Deferred maintenance on roofs is never a good idea. Now, it could be a terrible one. Huge shortages and delays within the supply chain for construction in general and roofing, in particular, are hiking wait times and overall costs for both builders and consumers. While this may seem like a good justification for waiting, experts are urging homeowners instead to continue with roof replacement plans or roof repairs at the very least if complete roof replacement isn’t feasible.
In dry states like California, complacency is another worrisome trend for roof maintenance advocates. Drought conditions create a false sense that it is safe to delay maintenance or replacement. Just one freak storm could wreak havoc on a community with aged or compromised roofs, causing extensive interior damages.
"We typically see roof replacement activity about three to five years behind what it should be," said Charles Antis, founder & CEO of Antis Roofing & Waterproofing. "In ordinary conditions, we can help HOA community managers catch up. Today, you cannot afford to be in arrears with your roofs at all. It’s impossible to overstate how critical the situation is, and people are risking long-term damage to their homes by doing nothing."
This year, scheduling those badly needed roof repairs or replacements is of paramount importance and community managers are on the front line when it comes to taking a proactive stance with their roofing suppliers. HOA experts in Southern California are advising their communities to understand the situation of supply shortages and delays but not use it as a reason to step out of line.
Most experts predict price hikes to flatten out by the end of 2021 but few expect prices to decrease, except for wood materials.
An unprecedented disruption of raw and finished materials necessary for building and repairing roofs is the root cause of a host of problems within the roofing industry. A long list of materials, from adhesives to fasteners to plywood, are in short supply and backorder delivery times have doubled in some cases. According to one of the industry’s largest wholesale roofing distributors, some materials will not be available until the first quarter of 2022.=
“I have been in the industry 39 years and have never seen the supply chain disruption that we (are experiencing now),” said Greg Bloom, VP, National & Strategic Accounts at Beacon Building Products. “The concern the overall industry leaders have is there is no end in sight just yet. That being said, we are steadfast in our commitment to support our customers with vigor and enthusiasm even under the most difficult circumstances we have ever faced.”
What this means is that even if roof replacement is on the schedule for an individual family or within a managed community, there is a strong likelihood of delays and even appointment cancellations. While suppliers are trying to shore up inventory and find new sources, the message that roofing professionals need to drive home to consumers is this: Maintain a robust repair strategy to keep roofs healthy until a replacement is feasible.
A “Perfect Storm” of Disruption
Conditions within construction in general, and roofing in particular, have always been sensitive to change. A sensitive synergy of raw materials, manufacturing, distribution and labor is vulnerable to a multitude of conditions; and one event within one part of the chain reverberates down the line.
Today’s problems are multi-fold and occurred almost in tandem to exacerbate the crisis. They were exacerbated by the construction industry’s reliance on a “just in time” inventory model, which requires low in-house inventory levels to cut costs. Now, the shelves are bare and companies have no option but to wait for factories and mills to catch up. This, coupled with “force majeure” incidents such as fires and freak weather conditions, has put 2021 on record for the supply crisis:
On Jan. 6, 2021, a fire destroyed Scotch Plywood Company’s veneer mill in Mississippi. The wildfires in Oregon and California destroyed by some estimates about 15 billion board feet of lumber. Dozens of fires at both large and small sawmills throughout North America occurred in 2020 and 2021.
Last March, a severe freeze in Texas lasted for 10 days and shut down electricity to 4.5 million homes and businesses. It created a domino effect in which all phases of construction ground to a halt, from manufacturing to end-user service. The state’s petrochemical industry, which is the basis for many roof-related materials, still hasn’t caught up.
Starting immediately in March 2020, manufacturing plants were shut down and workers furloughed. Business in the roofing industry slowed down to a trickle and materials sourced internationally, such as aluminum, slate, plastic, rubber and collated roofing nails, was increasingly scarce. While contagion was high, it was simply not safe for workers to continue business as usual. This along with pent-up demand for roof repair and new roofs when COVID-19 began to ebb, has placed a huge strain on all facets of the industry.
Just when demand accelerated with a recovering economy, transport capacity was hit. Port congestion, container shortages and truck/driver availability issues are fueling rapidly increasing transportation costs.
To manage the shortages, companies nearly across the board have had to increase prices and add surcharges. A single-ply membrane manufacturer announced a 5% increase in May on membranes, insulation and other non-metal accessories, then had to increase that by a percentage point one month later. In June, they added a 25% surcharge on certain adhesive packages as well as flat-fee surcharges on freight. Metal price increases of 10-17% go into effect in late June. (Source: Versico Roofing Systems pricing bulletins; June 2021)
Another large single-ply membrane and PVC manufacturer announced to its contractor clients that due to extreme price fluctuation they could not currently maintain a stable price list and could not quote in advance. Instead, list pricing would be based on the available price on the date of shipment. (Source: IB Roof Systems)
Knowledge Is Power
If roof replacement must stay on the table, then roof repair is a critical goal for 2021. “It’s a crazy situation, to be urging homeowners to persist in their efforts to maintain their roof on schedule, knowing how impacted the companies are who provide roofing materials and services,” says Charles Antis. “And yet, that’s really what needs to happen.”
Roof repair providers, community managers and HOA decision-makers should have synergistic objectives:
- Those within the roofing business should carefully prioritize their clients by reviewing roof conditions and triaging according to need and severity;
- Community managers have many competing issues before them and often need to be reminded about roofing repair schedules. They need to make themselves heard and be persistent with their professional maintenance partners;
- HOA professionals must also stay on track with supply flow and pricing; now is the time to review reserves to make sure they remain at pace with inflation and supply price increases.
By helping the homeowner and community manager understand why costs have spiked so dramatically and why service appointments are delayed, the roofing industry can also help ensure communities will make intelligent decisions about prioritizing repairs and scheduling contractors.
Meanwhile, manufacturers and distributors are doing whatever they can to bring delivery times within a reasonable spectrum. Eventually, the market will stabilize, production will catch up and things will get back to normal, although costs will almost certainly remain at a higher level. Most industry sources indicate that disruptions will diminish or disappear by early 2022.