Assessing the state of the roofing industry — across many markets with so many challenges emerging in how roofers operate — continues to be a lodestar for Roofing Contractor. In addition to the annual survey circulated last fall, which generated our 2023 State of the Industry Report, RC also caught up with industry leaders asking for their perspectives. As part of RC’s continuing coverage, learn what several executives had to say about the past year, what they expect in 2023, and where they see the industry heading.
RC: How would you sum up your 2022?
Gunner Smith (GS): We heard from distributors that there was some easing of some of the tightness felt in the market in 2022. We didn’t experience that, as roofing contractors continued to ask for our products and our plants performed very, very well … despite being very tight for the most part in 2022.
Rick Duncan (RD): For SPFA members, the post-pandemic economy has been strong specifically in insulation. Folks made improvements to their homes … and this trend, coupled with the higher interest rates, have kept people in their homes longer and increased demand for SPF insulation.
The consensus among our members was that a lot of the supply chain and materials issues would be alleviated during 2022 and that does, in fact, seem to be the case. We aren’t hearing as much about this anymore.
Two things will remain paramount, given this forecast: Building the labor workforce, and providing more time-saving and out-of-the-box solutions to increase productivity on the jobsite. The need for these innovative, reliable products has never been greater given the industry-wide labor and material shortage.
Dan Williams (DW): In terms of demand for our products, it was a banner year, but it also was incredibly unpredictable. The significant supply constraints that began in 2021 persisted through most of 2022, contributing to ongoing price volatility. Add to that the inflation that took off in the overall economy, and being able to predict when we could deliver products and at what price became incredibly challenging. Our team responded spectacularly, working closely with each other, our distributor partners and our contractors to find creative solutions to meet building owners’ needs, timelines and budgets.
RC: How would you characterize the state of roofing in 2023?
Eric Miller (EM): The roofing industry has undoubtedly experienced consolidation and does appear to be performing better from a capacity perspective overall. We are somewhat less impacted today by raw materials shortages and supply chain issues than we have been in recent years. In that regard, the industry is better able to serve customers, whose needs and preferences are ever changing and evolving. The industry, however, is still facing challenges with expanding its labor base, particularly in the installation arena. This is why Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions™ is so heavily focused in its efforts to train and support the industry’s contractors.
Mike Jost (MJ): We expect continued difficulty in securing certain materials because of the supply-chain disruption. With predictions of a possible recession on the horizon, we wouldn’t be surprised to see fewer new building projects kicking off. However, there are a lot of projects that began in 2022 that still need to be finished — plus rebuilds needed after this year’s hurricane season — so we don’t expect to see too steep of a decline. The industry has been hustling to keep up with demand the past couple of years, so 2023 could offer an opportunity for many contractors.
RD: Construction has slowed in many commercial real estate sectors, with the exception [of] industrial and warehouse facilities. This particular sector has been strong, spurred by the greater number of people shopping online, a trend only strengthened by the pandemic. However, we do believe that with the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides significant tax incentives to building owners for making their facilities more energy efficient, we may see a spike in roofing retrofits this year and beyond.
GS: We definitely see the circumstances of 2022 changing early in 2023. While a lot of folks are talking about the overall market being down, but when you look at the fundamentals we’ve got a healthy reroofing market that’s still very strong and will be for 2023. The other piece of this is the storm bucket, which could vary millions of squares from the very worst year to the very best year.
We’re preparing for a good year — adding capacity, preparing ourselves whatever the market size is, and we’ll be able to produce more in 2023 than we did in 2022.
RC: How were you able to help roofing contractors find some stability?
MJ: Supply chain challenges made timelines and costs difficult to predict. We tried to help contractors find stability by communicating — and over-communicating — with them. We relied on our national footprint to source materials where demand was needed. Our local teams were in constant contact with customers, keeping them updated on which products would be in stock and what substitutions were available when the materials they wanted were delayed or out of budget. We also tried to get ahead of as many of their questions or challenges as possible. None of us can predict what will happen, but it’s helpful to stay in lockstep with manufacturers and our customers along the way.
RC: The popularity of coatings continued to increase, as did spray foam. What’s your company’s approach?
DW: We expect roof restoration to be our biggest growth area for at least the next three to five years. Building owners increasingly recognize that restoring their existing roofs can deliver significant returns. It can delay for years the cost and hassle of replacing a roof, returning it to near-new performance while providing enhanced energy efficiency, a new warranty and the sustainability of keeping roofing material out of the landfill. Coatings are the leading restoration tool, and their use will only keep growing. We have a full range of coatings products to meet that demand.
RC: What other trends are you watching in 2023?
EM: We are closely watching the increased visibility around energy efficiency and total cost of ownership. We are also looking at code compliance relative to climate conditions and regions as well as insurance criteria surrounding product performance, which currently varies from market-to-market. The changing needs and preferences of the various buyer demographic groups – millennials, Gen X, and boomers, for example – are always of interest. Of course, we also continue to invest in research to better understand architectural, roofing and color trends and preferences, as well as the macro trends influencing them.
RD: We are watching the impacts of higher energy costs. We believe that, combined with the benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act, these two should call for a positive year for SPF roofing and insulation.
SPF popularity has also been driven in the shorter term by other roofing insulations that are still impacted by supply chain issues. One example is the continued supply challenges with poly ISO. Spray foam is a great alternative and our members have indicated they are getting more roofing jobs due to this one product shortage.
RC: What trends in the roofing industry have you either optimistic or worried?
DW: If the last three years have taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. But we are optimistic about the industry as a whole and we’re bullish on what we’re doing. We will continue to move forward with new products, the expansion of our training program, enhancements to our processes and systems, and new tools to make contractors’ lives easier. The new year may present unforeseen challenges, but we’re confident that, for Mule-Hide, 2023 will be better than ever.
MJ: What’s inspiring about the roofing industry is that for every challenge that exists, there’s also an innovative solution to overcome it. We’re keeping an eye on continued supply shortages and the threat of a recession, but we’re feeling optimistic about the new materials and technology that are being developed to lessen these challenges for contractors.
EM: What continues to worry me is the industry’s ongoing challenges with labor shortages, residual global supply chain and logistics issues, and, certainly, the state of the economy and how it is impacting new construction. On the other hand, I am very optimistic about our ability as an organization to train and expand the installer base, as well as in our ability to innovate with products that fill a clear void in the marketplace and that resonate with customers.
RC: What are you proudest of in how your company navigated the challenges of 2022?
DW: It always comes back to the people. You can have the best products and the best systems, but they won’t mean anything if you don’t also have the best team. Our people take tremendous pride in what they do. They are experts in our products and the low-slope roofing industry. They know our customers, understand their businesses and are incredibly responsive to their needs. So, even when faced with the tight supply constraints we had throughout most of 2022, they consistently found creative solutions to help our contractors get jobs done. And if the solution was one the contractor wasn’t well-versed in, we were boots on the ground to provide the training and support they needed to be successful.
MJ: Since 2022 was our 40th anniversary, we’ve done a lot of reflecting on ABC Supply’s beginnings. I’m proud of the way that we’ve been able to maintain the dream that our founders had when they started ABC Supply. They set out to make ABC Supply not only the best place for contractors to do business but also the best place for our associates to work. And our associates are the number one reason why we’ve been able to overcome 2022’s challenges. They embrace our core values to deliver exceptional service to our customers and treat them with respect.
EM: I am most proud of our team overcoming a significant number of obstacles, whether supply chain, inflation, or other, while still remaining 100% focused on the customer. The way our employees have ultimately come together through the big acquisition and created a team that consistently finds better ways to service our customers is inspirational.