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Roofing industry reports a positive start to 2021 but skill shortages cause headache for contractors

by Unknown | May 05, 2021

State of the Roofing Industry - Q1 2021 key indicators

Roofing contractors reported a significant growth in workloads during the first quarter of 2021 but were hampered by recruitment difficulties and continued material shortages and price rises, according to the Q1 State of the Roofing Industry survey produced by Glenigan for NFRC.

Over half of roofing contractors surveyed reported a rise in workloads (51 per cent) in the first three months of the year, with only 11 per cent reporting a decline. This trend is set to continue, with a balance of 35 per cent of firms reporting a rise in enquiries and a balance of 47 per cent expecting growth over the next year.

Growing workloads meant that a net balance of 8 per cent of firms grew their direct headcount on the previous quarter, and 17 per cent took on more sub-contractors. However, over half (56 per cent) of contractors reported recruitment difficulties. Roles that were hardest to fill included roof slaters and tilers (39 per cent), felters (33 per cent), and specialist slaters (29 per cent) and tilers (22 per cent).

Material shortages also exacerbated over the quarter, with over two thirds (68 per cent) reporting a deterioration. In particular, concrete roof tiles remained the top shortage area closely followed by timber battens, insulation, slate, and clay tiles. Shortages, as well as the rising prices of raw materials, has meant 89 per cent of respondents reported price inflation.

The survey also found:

  • All sectors of the roofing industry saw growth in Q1 2021, with the domestic repair, maintenance and improvement and new build residential sectors showing the strongest growth;
  • Northern roofing contractors, those in London, and the Southern Counties and those who operate nationwide saw the sharpest rise in workloads. Scotland and Wales both saw falls in those reporting rising workloads, following a busy end to 2020;
  • Government spending on public sector construction projects is expected to drive positive workloads for roofing contractors over the next year, with 70 per cent of contractors in this sector predicting growth over the next twelve months—far above any other sector;
  • Payment continues to be slow—whilst 62 per cent of roofing firms have contractual payment terms of 30 days or less, only 42 per cent were paid within that period, on average.

Commenting on the report, NFRC Chief Executive James Talman said:

The roofing industry continued to perform well in the first quarter of this year, with roofers reporting that workloads, enquiries and employment were all up. The residential sector is doing particularly well, driven by the strong new build housing market, and homeowners continuing to spend their extra disposable income on upgrading and replacing their roofs

However, there are simply not enough roofers to deliver the amount of demand we are seeing. One in every two roofing contractors are currently struggling to find skilled operatives. This is exacerbating the other challenges roofing contractors are also facing, such as finding materials and managing their cashflow.

“If the government want our industry to help put roofs on 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s, retrofit 27 million properties and build brand new schools, hospitals and prisons, then it needs to work with us to help to train, develop and upskill the next generation of roofers.”

Commenting on the survey findings, Glenigan’s Economics Director Allan Wilen said:

“The construction recovery strengthened further during the first quarter, with roofing contractors reporting rising workloads. Repair, maintenance and improvement work and new house construction have been the best performing areas. Roofing contractors anticipate that the recovery in workload will be sustained over the next twelve months as the UK economy is unlocked, with new enquiries pointing to a broad-based rise in activity. However, shortages of skilled labour and materials will be a potential brake on the pace of the recovery.”

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