Roofers concerned about material shortages, data shows

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When asked to rank their top three concerns for 2021, almost half of roofing and cladding contractors (48%) put material shortages at the top of the list, according to the State of the Roofing Industry Survey, by Glenigan for NFRC

Roof tiles were the most common material shortage reported by roofing contractors in the final quarter of 2020, with almost half of firms struggling to get hold of them (49%).

Roofers also listed timber and battens (17%), slates (14%) and insulation (5%) as other materials in shortage.

Shortages are having a knock-on impact on material prices, with three quarters (76%) of firms reporting inflationary pressures in the last year, and two thirds (65%) of roofers saying that prices have increased even on the previous quarter.

In spite of this, contractors experienced a positive end to 2020, with two in five roofing contractors (41%) reporting an increase in their workloads in Q4 on the previous quarter.

The survey found that:

  • Workloads were up in all roofing sectors in Q4 of 2020 with domestic repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI) performing the strongest, followed by commercial RMI and public non-residential RMI.
  • All nations and regions of the UK, apart from Northern Ireland, experienced higher workloads than the previous quarter. Scotland performed best, with 80% of Scottish roofing contractors reporting higher activity levels.
  • Employment levels increased on the previous quarter, with a net balance of 12% of firms reporting a higher staff count than in Q3, but this is still down 3% on the previous year.
  • It is becoming harder for roofing contractors to recruit, with 45% of firms reporting that recruitment is becoming more difficult. Labour shortages was the second-highest area of concern reported for 2021.
  • Roofing firms are optimistic for the year ahead, with more firms expecting workloads to increase in 2021 rather than decrease.

A robust construction recovery

NFRC chief executive, James Talman, said: “The last year has seen manufacturing plants temporarily shut down, whole shifts of workers having to self-isolate, disruptions at ports, and enhanced international competition for many products such as timber – it is, therefore, no wonder that the top concern for roofing contractors this year is material shortages.

“Despite these challenges, the industry ended the year on an optimistic note, with healthy order books, and a good number of future enquiries across all parts of the industry.”

Allan Wilen, economics director at Glenigan, said: “The survey reveals a robust construction recovery during the fourth quarter.

“Roofing contractors reported a strong growth in workload driven by an increase in repair maintenance and improvement work (RMI), in particular by domestic work.

“Industry expectations and an increase in new enquiries point to a further, broad-based rise in workload during 2021.”

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