A year ago, Lake Side Exteriors, in O'Hanlon, Mo., decided to become a full-service exterior remodeling company by taking on roofing. But, like many residential roofers, the company sticks strictly to re-roofing for homeowners. Vice president Dan Merrifield cites two reasons: Most new construction work in the area is unionized, “so you have to be union,” and, he says, the company has yet to be approached by a builder seeking a roofing job, though, he concedes, “we haven't been actively seeking.”
WHERE'S THE MONEY? Many exterior companies are set up to market and sell to homeowners, and have little interest in subcontracting roofing jobs to builders. Two reasons, says Randy Brown, owner of Clearwater Home Improvement, in Mystic, Conn., who counts himself as one of them. “If there's a problem — say a tire gets popped — it's always your fault,” Brown points out. In addition, he says, “you have to chase them for your money.” Brown says he stopped working for builders five years ago when it took him a year to collect $7,000 on a job.
Jeff Petrucci, owner of Bloomfield Construction, in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., estimates he has roofed three or four new homes in the last five years, primarily because builders are “not willing to pay for the quality of work we do.” The exceptions, Petrucci and others say, are those builders who want a quality job done by qualified installers who are trained and can prove it, so that home builders don't have to waste time and resources looking for roofing crews. The builders he has dealt with, Petrucci says, are custom builders building on a cost-plus basis “who want a certified roofer who can supply a warranty. They come to me because it can kill their job down the road if the roof leaks.”
Companies that specialize in re-roofing like the potential upsells involved in, for in stance, replacing decking, adding gut or even the possibility of turning that roofing job into a whole exterior remodel, with windows and siding thrown in. Another plus in sticking to re-roofing is the ability to win additional jobs in the neighborhood where you're working, especially if the homes were built at around the same time and roofs are similarly configured.
Companies that seek work from builders say that, in addition to more revenue, such jobs can fill a void in work schedules. Another plus they cite is the fact that the roofing crew doesn't have to deal with a homeowner's presence, nor is there a landscape or garden to avoid destroying.
Nantucket roofer Jim Lydon welcomes jobs on new-home construction, and in some years new homes make up as much as 50% of his company's work. He says the advantages of working on new construction are numerous, starting with the fact that there's no tear-off involved and therefore no Dumpster to arrange for. Lydon says that in the last two years he's worked for three builders, primarily installing red cedar shingles. This past year, however, he says, re-roofing made up the bulk of his business, because of the economy. “It's like building's taking a deep breath.” But for his company, the on-site presence of homeowners in re-roofing is a non-issue. Most of the houses on Nantucket are vacation homes, and often enough Lydon and his crews are re-roofing an empty house anyway.