Editor’s Note: Gauging the pulse of the roofing industry annually continues to be a challenge as roofers adapt to a rapidly changing marketplace. In addition to the survey circulated last fall that laid the foundation for the 2024 Roofing Report, RC also sought out the opinions of leaders from all segments of the industry.

As part of RC’s continuing coverage, here’s what Eric Miller, Vice President of Sales for Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions, shared with us.

RC: How would you characterize the state of the roofing industry in 2024?

EM: The roofing industry is currently benefitting from supply chain improvements in both materials and lead times. Both of these areas stabilized substantially in 2023 and should continue to do so in 2024. Unfortunately, indications are that labor will continue to be a challenge, as it is for other construction trades. A lot of this is driven by an aging workforce. Thus, there is a strong need for the industry to focus on the attraction, training and retention of its talent. Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions specifically is working to help address this by investing in a dedicated technical team focused on growing the installer base. On the customer front, consumers continue to become increasingly knowledgeable about product options and this is shaping demand in really interesting ways.

RC: Are there any recent trends that you will continue to monitor this year?

EM: For a while now, we have been paying attention to the growing awareness surrounding energy efficiency and total cost of ownership. Building codes and insurance criteria across different regions are also important to watch as they relate to this. As a company, we also invest in research aimed at getting to the heart of shifting architectural home style preferences, as well as the accompanying roofing and color trends and preferences among different demographic groups and regions. Many macro-level societal trends directly drive home and roofing trends, thus we watch those as well to determine what product demand will follow. Of course, we would be remiss to ignore the growing role of consumers in the specification process. Consumers are increasingly active in researching roofing products and characteristics of the roof they want, and thus are driving decisions more so than ever.

RC: Our annual survey of roofing contractors showed a lot of optimism in the marketplace. Why do you think that is, and do you share that viewpoint?

EM: Optimism among roofing contractors often aligns with several factors, including demand for new constructions, renovations, or re-roofing projects, all of which bring in business opportunities and spur sales for roofing contractors. There are, of course, current challenges within the greater economy. Interest rates, for example, will be a factor impacting new construction activity as well as housing affordability. That being said, sustainability and resiliency both have become much more prominent considerations in construction. Roofing contractors engaging in eco-friendly, energy-efficient and weather resistant solutions are likely seeing heightened demand, contributing to the positive outlook among contractors.

Homeowners are also becoming more informed and conscious of the long-term benefits of quality roofing solutions. This increased awareness can lead to a greater willingness to invest in premium roofing products and services, driving greater contractor optimism.

RC: What economic factors will play the biggest role in a roofing contractor’s success this year?

EM: The level of construction activity and the health of the real estate market both directly impact the business of roofing contractors. Today, interest rates and the home affordability index do as well. Should interest rates start to decline, that will likely increase activity in the real estate sector and improve housing affordability a bit, helping contractors secure projects and boost their success.

Availability and cost of skilled labor are also highly significant considerations for roofing contractors, now and always. A tight labor market can lead to increased labor costs and potential delays in project timelines. Adapting to workforce challenges through effective recruitment, training, and retention strategies will be essential to success this year and beyond.

Additionally, with labor a continuing issue, a contractor’s success will also be dependent on accurate forecasting for projects so that labor can be planned around that. As part of this, it is also key that contractors plan ahead with their product manufacturers and suppliers, to ensure they have the product they need when they need it.

RC: How is your company adapting to meet the anticipated demand in roofing projects and materials?

EM: Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions is continuously monitoring current capacity and capabilities to ensure we have the resources, in terms of skilled labor, equipment and square footage, to meet anticipated demand. We regularly look at ways to improve efficiencies to deliver more throughput. We’ve secured more of the raw materials that have caused industry production disruption in the past. We also recently made the decision to increase our capacity in Florida, a regional market that has been challenging from the concrete roof tile perspective for the past few years. With the added capacity and production improvements we have made, which are all coming online in the first quarter of this year, we are anticipating much success in serving this region.

