With the variety of roofing material options available, like asphalt, composite, metal and tile (to name just a few), homeowners are often overwhelmed when choosing the best product for their new roof or roof replacement. According to a recent survey, more than half of homeowners opt for asphalt roofing materials, but as they search for more durable, low-maintenance options, composite shingles are quickly gaining in popularity.
The survey, which was conducted by national research firm Synovate for TAMKO Building Products Inc., found that four out of five homeowners would prefer durable, long-lasting and low-maintenance products - like composite shingles - for their roofing projects. Survey respondents cited wind and fire resistance as the most important qualities when choosing a roofing material. Long product life is also crucial, as more than 80 percent of those surveyed want products that have warranties up to 50 years.
Roofing manufacturers have responded to homeowners’ evolving needs with composite shingles that offer both beauty and performance. “Homeowners want a product that not only looks great on their home, but will last and will meet the appropriate codes,” said Don Presley, TAMKO territory manager. “Lamarite, for example, offers the natural beauty of slate or shake, is offered with a 50-year limited warranty, and is UL listed for Class-A fire and wind resistance.”
Market Focused on Style, InvestmentAccording to contractors and manufacturers, composite roofing appeals to a particular homeowner audience.
“Composite roofing is ideal for homeowners who want to make an investment and want to get their money’s worth,” said Louis (Todd) Schwander III, who along with his sisters, Tracy Schwander Alonzo and Tessa Schwander, makes up the fourth generation of leadership at Orleans Sheet Metal Works and Roofing Inc. in New Orleans.
“Composite roofing is not for everybody,” Presley agreed. “We’re finding it is most often installed by homeowners who want something different than what they’ve had before and that will differentiate them from their neighbors. They also want a product that is easy to install and is available in a variety of colors and sizes to complement different types of architecture and décor.”
The survey also found that nearly 60 percent of homeowners look first to their most trusted resource - contractors and builders - for information during the decision-making process. And because they consider a new roof or roof replacement as an investment, homeowners often come to the table armed with a variety of questions.
“They first want to know everything they can about the manufacturer - how long they have been in business, company history, product quality, if they stand behind their products, the types of warranties they offer and who to contact at the company if needed,” Presley said. “Then they want to know all they can about the product - its life span, any code issues, installed cost and durability. Many also want to know if they can walk on it.”
Presley recommends that contractors take the time to learn everything they can about a product and its manufacturer, including what the product is made of, how long it has been manufactured, how it’s installed, if it’s easy to cut and work with, as well as the types of fasteners used and all code-related information.
Homeowner Education is the KeyTo educate homeowners about composite roofing options, many contractors find the greatest success conducting face-to-face consultations. During these consultations, they are able to visit with the homeowner to determine their specific needs and desired look. Once contractors have this background information, they can make educated recommendations and discuss specific products using the sales materials available from manufacturers, including company and product literature, product samples, sales sheets, pitch books, testimonials and job photos.
“During a typical homeowner consultation, I will examine the job and see what type of roofing material they are currently using,” Schwander said. “We’ll then discuss their budget and the look they’re going for.”
During this consultation, Schwander often suggests appropriate product upgrades with specific emphasis on curb appeal and product longevity. “If the home has an asbestos roof, slate is comparable so I’ll suggest an upgrade to organic slate,” Schwander said. “Organic slate is often too expensive and I’ll recommend a composite slate, which will offer the same look. During the consultation, I show them material samples or sample boards, depending on the application, and provide them with references of actual products, as well as Web sites to review.”
Some homeowners have misperceptions about composite roofing, so they are initially hesitant when making the decision about which product to choose. Some are uncertain because composite shingles haven’t been around as long as other types of roofing materials. Others haven’t seen it before or are afraid it may have a plastic look. But a large percentage of homeowners are well versed in the products that are available.
“Homeowners are informed and know the look that they want,” said Schwander Alonzo. “They want a product that will last a long time and will meet all of their needs. To make them comfortable with their decision, you must market the product’s life span and its durability.”
In some areas of the country, composite shake roofing is taking off as an alternative to traditional shake because it is fire resistant. This is becoming especially important in communities that have banned or are considering a ban on wood shake shingles because they are often considered fire hazards.
In other regions, like the Gulf Coast, homeowners are looking for alternatives to traditional slate because it is often cost prohibitive.
“Many of our customers choose composite slate roofing for its price, durability, warranty, life span and appearance,” said Schwander Alonzo. “Also, it’s approved by the Vieux Carré Commission, the nation’s second oldest historic preservation district, which is important because we work on many residential projects in this historical area of New Orleans.”
As with other types of roofing materials, composite roofing will continue to evolve to meet changing market needs. Contractors should stay in touch with manufacturers and use all of the resources available to them, which will help ensure they are well informed about the latest trends and product developments so they can help guide homeowners in choosing the best roofing products for their projects.