Normally, Janis Munroe’s roofing business would get hit with business after a major weather event. But this is California, where it’s anything but normal — and roofers across the state are cashing in on that weirdness even before the storms hits.
“It really is unusual,” said Munroe, who owns California Roofing with her husband. “I don’t remember the last time it was like this where everybody was really panicked.” Munroe said she’s currently getting 10 calls a day from “freaked out” customers for repairs and estimates.
The source of this panic? A predicted El Nino that’s already being called mega, unprecedented and extreme. One climatologist has even dubbed it the “Godzilla El Nino.”
Whatever it’s called, El Nino is spelling big business for the Golden State’s approximately 6,000 roofing companies. Munroe is now booked out until January. And experts say that’s the norm across the drought-stricken state. “All legitimate roofing companies are currently booked months — some much longer — in advance,” said Steve Lang, President of the Roofing Contractors Association of Southern California and owner of Lang Roofing Inc. “…All roofing companies are flooded to capacity with calls for re-roofing and roof repair estimates.”
Although the expected monsoons of El Nino are getting all the headlines, Lang and others say the drought is actually what created this flood. With more than four years of little to no rainfall, homeowners have not had to think about their roofs. “Why would anyone want to buy a roof when it has been 80 degrees to 90 degrees for months at a time with zero rainfall during our peak rainy seasons?” asked Lang.
Now that backlog of deferred maintenance has caught up with the procrastinators — and it hasn’t even really started raining yet. “The freaked out level is at an eight right now, but I’m expecting it to reach level 20 when the rain hits,” Munroe said.
And that’s when unscrupulous contractors — already a problem — will become a scourge, warns John Upshaw, Independent Roofing Contractors of California’s executive director. “Legitimate contractors have a real problem with bad actors in the state of California,” he said. “They’re putting the good guys out of business.”
And when customers see the roofing costs from licensed and bonded contractors, it only makes those bad actors more attractive. Those costs have gone up dramatically due to “never ending” and “rapid” increases in regulations and the “crippling” costs of workman’s compensation insurance, Lang adds. “Sticker shock is a common reaction to proposals from legitimate contractors…” Lang said.
That combined with the labor shortage has made it difficult for roofers to capitalize on the El Nino bonanza. “The labor shortage is huge,” confirmed Joan Crowe, National Roofing Contractors Association’s technical service director. “That’s the top of the list when we talk to member companies.”
But right now, Munroe and other California roofers are just focused on getting through a season that looks like it will be one of the best in years. “There’s a lot of work for everybody so there doesn’t need to be price cutting,” she said. “So keep your prices up — and just keep on working.”