Raising the Roof

It would be easy to get depressed with the current state of the building industry, with most segments considering themselves lucky to be looking at stagnant growth. But roofing manufacturers are at least one group who are remaining optimistic, and even seeing growth in certain areas of their business. To be sure, most of the roofing category has flattened out recently, but certain product segments are remaining strong and manufacturers are continuing to roll out new and innovative products to meet steady demand — and even increasing demand in some segments.

Many consumers, especially those in the reroofing markets as opposed to new construction, are looking for more value per dollar — even if that means a few extra dollars upfront. “Generally speaking in terms of the entire roofing market, demand for high-end products has slowed some, but it is still growing,” says Ray Rosewall, president and CEO of DaVinci Roofscapes, manufacturers of synthetic slate and shake roofing. “We seem to be doing particularly well in the replacement roof category.”

As homeowners are looking to stretch their dollars, they are becoming more and more astute when it comes to building material choices. They’re still willing to pay a little more initially for features that will not only satisfy their sense of aesthetics but also provide peace of mind with durability, energy savings and less impact on the environment. “Demand for all roofing has softened recently, but green as a roofing product segment is really hot,” says Charlie Taft, national sales manager for EcoStar, manufacturer of emulated slate, shake and tile roofing. “We still see robust opportunities for many high-end products as people are looking at life cycle costs, longer warranties and energy savings more than ever.”

Roofing’s green is gold

Most roofing manufacturers are keen to the growing demand for products that can honestly be called green. Paul Batt, director of product marketing for CertainTeed, says that an ever-increasing interest in sustainability is a big factor, though not the only one. “Certainly we see a lot of consumers choose from the green category because they are interested in helping the environment first and foremost. But they still want to add value to their homes and cut down on energy bills at the same time. Also, past and current incentive programs through the government and local utilities are another driving factor.”

CertainTeed recently introduced their Landmark Solaris solar reflective roofing shingle. The shingles’ granules reflect solar energy and radiate heat far better than a traditional asphalt roofing shingle to help reduce a building’s energy costs. While in the past cool roofs have often been limited to a whitish color, Landmark Solaris is available in five different rich brown and dark gray hues. They feature a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects and withstand winds up to 130 mph when installed as part of a CertainTeed roof system. The line meets all cool roof and Energy Star requirements.

“Historically, roofing has been seen just as the exterior layer of shingles,” says Molly Kwiatkowski, director of roofing and asphalt with Owens Corning. “But consumers are now aware that roofing plays a huge part in the overall energy efficiency of a home.” She says the successful contractors are the ones who help their customers increase their building’s energy efficiency through proper ventilation and a well-insulated attic to maximize a roof’s performance and longevity.

In addition to Owens Corning’s Roofing Essentials line of accessories such as ridge vents and underlayments, the company has introduced their own cool roof shingles to ease the energy burden of a home. Duration Premium cool roof shingles also come in a vibrant color range, including sage, sunrise, harbor fog and frosted oak. These also meet all cool roof and Energy Star requirements, and the company claims that they can lower roof temperatures by up to 10 degrees in warm weather.

Those in the synthetic and emulated slate, shake and tile product categories are also focusing on cool roofing. DaVinci Roofscape’s EcoBlend line has been rated by the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC) to reflect heat and sunlight away from the home. This can result in anywhere from a 7 to 15 percent reduction in total cooling costs. Right now, the cool roof products are available in weathered grey and castle grey and will meet final Energy Star requirements after a three-year weathering/testing period.

“We plan on introducing even more as demand continues to grow,” says Rosewall. “We’re concentrating on more cool colors and additional profiles.”

Charlie Taft says EcoStar is also concentrating on churning out cool roof products. “We’re currently in the testing phase for the CRRC and Energy Star certifications, and plan a rollout for early next year,” says Taft.

Joe Chiovare, vice president of Custom-Bilt Metals, sees the popularity of green roofing choices as somewhat independent of the current economy. “People are actively learning more about it, especially on the West Coast. One thing that has always helped our sales is that all our roofing is 100 percent recyclable. A lot of people are trying to help the environment.”

That sentiment carries across roofing material choices, as Charlie Taft of EcoStar agrees. “Our biggest selling point is and always has been that all our products carry a lot of recycled content.”

Solar starting to flare up

Photovoltaic roofing has seen steady, if not huge, growth in the commercial sector, and that has carried over into the residential sector as well. Paul Batt says CertainTeed has a couple of irons in the PV fire, and they will be introducing new roofing products that not only save residents energy, but will help them generate some. “The federal government, as well as the state and local utilities, is providing some great incentives that are pushing more consumers toward these technologies,” says Batt. “And economies of scale have really started to make these products more accessible and cost-effective.”

Chiovare of Custom-Bilt Metals is excited about his company’s new product that he says is a more affordable rooftop solar power generation system integrated within a standing seam metal roof. Fusion Solar is a building-integrated photovoltaic product (BIPV) consisting of a thin-film PV laminate bonded to all or just a portion of their metal roof. The bond has been tested to withstand 160-mph winds and is flexible enough to be used on curved surfaces.

“One of the best features of this product is that any electrician can hook it up; there’s no need for a solar specialist,” says Chiovare. The panels connect to each other at the ridge line, and the wires are routed under that so there are no roof penetrations. With certain colors, the PV film is virtually invisible. Customers considering Fusion Solar roofing can request a free ROI report from the company customized to their specific building and environment.

Chiovare says customers usually see total payback in 10 years or less. The product carries a 20-year warranty. “That’s where we as a company will be focusing on expanding — the green category in general and the BIPV category specifically,” says Chiovare.

Looking forward

Rosewall credits the West Coast with spurring the initial interest for cool roofing and PV products, but he says now the trend is definitely nationwide. “I don’t see anything revolutionary in the near future of roofing,” he says. “Green will continue to be the growth leader and we will continue focusing on cool roofing and improving the sustainability of our manufacturing process and products.”

Paul Batt agrees, saying that when the economy starts to turn around the roofing industry will see the trend toward high-end products, with green leading the way. “That’s when you’ll really see both energy-saving and energy-producing roofing products really take off.”

It’s obvious that green has asserted itself as a major factor as consumers ponder roofing choices. But that doesn’t mean traditional factors have gone away because performance and aesthetics still weigh in heavily. Manufacturers recognize that building owners are now value engineering to get the most bang for their bucks while also trying to maximize their building’s appeal. Interest in roofing texture, color and shape will grow along with concerns about sustainability and energy efficiency.

“Homeowners want to make wise investments, and expect major purchases like a new roof to deliver as much as possible,” says Owens Corning’s Kwiatkowski.

Use the E-Inquiry for more information on the following suppliers:

  • CertainTeed #39
  • Custom-Bilt Metals #40
  • DaVinci Roofscapes #41
  • DECRA #42
  • EcoStar #43
  • Follansbee #44
  • GAF #45
  • InSpire Roofing #47
  • Met-Tile #48
  • Owens Corning #49
  • Tamko #50