According to the 2006 Metal Roofing Magazine reader survey, 21 percent of the readers who are involved in roofing or re-roofing projects are installing metal shingles on at least some of those jobs. Manufacturers of metal shingles, which include shake, tile, and shingle facsimiles as well as stamped shingles, expect that number to grow and are seeking out more qualified installers for their product line.
Metal shingles — stone-coated, painted, or unpainted — are the metal product of choice for many residential roofing and re-roofing projects. The Metal Roofing Alliance, an association of manufacturers and contractors working together to educate consumers about the benefits of metal roofing to hopefully boost sales of metal roofing in residential applications, says metal roofing’s residential market share doubled from 3 percent in 1998 to 6 percent in 2003.
Recent MRA reports indicate that number as high as 8 percent. Association members believe that trend will continue.
Pinpointing the shingle market
Manufacturers of metal shingle products have taken aim at the residential market. Their products resemble the look of many products homeowners are used to and provide the benefits of metal.
“We continue to grow our residential metal roofing business and are expanding our efforts to meet the need for commercial metal shingles,” says Stephen McNally, vice president of sales and marketing for TAMKO Building Products, the manufacturer of the MetalWorks shingle. “We expect to see growth in the Southwest and on the West Coast. We believe these areas are set for growth due to the fact that roofing materials, such as tile, are utilized and builders are looking for alternative roofing options.”
Tile roofing has been difficult to get in some areas, specifically the regions hit by hurricanes where tile roofing is traditionally popular. Shortages have led some customers to metal shingles that replicate the look of tile or other metal products.
Custom-Bilt Metals is among the many metal roofing manufacturers providing materials for those hurricane-ravaged areas. Vice president Joe Chiovare says the New Orleans branch is currently the most successful branch in the company.
Custom-Bilt’s Vail Shingle is available in copper or painted aluminum or steel. Chiovare says most of the company’s shingle installations are residential, but more and more the Vail Shingles are being used on storefronts and schools — customers after metal’s benefits with a look different than the familiar vertical panel. “Most times, it’s people who already are sold on metal roofing, but only know about the standing seam,” he says. “When you tell them you can give them a product that looks like slate or shingle or whatever, with all the benefits of metal, they perk right up.”
Kassel & Irons is a relatively new player in the metal shingle market with its KasselWood shake facsimile. The readers of Metal Roofing Magazine chose it as a Top 10 Product in 2005 largely because of its potential appeal in the residential market. “We’ve viewed the residential market as a tremendous opportunity from the outset and KasselWood was designed with an emphasis on satisfying homeowners’ needs,” says Nick Allen, director of strategic planning and business development. “That’s why we chose to utilize BASF’s Ultra Cool coatings as standard for our full color line and it’s also the reason we spent a great amount of time and effort in coming out with a shingle that has the most traditional appearance in the industry.”
Pat Barton says the re-roofing market accounts for about 90 percent of business at Gerard Roofing Technologies, but some progress is being made in the new construction market. Gerard has been successful with re-roofing projects over wood shakes in California and asphalt shingles in many other parts of the country.
Barton says Gerard has reps to cover the entire map. He expects those reps to make headway in the Northeast with the recent acquisition of Ontario-based Dura-Loc Roofing by Gerard’s parent company, Metals USA. With the addition of the Dura-Loc profiles to the Metals USA offerings, Barton believes the two lines will complement each other. He says all Gerard profiles can be installed with or without battens. The battenless profiles look identical to those that require battens, but are manufactured with different attachment points. Battenless shingles are obviously less expensive to install, but Barton says some contractors prefer to use battens.
Customer awareness is key at Decra Roofing Systems, according to Bo Hudson. He says his company does well in areas where customers are familiar with metal roofing — the Northeast, Midwest and in the Sun Belt. Areas where homeowners experience high winds along the coast or in regions prone to hail like Colorado and Texas also have been strong for Decra. He says there are still places where customers aren’t familiar with metal roofing, or more specifically metal shingles, stone-coated are not. “Some people still think metal has to be flat shiny painted metal,” Hudson says. “They’ve seen that commercial look and that’s what they think of when someone says metal roof.”
Residential applications make up 98 percent of what Metro Roof Products does — almost all re-roofing. Metro’s Pete Croft says the re-roofing market is not as volatile as the new construction market where general contractors are often looking only at price.
The Sun Belt or the southern rim of the United States is still the best market for stone-coated metal from Metro. “Florida is, of course, a hotbed with the hurricanes,” he says. “Texas is just waiting for a hailstorm, California is plodding along, and the Midwest is doing reasonably well. The business is directly related to how much effort you put into it, how much ground cover you have in an area. The most important thing to note is that our products have no restrictions. They work in cold, hot, wet, windy, any conditions.”
Todd Miller, president of Classic Metal Roofing Systems, says vertical seam panels are very popular in certain areas of the country — coastal areas, the Northeast, Rocky Mountains — and shingles, or modular products, have become somewhat accepted because buyers in those areas know about the benefits of metal.
“We’re doing very well in our area, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and we’ve been doing more and more in Pennsylvania,” he says. “We also have a few guys in Alabama who are doing very well.” Miller points out that Classic’s shingles are aluminum, which holds up better than steel in coastal areas where salt spray can more quickly erode metal.
Is the word out there on metal? Do homeowners fully understand the benefits or even try to? Slowly but surely, manufacturers are finding educated and eager customers. Manufacturers and installers alike need to track them down to grow the metal shingle market.