We will also continue to be transparent with customers, collaborating with them to develop solutions to best meet their schedules with the resources available. Having great relationships with our customers allows us to overcome challenges while still attempting to accommodate everyone’s targeted goals.

RC: What product categories or new technology are you most excited about in roofing?

EM: Metal roofing continues to experience a sustained increase in popularity, solidifying its position as a top choice for owners of both residential and commercial structures. One of the primary drivers of its popularity is the unmatched durability and longevity that metal roofs offer. Homeowners and builders are increasingly drawn to the idea of an enduring roofing solution that can withstand the challenges posed by diverse weather conditions, including heavy rain, snow, hail, and high winds, as well as deliver true energy efficiency and savings. The resilience and efficiency of metal roofing translates into reduced maintenance costs and long-term savings, making it an appealing investment.

The lightweight nature of metal roofing also facilitates easier installation, making it an attractive option for both new construction and re-roofing projects. The combination of ease of installation, low maintenance requirements, and aesthetic flexibility positions metal roofing as a practical and appealing choice, ensuring its continued rise in popularity within the construction and roofing industry.

Concrete roof tile is a second product category we continue to be invested in. Its core performance characteristics – including its durability, long lifespan, energy efficiency and wide-ranging aesthetic options – make it incredibly appealing to consumers.

Improvements across components are also exciting. Whether underlayments, cool roof system or others, there is innovation happening in this category. Even though components aren’t often visible underneath the roof covering, they contribute meaningfully to the overall efficiency, durability and resiliency of the roof, enhancing value for contractors and consumers alike.

RC: How is your company/organization responding to continued consolidation and private equity in the roofing industry?

EM: Consolidation is a reality of all evolving industries and it’s likely that our will continue to see mergers and acquisitions in the next few years. Not too long ago, our organization experienced its own consolidation when, in October 2021, Westlake completed its purchase of Boral Limited’s North American building products and formed Westlake Royal Building Products (Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions is part of the larger building products group). Westlake, which previously had a suite of building products, desired to expand its footprint and offerings and that’s why the acquisition made a lot of sense. Westlake is also highly committed to growing the roofing portion of the business and supports the expansion and growth of our key roofing product categories.

We’ve used the experience to enhance our brand and, together with our other building product solutions (siding, trim, stone, windows, outdoors and more), leveraged and shared our combined, whole house solutions for our valued customers. We like to remind our customers that Westlake Royal Building Products offers boundless solutions.

RC: What are the biggest concerns moving forward?

EM: One of the biggest concerns for the industry at-large will be escalating raw materials costs. The aging workforce is another top concern and it is increasingly imperative that we make concerted effort to attract, train and retain the new generation in roofing. To complement this effort, the industry must also focus on the development of products that reduce labor demands.

Additionally, with the number and intensity of natural disasters that have occurred over the past several years, there is a lot of activity surrounding the enhancement of building codes. This creates a ripe opportunity for the proactive development of new product solutions that meet new code standards. This is a growing area for Westlake Royal roofing Solutions. We are also always concerned with identifying any emerging trends to ensure our product offerings align with the changing needs of our customers.

RC: What are you proudest of about your organization?

EM: We are most proud of the way our team has unified as Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions, under the larger Westlake Royal Building Products brand, following our consolidation. Our team's resilience and adaptability throughout the process have been key in our seamless integration into the Westlake family, fostering a dynamic synergy that has propelled us to new heights. All of it has been extremely positive as it has helped us solidify a leading position in the roofing industry.

Notably, our consolidation occurred during the pandemic and the raw material and supply chain issues it brought. Yet, throughout it all, our strategic focus on the serving the customer has remained steadfast. By leveraging the combined strengths of our legacy team and the support of Westlake, we have elevated our customer service standards. Our commitment to understanding and addressing customer needs has ultimately been the guiding force behind our success in a competitive market.