Asphalt roofing product shipments saw a significant increase in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same time last year, though some products didn't fare as well when compared to the last quarter of 2020.

The latest Quarterly Product Shipment Report from the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA) shows that the shipment of asphalt shingles in the U.S. was 43 million squares for Q1 2021, a 26.9% increase compared to Q1 2020 (34 million squares). Shipments in Canada were up as well in the same time period, increasing by 11.5%.

However, when compared to Q4 2020, U.S. asphalt shipments in Q1 2021 were only up by 4.9%. Conversely, Canadian shipments of asphalt shingles increased by a whopping 69.2% between Q4 2020 and Q1 2021 (2.5 million to 4.1 million squares, respectively).

The increases reflect the surge in residential roofing the industry witnessed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, where more homeowners sought to make home improvements after having spent so much time at home due to pandemic safety guidelines. ARMA does not provide insights into the numbers it reports.

"I would buy into the idea that more people were home, they were doing housing projects and things, at least in Nebraska, and that has definitely helped," Jake Hansen, COO of White Castle Roofing in Nebraska, told RC.

Modified bitumen product shipments in the U.S. jumped in Q1 2021 compared to Q1 2020, increasing by 21.5% with 9.1 million squares shipped. When comparing Q1 2021 to Q4 2020, modified bitumen shipments only increased by 2.1%.

BUR base, ply, and mineral cap sheets in the U.S. didn't see the increases other asphalt products experienced, dropping by 5.2% in Q1 2021 compared to the same time last year. Not all is bad news for BUR, though — the products saw a 5.3% increase when comparing Q1 2021 to the last quarter of 2020.

With small businesses struggling to make ends meet in the pandemic, commercial roofing is experiencing something of a slowdown, which could explain the smaller increases in commercial-specific products. However, multiple commercial roofing contractors recently reported that, compared to last year, they're seeing jumps in revenue. Legacy Roofing Services in Ohio, for example, saw annual revenue grow by 25% in 2020 compared to 2019.

“A very dedicated staff combined with incredibly loyal customers has enabled us to show significant growth during a very challenging year,” said Brian Kruse, CEO of Legacy Roofing Services.

ARMA's reports do not include shipment information for Canadian BUR and modified bitumen shipments.

Despite these higher numbers, roofing contractors are still facing supply shortages throughout the country. Everything from the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters (wild fires in the west and hurricanes in the southeast) and even the recent incident that blocked the Suez Canal have been causing supply disruptions. Asphalt shingle manufacturers have taken measures such as reducing the number of shingle color options in order to keep up with demands.