Last year was a solid year in terms of volume, but Bob Delaney, Chief Operating Officer for Firestone Building Products, predicted there would be numerous obstacles to overcome in 2009. “Last year proved to be quite a ride for many people in the roofing industry,” Delaney said. “Overall, it was a solid year in terms of volume, while price and cost movements were very dynamic. Everyone felt the pinch from the unprecedented cost increases, which - in Firestone’s case - was tempered by cost control at our many manufacturing facilities.”
Delaney wants to stay positive for 2009, but he foresees some problems. “The current economic conditions will create a number of challenges for the roofing industry, primarily the softening of the nonresidential construction market,” Delaney said. “Although we are starting to see a decline in fuel costs and surcharges, raw material costs continue to remain very high.”
Delaney envisions contractors would most likely be hit with lower project volumes, and in that case they should focus on collecting receivables, reroofing projects and maintenance in 2009.
“It will be important for them to maintain strong relationships with financially solid manufacturers and distributors who have the strength to weather an economic downturn,” Delaney said. “One important lesson that we have all learned in the current economic environment is that predicting the market, even weeks from now, is extremely difficult. Therefore, it is important for those in the industry to stay flexible and be able to adjust and adapt to any unforeseen changes quickly.”
The silver lining for the roofing industry in 2009 might be single-ply roofing, Delaney said.
“Single-ply roofing continues to have strong growth in the market, along with the use of thicker ISO insulation boards,” he said. “We’ve seen growth in metal system usage because building owners are looking for systems with complete warranty coverage. The green roofing market also continues to see steady growth as well.”
Other segments of the market saw declines. “Asphalt roofing has taken a hit because of numerous reasons: rising material costs, greater demand for eco-friendly products, and insurance/safety issues,” Delaney said. “PVC is another product that has continued to lose share to TPO in the thermoplastic market due, in part, to environmental issues.”
Safety and insurance are key concerns no matter what type of market you’re in, noted Delaney. “Worker safety will be a very big focus in 2009,” he noted. “Firestone offers affordable nationwide general liability and workers’ compensation insurance to its Inner Circle of Quality Award winners, backed by the financial stability of Firestone and its parent organization Bridgestone Firestone Diversified Products, LLC.”