Roofing contractors report busy start to the year despite materials and skills shortages

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NEW research has found that the UK’s roofing contractors have experienced growing workloads in the first quarter of 2021, but have been impacted by recruitment issues as well as material shortages and price rises.

The findings were recorded in the Q1 State of the Roofing Industry survey produced by Glenigan for the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC).

51% of roofing contractors surveyed reported a rise in workloads, with only 11% experiencing a decline. A balance of 35% of firms reported a rise in enquiries, with a balance of 47% expecting growth over the next year.

Growing workloads meant that a net balance of 8% of firms increased direct headcount, while 17% appointed more subcontractors. However, 56% of contractors reported recruitment difficulties, particularly in roles such as roof slaters and tilers, felters and specialist slaters.

Material shortages has also been a factor, with 68% reporting a deterioration. Concrete roof tiles remained the top shortage area, followed by timber battens, insulation, slate, and clay tiles. Shortages and rising prices of raw materials resulted in 89% of respondents reporting price inflation.

All sectors of the roofing industry saw growth in Q1, with the strongest increases arising in domestic repair, maintenance and improvement as well as new build residential sectors.

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.

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.”

Allan Wilen, Glenigan’s economics director, added, “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.”