Hurricane Ian’s path of destruction created years of work for those in the roofing industry; six months after the storm, its lingering effects continue plaguing homeowners and contractors alike as many professionals navigate ongoing post-Ian supply shortages.
There are certainly some differences between commercial and residential roofing contractors and the issues they’re facing. Residential roofing contractors report anywhere from two to five years’ worth of work helping homeowners remediate and rebuild following Ian’s destruction.
On the commercial side, supply chain disruptions have ostensibly eased for some contractors, but repair and rebuilding costs remain staggering.
No specific numbers have been released solely on property damage from Ian; however Scientific American pegged rebuilding costs ranging from $8 billion to $18 billion. CoreLogic, the Irvine, Calif.-based financial services firm, marked that figure between $20 billion and $32 billion.
“I've never seen that much devastation near the water where things were just gone,” said Dan Carll, president of AAA Roofing in Boca Raton, Fla. “It was probably the worst I’ve seen.”
Residential roofing contractors are reporting mixed reviews on supply chain issues, with some saying nearly every roofing material is returning to normal levels while others say the crisis is far from over. Regardless of their differing experiences, they all agree that roof tile is nearly impossible to obtain.
Between the sheer volume of demand and unreliable availability of tile products, contractors now say lead time for concrete or ceramic product delivery has become as long as 30 or 40 weeks. That’s a far cry from the average 12-week delivery, pre-Ian, or in Carll’s case, a speedy two-week delivery.
“They're so far behind. I mean, the tile that I need for the job that I'm doing right now, it’s not coming until May,” Carll said, referring to a project from January.
In the wake of this material shortage, a different roofing system has emerged. Metal roofs have quickly become the go-to system residential contractors present to homeowners. Carll said he talked multiple homeowners into metal roofing simply because it’s available, albeit at a greater expense.
“I have one guy that his tile was supposed to be here in February and now they've pushed it to April. And he just switched. He goes, ‘Cancel it – put the metal on like you told me to.’”
Tammy Chase, president of Chase Roofing and president of the Roofing Contractors Association of South Florida, has heard similar stories from association members. She said not only are metal roofing materials more readily available, but metal roofs have also held up better against Ian’s near-Category 5 winds.
Even with alternative roof systems available, Chase says supply issues still have room for improvement, adding that RCASF contractors have banded together, loaning materials to one another to make ends meet.
“I feel like everyone [is] being really collaborative and supportive to get things done and create some solutions,” she said. “The manufacturers are trying to get involved, the supply houses are trying to support that us because they know that everything changes so much.”
Though not unique to Hurricane Ian, out-of-state contractors have flooded the market post-natural disaster, exacerbating the situation. Chase said many out-of-towners need to familiarize themselves with Florida’s stringent building codes. Another peril of carpetbagger contractors: when they finish a job, they’re more likely to vanish should issues subsequently arise.
“It hasn't been long enough for this stage to happen, but in the previous years we [have] run into homeowners that just got taken advantage of,” Chase said. “Then you’re there cleaning up that mess. You feel horrible. Somebody has put their money into it and they’re not getting stuff back from it.”
Commercial Supply Chain Remains Mixed
Ken Kelly, principal of Kelly Roofing in Naples, Fla., whose commercial clientele he says makes up around 40% of his business, told a heartening story of his commercial clients on Sanibel Island, which sustained a tremendous amount of damage.
"We knew [Ian] was serious," Kelly said of reports before Ian made landfall. "But yet, when the hurricane hit say, Sanibel Island, where we have a number of [commercial] buildings we installed, roof-wise … we didn't have any failures."
Kelly added that the sturdiness of commercial roofing as a class is due mainly to the continued updating of Florida's building codes, accommodating lessons previously learned and new technologies adopted. In 2001, the state instituted more exacting building and material requirements industry-wide. Kelly spoke of updates in 2004 and 2007, as more severe storms and extended storm seasons became the new normal.
Kelly recalled some early skepticism in 2001 while happily acknowledging any concerns quickly evaporated.
"Whatever my personal feelings were before about potential undue harm … by escalating the cost of a building have absolutely been overshadowed by watching the amazing performance of these buildings after being hit by these unbelievable catastrophic, major hurricanes,” he said.
Cautious Optimism with Uncertain Outlook
Estimates are around 95% of storm debris has since been removed, according to state officials. Roofing contractors on both coasts anticipate steady remediation and restoration work, but much rests on factors outside their control: insurance payouts, workforce stability — and the elephant in the room — supply chain access.
“We expect continued difficulty in securing certain materials because of the supply-chain disruption,” said Mike Jost, chief operating officer for ABC Supply. “With predictions of a possible recession on the horizon, we wouldn’t be surprised to see fewer new building projects kicking off. However, there are a lot of projects that began in 2022 that still need to be finished — plus rebuilds needed after this year’s hurricane season — so we don’t expect to see too steep of a decline.”
Stephen Shanton, president of Stuart, Fla.-based Venture Construction Group, says competition for tile has become so fierce — with manufacturing reps telling him commercial-grade concrete tile is at a 30-week backlog — he's sought alternative methods for procurement.
Because of Florida's building codes, all construction materials must conform to the state's requirements to receive a regulatory Notice of Acceptance. Shanton says he found a foreign manufacturer who can deliver the tile he needs significantly sooner than his domestic suppliers.
"Just this week, we were having meetings with a manufacturer out of South Africa about concrete tiles they have," Shanton said, adding the tiles meet the state's statutory requirements with a Notice of Acceptance issued. "We're in the process of working with them to actually be able to get the tiles from South Africa faster than we can get concrete tiles within the U.S.; no kidding."
Of course, many commercial buildings also use flat and metal roof systems, where supplies are seemingly more consistent and appropriately priced, according to Clint Sockman, vice president of Advanced Roofing, which has a significant footprint statewide.
"I think, generally speaking, we're in a much better place than we were two years ago," Sockman said. "I would say the largest [disruptions] have smoothed themselves out, and our lead times maybe a little bit longer than we are used to. In our pre-COVID world, where roofing materials were on demand and we could place an order for 100,000 square feet of insulation, and get it in a couple of weeks, now maybe that's now eight weeks or 12 weeks out."