that the Trump administration sides with small (and not-so-small) business instead of the proverbial faceless bureaucrat,” according to Matt Zielenski, industry analyst with The Freedonia Group. “I don’t think you can discount that when looking at the level of business confidence.”

Of course, changes are underway that could disrupt or enhance that confidence in the roofing industry. Here are a few to watch.

After Tax Windfall, How Will Foreign Tariffs Factor?

The Trump administration’s announcement of steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports last week is expected to loom over Roofing Day talks, as steel in particular is the most popular metal used in roofing. According to a recent forecast by The Freedonia Group, in 2021 metal roofing will represent 11% of overall roofing demand in volume terms and 18% in value terms. Zielenski says the announcement is not likely to quell the roofing industry’s excitement about the administration’s pro-business stance on regulation and taxation, as well as the bright outlook anticipated for building construction.

The passage of the tax reform bill last year has been viewed as a win by most roofing professionals. For example:

  • Many small and large businesses have announced expansion plans, representing investments that by and large will go directly into the pockets of contractors.
  • Residential contractors are also expecting more business as homeowners anticipate bigger paychecks and 401Ks, which may translate to an increase in roofing replacement demand.

However, the tariffs announcement sent stocks tumbling and stoked fears of impending trade wars with key economic allies like Canada, Japan, and South Korea – countries that would suffer most from such tariffs. If enforced, the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board warns, the result will almost certainly be disastrous to US economic interests.

Of course, it’s too early to say exactly what the potential ramifications – or benefits – of such tariffs would be. But, Zielenski says, for construction professionals, the effect on prices will be the primary consideration:

“Builders want to use the less expensive materials whenever possible, and these tariffs will raise prices across the board.” However, Zielenski says the administration’s general efforts to scale back regulations should mitigate concerns.

“With fewer regulations, business owners will spend less time (and money) trying to comply with them.  Certainly in the construction industry, contractors want to start and finish projects quickly, so anything that decreases the amount of onerous paperwork and waiting for approval is seen as a win.”

Immigration: Where Trump & the Roofing Industry Diverge

Amid calls by the President to construct a border wall, the roofing industry faces a conundrum: labor shortages resulting from a crackdown on both legal and undocumented immigration, as well as a lack of skill among the American workforce to perform the duties of the trade.

“The US relies heavily on immigrants to serve as roofers,” says Zielenski. “The president’s policies would appear to make it harder for firms to find workers, which is a problem.”

For example, no contractor wants to tell a homeowner with a leaky roof that the project will have to wait because there are no available crews. But at the same time, no contractor wants to hire a roofer lacking the requisite skillset.

Zielenski says investment in training programs to get the next generation of workers into the profession is one way to tackle the problem:

“There is some reluctance to engage in these programs at the federal level, but there has been bipartisan traction – at state and local levels – to develop partnerships between schools and businesses that can get youths into roofing.”

Of course, this will take time and more funding than is currently allotted. But perhaps the talks of Roofing Day will bring the roofing industry closer to resolving these problems.

Want to Learn More?

Check out The Freedonia Group’s Roofing Topic Center for expert insight into:

  • Steep-slope roofing
  • Low-slope roofing
  • Asphalt shingles
  • Bituminous roofing
  • Metal roofing
  • Plastic roofing
  • Rubber roofing

Powered by world-class technology, the Roofing Topic Center offers convenient, unlimited access to Freedonia’s library of unbiased and reliable market research – providing a state-of-the-art platform for research teams where you can use as much as you want, whenever you want, for one fixed fee.

Also see Matt Zielenski’s recent or forthcoming roofing studies:

About the Author

Peter Kusnic is an Industry Studies editor at The Freedonia Group, where he also writes and edits blogs.