Supply shortages have been a thorn in the sides of roofing contractors during the pandemic, but the latest report from the Asphalt Roofing Manufactures Association (ARMA) reveals shipments are far above the last quarter.

ARMA’s third quarter (Q3) 2020 report on asphalt roofing product shipments reveals asphalt shingle shipments increased by 25% in the U.S. compared to the previous quarter, and by 12.2% in Canada. In the U.S., a total of 46.9 million squares of shingles were shipped.

Shipments of modified bitumen were also up this quarter, increasing by 6.8%. Conversely, BUR in the U.S. declined by 11.6% when compared to the previous quarter.

Although ARMA doesn’t include insights into what the numbers may mean, ARMA Executive Vice President Reed Hitchcock provided a look at the state of the asphalt roofing industry during a telephone town hall held by the National Roofing Contractors Association. He said based on the feedback from its members, the increase in shingle shipments isn’t surprising.

“On the residential side we’re hearing a lot of positive activity and strong movement of material,” Hitchcock said. “The industry’s struggling to keep up right now, there’s a lot of demand for residential roofing.”

Hitchcock said the commercial side, however, is more of a “mixed bag.” He said jobs like office buildings, high-rise and low-slope projects are slowing down. Institutional asphalt roofing is in a similar situation. He said there was positive movement for institutional projects earlier in the pandemic, but that momentum has faded.

Despite the major increase in U.S. shingles, when comparing 2020’s total to the same time last year, the shipments are only 1.7% larger than 2019. Canadian shingle shipments are down 8% when compared to the same time last year.

BUR in the U.S. is down by 10.3% when compared to this time last year. Modified bitumen took less of a hit, with shipments down by 4.3%.

Looking Forward

In speaking with various ARMA members and executives from shingle manufacturers, Hitchcock said the majority are operating at full speed and running 24-hour production. He said there is an anticipated slowdown in the fourth quarter and the first quarter regarding demand for products.

Aside from the pandemic, the asphalt industry is also dealing with supply shortages caused by an above-average storm season, especially in the South where Hurricanes Laura, Sally and Delta battered the Gulf Coast.

“Just about the time you feel like you’re getting caught up we get another weather event, so it’s definitely having an impact, at least regionally,” Hitchcock said.

With a vaccine for COVID-19 still in development, roofing contractors can continue to anticipate more people seeking roofing services as they work from and spend more time at home.

“I do think we also need to keep a sharp eye on what’s been deferred in commercial properties as well,” Hitchcock said. “While these buildings are sitting vacant they’re not in a vacuum, they are aging and they’re exposed to weather.”

Data for ARMA’s report is collected from participating manufacturers by an independent third party, Association Research Inc.