REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR recently conducted a group interview with roofing executives from four residential roofing companies in different regions of the U.S.: Lance Smith, co-owner of State Roofing, in Monroe, Wash.; Brett Hall, president of Joe Hall Roofing in Arlington, Texas; Troy Marshall, owner of Marshall Roofing in Lorton, Va.; and Gary Kearns, vice president of sales and marketing for Kearns Brothers, in Dearborn, Mich.
REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR: The housing market has gone soft, and sales of both new and existing homes are down. How do you feel that will affect your company's business?
Lance Smith: We've increased the size of our business every year for the last six years, so I don't think it will affect us much. Eighty percent of what we do is re-roofing. We might feel a little downturn, but not yet.
Gary Kearns: In the Detroit market, new-home construction is off 49%. The way we've seen it affect us is that suddenly there are all these additional roofing companies, without the infrastructure or overhead. Whenever new construction slows, everybody in it moves into re-roofing. So it's driving down price.
Troy Marshall: We're 98% re-roofing and so far it hasn't affected us. Right now we're a little bit ahead of last year. But whenever you have a downturn in new construction, you'll see companies trying to get into re-roofing, to keep their crews on. They don't have the reputation in the residential market, and their biggest weapon is lower pricing.
Brett Hall: Up until now, the housing boom has affected us in a positive way. The fact that we've gotten thousands of new homes is perfect for us because we're in the repair, maintenance, and replacement business. Also, the Texas Department of Insurance and participating insurance companies are so aware of roof damage that they've driven that down to home inspectors and we see all the red flags when real estate sales come through. That's given us a lot of opportunity.
RC: Everyone's talking about changes in the weather — hurricanes in the South and Southeast, massive rain in the Northwest, hail in Texas and Minnesota. Have your installation practices changed as a result?
Brett Hall: We're embracing the newer products that are certified by UL testing. The biggest notable here is that we're putting those [composition] products down with six nails in lieu of four. It makes a difference when we sell the job because we point out the differences in the materials and installation procedures.
Lance Smith: In the Seattle market, the only thing we do differently is that we're buying a much higher grade of felt. We had record rains last year. But with the high grade of felt we use, we don't have to worry about it.
Troy Marshall: We use a lot more ice-and-water shield than we did 10 years ago. Now it's code that you have to use it on the bottom three feet, but we also put it in all our valley areas — anything low-pitch. So by adding about $100 worth of materials per roof, we've significantly reduced callbacks.