The roofing industry is on track for recovery in 2021 after brief short-term challenges reduced demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Roofing professionals can remember a time when the industry came to an abrupt halt as the pandemic shut down virtually every industry, including roofing, unless it was deemed essential. When roofing secured its essential designation, companies resumed their work. Many adjusted how they did business to maintain best practices for avoiding the virus, but the industry was able to get back on the roof quickly.
In 2021, the market outlook for the roofing industry is positive overall, with expected growth reaching toward $20 billion in value. Industry professionals, including Kyle Kirchner, Firestone Building Products Director of Strategy, and Reid Ribble, CEO, National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), anticipate exciting opportunities to move forward. Read on for some of their insights, predictions and more regarding the roofing industry’s stabilization in 2021.
2020: A Year of Change With Long-Term Effects for Roofing
While 2020 brought some short-term impacts to the roofing industry, Ribble reminds roofers that the industry remains strong. “The roofing industry is a mature industry globally that has weathered storms of all types, including past pandemics and recessions,” he says.
As the roofing industry rides out its most recent challenge, it’s helpful to look at the residential and commercial building markets for insights. Additionally, Ribble adds, “almost all of the construction trades are facing similar challenges, be it plumbing, masonry or landscaping.”
When it comes to housing, the residential market experienced growth in 2020 as more new homes were built, people moved from cities to smaller suburbs, and home repairs became top-of-mind. “The pandemic shifted where and how people want to live,” adds Kirchner. “The construction of single-family homes will continue to be strong as inventory levels fight to catch up with demand.”
However, the commercial building market took a hard hit as office buildings emptied and some companies pursued remote work options permanently. Other large commercial spaces that rely on consumer presence, including schools, were equally at risk.
Currently, there is a positive outlook for the construction industry, which has positive implications for commercial roofing. “We see the residential construction and commercial roofing industries as closely related,” says Kirchner. “Historically, residential building has been seen as a leading indicator for commercial construction. As residential communities grow, they eventually create a need for a network of supporting commercial businesses.” Though the pandemic may have impacted existing commercial buildings, there is always room for growth as more residential living areas take shape.
Additionally, the pandemic has accelerated and driven new behaviors, including a reliance on e-commerce. “This growth will affect the individual commercial segments in a phased approach, rather than all at once,” says Kirchner. “In the near term, e-commerce will continue to drive warehousing projects, specifically those that focus on suburban living trends, such as grocery delivery services.”
However, in the long term, growing suburban living will eventually present a need for non-urban offices, retail, and institutional buildings to be built, helping those sectors hit hardest by the pandemic to recover. As these long-term trends settle, Ribble mentions an additional factor: “Future growth will be dictated by availability of workforce and improvement in product delivery.”
Ultimately, though the building industry as a whole has undergone several shifts, the roofing industry remains ready to provide no matter where the need may be.
Which Roofing Industry Trends Are Here to Stay?
There were a few shifts in the roofing industry that we predict will outlive the pandemic into 2021 and years beyond, including a digital transformation in the industry that will continue to take hold and even accelerate.
“We have all experienced the benefits of digital tools in both our personal and professional lives,” says Kirchner. “During the pandemic, the industry had to find new ways to reach and service those vital to its wellbeing.” Though most of the tools that were most useful were already in use to some degree, the pandemic accelerated the adoption of online training, on-roof assistance and service-oriented apps.
“These were previously an industry convenience—now they are a necessity,” Kirchner adds. “We foresee companies continuing to invest in digital tools, as well as a higher adoption rate by target users.”
Advice for Tackling a New Frontier in 2021
Economic recovery continues to build and develop, due to the COVID-19 vaccine being distributed. This will continue to drive recovery, and these factors create the potential for a very positive environment for building construction and commercial roofing.
“Don’t lose sight of the institutional and office rebounds that will follow e-commerce,” Kirchner advises. “2021 has the potential to be an extremely strong rebound year, as long as the pandemic and the fundamental economics don’t reverse course.”
Ribble adds advice regarding supply chain disruptions. “Dramatically increase communication, both with the contractor’s supplier and especially with the contractor’s customer,” he suggests. “Setting delivery and price expectations early will save a lot of heartache later.”
No matter what happens, it remains critical for the roofing industry to keep its eyes on the closely related building industry, following trends and preparing to answer any need. Be sure to follow the content here at Contractor Vantage Point for more industry insights, tips and best practices.