“Plain and simple, homeowners are growing tired of under-performing products,” says Allen of Kassel & Irons. “Maintenance issues and the fire concerns with wood have led to its dramatic decline. And architectural laminate composition shingles have been cannibalizing 3-tabs for quite some time but there’s not much sound data that proves they last any longer.”
Exciting the consumer
Every manufacturer of metal shingles is looking for the next “Big Thing” to get potential customers excited. Headquartered in California, Chiovare and Custom-Bilt keep up on the activity of the California Energy Commission, authors of the 2005 Title 24 Energy Code (April-May 2005). He follows any energy efficiency related news that may help sell metal roofing, including tax credits, like those offered by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET). He believes energy efficiency codes will be the next thing to push sales in metal roofing.
“I believe that if the demand from homeowners is there, contractors will then jump on board,” Chiovare says. “I tell contractors now is, in five years when metal roofing is a common term, it would be nice to explain to a homeowner they have been installing for years.”
The two biggest hurdles facing metal shingles, according to Barton, are product recognition and price. “The customers don’t know what it is,” he says. “We’ve taken a different approach, trying to reach the customer. If the customer knows he wants a Gerard product, we don’t have to sell it to them. That’s the constant challenge, getting the word out there to the customer. It’s hard to believe that it’s been around for as long as it has and still there are people that don’t know about it.”
Croft says the average homeowner is suffering from a passion deficiency when it comes to buying a new roof. “For the customer, roofing is a basic purchase, there’s not much emotion in it, despite what we like to think,” he says. “It’s not like buying a car, getting the wife all revved up about a sports car or whatever.”
Educating the installer
With a variety of options from a host of manufacturers, installers and their ability play into marketing for the manufacturer. The manufacturer is looking for experienced installers as well as new installers who devote time to learning proper installation techniques.
Croft of Metro believes there are “more than enough” metal shingle options on the market. “We’ve always got a little something up our sleeves, but our main focus has been on making the installation simpler,” he says. “That’s the wave of the future.”
Croft believes providing installers with proper training is the next logical step to getting more metal shingles on homes. He says Metro has developed products easier to install. In fact all of Metro’s profiles can be installed with or without battens. Croft estimates batten installations cost $30-$40 per square more, not including labor.
“It’s the nature of the beast,” Croft says. “It takes time for contractors to embrace new products and new techniques, but metal has come a long way. In the early 1980s, we were about the only metal roofing at the NRCA show (now the International Roofing Expo). Now metal has a strong presence at that show.”
Croft believes it’s time for the industry, possibly through an association, to unite on some front to train would-be installers. “It would benefit the whole industry,” he says. “For the stone-coated shingles, the installation is not that different. Training is the big issue.”
Miller agrees the biggest obstacle of metal shingle market growth is the limited number of installers. “And it’s not that the manufacturers aren’t willing to train, it’s that there aren’t enough warm bodies out there willing to do that kind of work, in all kinds of weather, and it can be dangerous,” he says. I think at some point, someone will come up with an installation program that holds installers accountable, possibly through certification. We need to raise the level of professionalism to hold the installer accountable.”
The lack of trained installers is definitely a factor limiting the growth of metal shingles, according to McNally at MetalWorks by TAMKO, even after the manufacturer educates the consumer. “We need to let homeowners know that with today’s metal shingles, when it rains, it’s not going to sound like they’re in a tin can,” he says. “And TAMKO has a complete array of resources available to contractors including installation videos, samples literature, AIA presentations, attractive sales aid portfolios, and specialists who will go into the field to train installers. We also have a toll-free number to reach our technical service department. Our website has lists of frequently asked questions as well as a large amount of technical information.”
Hudson says the list of profiles for homeowners, building owners, and installers should continue to grow. “There are not enough options out there,” he says. “In fact, we’ll have two or three new profiles in the next 12 months at Decra. We’ve kind of made it our mission to make it an easier product to install. One of the hindrances for those who wanted to use metal was that up until four or five years ago, it was a specialty product and you had to be a specialty installer.”
Decra and most metal roofing manufacturers offer a training CD for installers, an interactive presentation that covers company history and detail installation.
Custom-Bilt, Gerard, and MetalWorks by TAMKO are among the manufacturers who have come up with a new product during the last year. The Canyon Shake is easily the top-selling profile for Gerard Roofing, at least until the company’s new yet to be named barrel tile shingle is released. “It’s very similar to the Metro Roman profile,” Barton says. “I expect it to be neck and neck with Canyon Shake in sales. We’ve selected the colors and we’ve got about 10 pre-sold jobs already.”
Barton expects the new profile to be very popular anywhere “concrete tiles are crumbling.” Florida and California are the obvious targets; Barton expects to sell the barrel tile in the Denver area as well.
Kassel & Irons is not resting on its laurels either. “We think there’s some room for some more creativity with the painted metal shingles,” Allen says. “We’re working on our follow up to KasselWood and there’s some really awesome things you can do in the coating process to achieve a dynamite appearance. Stay tuned.”
Manufacturers say they are working hard at growing the metal shingle market, either by their support of associations, through training programs, or the development of new products. They’re also seeking the installer who wants to set himself apart from the competition, by dedicating himself to learning proper installation and sales techniques with a time-tested product like metal shingles.
Time will tell who those installers will be.