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Roofwork: Contractors stay busy, especially now

Roofwork: Contractors stay busy, especially now
The hailstorm that struck parts of Berks County in May 2014 caused a lot of headaches for Berks County residents.

But for roofing contractors, the storm was a blessing and a curse: It damaged hundreds of roofs and led to a lot of work. But now, with most of those roofs repaired, roofing contractors are seeing their business taper off.And, since a lot of the roofs that were replaced were done so years before they otherwise would have been, the lull could last several years.


“When we went through almost two years of fixing roofs that were damaged in the hailstorm it was insanity, and you get used to that, so now things are back to normal, and it seems a lot slower,” said Priscilla Barr, office manager at Scott Macczak Roofing Inc. in Cumru Township.Carl Rost, general manager of Bachman’s Roofing, Building and Remodeling Inc. in Wernersville, said the commercial side of the business has increased significantly in the last year. But that’s only because of the dramatic increase in work on the residential side following the storm.”With the hailstorm, it pretty much shut down our commercial side,” he said.

Really disruptive

Natural disasters, such as hailstorms, almost always lead to a lot of work for roofing contractors, said Bill Good, CEO of the Rosemont, Ill.-based National Roofing Contractors Association. However, he said, that is really disruptive to the market cycle.

“If everybody’s home is repaired because of a storm, then there’s no business until the next storm, and we don’t want that,” he said. “It can create a lot of short-term business, but it’s not good in the long run.”Events such as hailstorms and tornadoes are sometimes followed by what Good calls “storm chasers:” people who show up after storms to fix damaged buildings. Bell advises hiring a reputable contractor before making a hasty decision to get a roof repaired quickly. The association’s website,, offers tips for hiring roofers, he said.”It’s better off to wait for the good contractor who is part of the community to take care of it rather than going with the first guy who knocks on your door,” he said. “Unfortunately we see that happen all the time.”Macczak has not been nearly as busy since it finished repairing roofs damaged in the storm, Barr said. In the weeks and months after the storm, the company could have worked 24 hours a day, she said.”It’s definitely slower, at least in this area, because of the hailstorm with so many people getting new roofs,” she said.Even now, about two years after the storm, all the damage is not repaired. Rost said his company is still finding damage from the storm.”There are some people who didn’t even know they had damage,” he said, adding that between 8 and 10 percent of Bachman’s business in the past year was repairing hail damage. “We’ll send a service team out, and there’ll be hail hits all over the roof.”

Going forward

Outside of natural disasters, the roofing industry is doing really well, Good said. Like other segments of the construction industry, the roofing industry took a big hit during the Great Recession. He estimated the industry as a whole was down 30 percent in 2010.

Since then, Good said, the commercial and residential segments of the industry have been up and down. Sometimes, he said, the commercial side of the industry has done well while residential did not, or vice versa.”We’re finally at a place where all markets are going forward,” he said. “Nothing robust, but high single-digit growth. But we’re still not quite back to where we were in 2006 and 2007.”The recent recession was different than other recessions, Good said. The roofing industry is usually able to weather them, but this one hit the industry harder than others, he said.Rost agreed that the recession hit the roofing industry hard, but said business is good now.”From last year to this year, we’re seeing about a 30 percent increase,” he said. “From about 2008 to 2012, nobody was really building anything.””We have quite a workload,” he added. “It wasn’t a real bad winter, but it was enough where we have a little bit of a backload.”

Alternatives to shingles

While the main type of roof in the residential sector is the asphalt shingle roof, there are other types, including metal and rubber.

Neil Drebushenko, owner of All Metal Roofing Specialists LLC in Tulpehocken Township, said business is up about 15 percent over this time last year.”I think a lot of people are frustrated with the asphalt industry because they’re not holding up like they should,” he said.Drebushenko, who also owns ACR Metal Roofing, a distributor of metal roofing products, said asphalt roofs are less expensive than metal roofs, but metal roofs last longer.”You conceivably could put three asphalt roofs on a home in your lifetime,” he said. “A metal roof can last from 50 to 100 years, depending on what type of roof it is.”Drebushenko estimated that about 90 percent of his business is residential, the majority of which is replacing existing roofs.”The general public is being made more aware of a metal roof and the longevity and the looks of them,” he said.

Springing into action

With temperatures gradually warming, spring is usually the busiest time of the year for roofing contractors in this area. That’s when people begin to uncover the problems created by winter.

“In winter, a lot of things can happen to not only a roof but a building,” Good said. “There’s things that can get buried under snow that we don’t discover until the snow melts. The weather is the curse and the blessing of the industry. We need it to discover problems, but then we can work when it’s raining. It’s a little bit of a mixed blessing.”Drebushenko said business is steady most of the year, but spring is definitely busier.”Things are heating up, and the phone is ringing, and we’re quoting roofs left and right,” he said.Business typically slows down a little during winter, but metal roofs can still be installed when the temperatures are low, Drebushenko said.”We stayed steady, not overwhelmed, but we did stay steady all winter long,” he said. “For shingle roofs, you really shouldn’t put on in cold weather because they don’t seal properly and you can break the shingles when you nail them. A metal roof can go on 24/7/365.”Barr agreed that the beginning of spring usually kicks off the busiest time of year for Macczak. The busy period lasts until late summer, she said.”That’s when people are outside and looking at their homes,” she said. “So right now we’re just gearing up to the busy season.”Contact Brad Rhen: 610-371-5047 or [email protected]


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