In the opening of the 1967 film classic, “The Graduate,” the young Benjamin Braddock has just returned to his parents’ home after graduating from college, and now faces the choice of what to do with the rest of his life. At his graduation party, Braddock was accosted by one of the guests offering career advice in one word: “Plastics.”
Only one word in the movie and little to do with the plot, but I’ve always found it intriguing. It turns out that if you chose plastics as a career path in 1967, you may have done very well. Since its invention in 1907, products of virtually every description are made completely or partially from materials that derive from plastics.
If one of my children was graduating from college today, and he or she was interested in a career in roofing, I might likewise give them one word of advice, “Metal.”
As a segment of the roofing industry in this country, metal remains one of the smaller ones. But I continue to see this segment grow and believe it will continue to do so until it becomes part of the mainstream of all roofing systems, both low- and steep-slope. And there are more opportunities in metal roofing than simply installing new roofs.
Here are a few things to consider if you’re not presently involved in metal.
You can start small. It’s possible to purchase pre-made metal roofing products of all descriptions. There’s a relatively low cost to enter the field, especially if you’re an experienced and well-equipped roofing contractor. You already know metal as it’s part of virtually all roofing systems. You know what watertight means. You must learn how to put it all together, but you have many manufacturers equipped to train and get you going.
I know more than one roofing contractor who started out installing accent metal roofing on residential shingle jobs. One thing led to another and they became equipped to do more of the fabrication in-house, and now have the capacity to compete on large-scale metal roofing projects.
If you know your way around metal roofing, you may be able to offer all manners of remedial and retrofit work from a re-flash and coat project to flute-fill, insulate, and recover systems, to complete, remove-and-replace projects.
And the choices in metal roofing products that mimic all manners of other steep-slope products such as shingles, shakes, slate, and tile continue to grow. Many of these products are being introduced by manufacturers of asphalt and other roofing products.
Why the prediction for growth? From the perspective of life-cycle cost, metal offers a very competitive proposition. Metal checks nearly all the boxes required for green construction — it starts out recycled and ends up recycled. Many metal roofing products do a superior job of resisting damage from wind and hail. Oh, and it’s cool!
It’s been nearly 50 years since “The Graduate” first appeared. My bet is that 50 years from now, metal will be considered a very conventional roof covering product. But beware: by then all roofing may have been replaced by some form of (as-of-yet not invented) plastic.