Making Money with Metal

As the construction industry continues to struggle, the home improvement market is battling for each market share point. Even with a tough economy, McGraw-Hill Construction Research and Analytics data show the number of home remodeling projects utilizing metal roofs has more than tripled during the past decade, increasing metal’s overall U.S. market share from 3 percent to approximately 10 percent.

Advances in coating technology and metal forming have created a residential market for metal. Many products feature longer lasting coatings that help save energy, allowing homeowners to reduce their heating and cooling costs.

Professional remodelers who are already set up for marketing and selling to homeowners have an opportunity to add a unique, high-margin product line that consumers want and need; every home needs a sturdy roof to protect everyone and everything in the house.

In addition to basic construction and safety equipment, metal roof installation requires a few job-specific tools, such as a metal folding tool, metal shears, metal cutting equipment such as nibblers, and variable-speed power-driven screwguns with a depth setting nosepiece.

Documented Growth

A recent analysis by the Belfair, Wash.-based Metal Roofing Alliance of the McGraw-Hill data of market share figures shows metal is a consistent bright spot in the retrofit roofing market. In fact, residential metal has performed better than all other materials tracked by the study.

Between 2003 and 2009, the total residential roofing share in squares for all materials except metal was down more than 21 percent. During that same time, the total metal residential roofing market saw a 14.6 percent increase in squares.

Product Overview

Most residential metal roofing products are made of steel or aluminum. Copper, zinc and titanium are also used in special architectural or historic restoration projects. All steel roofing has a protective barrier on both sides of the sheet, a metallic coating that protects against rust. The MRA and Glenview, Ill.-based Metal Construction Association Guidelines for Residential Metal Roofing specify a minimum G-90 coating be used for residential metal roofs. For galvalume products used on homes, the MRA and MCA guidelines specify a minimum metallic coating of AZ-50 for painted and AZ-55 for bare products.

Residential metal roof systems are available in a wide variety of designs, textures and styles to complement any type of architecture. For example, metal roofing is available in traditional vertical-seam profiles or it can be manufactured to resemble wood shakes, slate shingles, or clay tiles. Myriad finishes add even more variety to the product lineup. In addition to a rainbow of color choices, metal panels can be treated with a granular coating or a clear top coat, providing a natural metal finish.

Durability

Resistant to cracking, shrinking and eroding, metal is a maintenance-free roofing material.. Properly installed metal roof systems can withstand extreme weather conditions including heavy snow loads, hail storms and wildfires. With the added benefit of long-term manufacturer warranties, consumers can easily understand and recognize the convenience of a “one and done” roof – metal roofs can last 50 years or longer – making the sales process easier for home improvement contractors.

Eco-friendly

Perhaps the biggest marketplace factor that's driving metal roofing sales is the sustainable or green building sector. Many consumers are shocked to learn their traditional asphalt shingle roof is a petroleum product, prompting the switch to alternative products.

Not only are asphalt shingles adding to dependency on fossil fuels, they need to be replaced every 15 to 20 years, and there is no good way to dispose of them – landfills are full of asphalt shingles. “According to the EPA, approximately 11 million tons of asphalt shingle waste is generated and disposed of in the United States each year,” states Bill Hippard, MRA's president. “California alone generates 1.5 million tons of shingle waste each year.”

By contrast, steel is North America’s number one recycled material. An old car, dishwasher or refrigerator can be recycled to re-roof a home, making metal a sustainable choice. All steel roofs contain a minimum of 25 percent recycled content, and many have a much higher percentage. Metal roofs can often be installed over an existing roof, omitting the need for tear-off and disposal of the old roof, typically asphalt shingles. And, at the end of its useful life, metal roofing is 100 percent recyclable.

Homeowners are also seeking energy-saving building materials for renovations and new homes. They are choosing products that not only secure and improve structures but also provide long-term cost-cutting on energy bills while promoting environmental and economic sustainability in the greater community. Many residential metal roofs now utilize reflective pigment technology, which results in overall home energy efficiency and lower utility costs.

Homeowner Perceptions

Like many homeowners, Barb and Tom Bruns of Wisconsin were dreading having to replace their roof. However, by working with an MRA contractor, Metal Roofing Systems, Madison, Wis., the Bruns found the process quick and painless and are raving about the results.

“We love our new metal roof. It turned out more beautiful than we had ever imagined!” exclaims Barb Bruns. “I must say it’s one of the best home improvements we have made to our 21-year-old home. Our house now has a real wow factor that's even visible from down the street.”

Comments like those made by the Bruns make Metal Roofing Systems' owner, Jack Gugger, proud of his team and the product line he sells. (His company has been an MRA contractor member since 2006.) After working as a general home improvement contractor for many years, Gugger changed his business model to take advantage of the growth opportunities in the metal roofing industry.

“The kitchen and bath business was very complex and time-intensive as it involved multiple choices for each project,” Gugger says. “The competitive landscape is also very cluttered in the home improvement market. Now that my company focuses on metal roofs, my overhead is lower, and I offer a unique product that is frankly simpler to sell. All homes need a roof, while not everybody needs an addition or an updated kitchen.”

Like Gugger, roofing contractors across North America are seeing the evidence of metal’s popularity. The demand for metal roofing has never been greater, and savvy contractors are adding crews to keep up with the increased interest in metal.

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