Roofing reports positive start in 2021, but skills shortage begins to bite – Builders Merchants Journal

Roofers reported a significant increase in workloads in the first quarter of 2021, but were hampered by recruitment difficulties and persistent material shortages and price increases, according to Glenigan’s Q1 survey of the state of the roofing industry for roofers association NFRC.

Over half of the contractors surveyed reported an increase in workload (51 percent) in the first three months of the year, while only 11 percent reported a decrease. This trend is set to continue, with a balance of 35 percent of companies reporting an increase in inquiries and a balance of 47 percent expecting growth in the next year.

The growing workload resulted in an 8 percent net balance of companies increasing their direct workforce from the previous quarter and hiring 17 percent more subcontractors. However, over half (56 percent) of contractors reported having difficulty hiring. The most difficult roles to fill were roofers and tilers (39 percent), felters (33 percent) as well as special slateers (29 percent) and tilers (22 percent).

The shortage of materials also worsened in the course of the quarter, with more than two thirds (68 percent) reporting a deterioration. Concrete roof tiles in particular remained the area with the greatest scarcity, closely followed by wooden battens, insulation, slate and clay tiles. Scarcity and rising raw material prices have resulted in 89 percent of those surveyed reporting price inflation.

The survey also found:

  • All sectors of the roofing industry saw growth in the first quarter of 2021, with the domestic repair, maintenance and improvement sectors and new housing construction showing the strongest growth;
  • The largest increases in workloads were seen by roofers from the north, London and southern counties, and across the country. Scotland and Wales both saw declines in those reporting increasing workloads after a busy end of 2020;
  • Public spending on public sector construction projects is expected to result in a positive workload for roofing companies over the next year, with 70 percent of contractors in this sector forecasting growth for the next twelve months – well above any other sector;
  • Payment remains sluggish – while 62 percent of roofers have a contractual payment term of 30 days or less, an average of only 42 percent were paid within this period.

James Talman, Chief Executive of the NFRC, said, “The roofing industry continued to do well in the first quarter of this year, with roofers reporting that the workload, inquiries and employment increased. The housing sector is developing particularly well, driven by the strong new construction market and homeowners who continue to spend their additional disposable income on modernizing and replacing their roofs. However, there are simply not enough roofers to meet the demand that we are seeing. Every second roofer currently has difficulties in finding qualified specialists. This exacerbates the other challenges roofers also face, such as sourcing materials and managing their cash flow. If the government wants our industry to roof 300,000 new homes, renovate 27 million homes, and build brand new schools, hospitals, and prisons annually by the mid-2020s, then it must work with us to help educate, develop, and develop the train the next generation of roofers. “

Glenigans Economics Director Allan Wilen said, “The recovery in construction continued to accelerate in the first quarter as roofers reported increasing workloads. Repair, maintenance and improvement work as well as the construction of new houses were the most powerful areas. Roofers expect the workload rebound to continue over the next twelve months as the UK economy recovers and new inquiries suggest a broad spike in activity. However, the shortage of skilled workers and materials may slow the pace of recovery. “

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