Roof Tile Manufacturers Strive to Meet Florida's Demand

Many roof tile manufacturing plants in and around Florida are in overdrive. Florida's roofing contractors are busier than they have ever been. Yet because of a convergence of economic factors, including exceptionally high demand for new home building permits, thousands of residents still await new roofs following last year's devastating hurricane season.

The Tile Roofing Institute (TRI), the leading resource and proponent of concrete and clay tile roof systems, is working along with the Portland Cement Association (PCA) and the Florida Roofing, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (FRSA) to educate roofing contractors, building officials and local communities about supply conditions.

"The tile roofing industry regrets the extended lead time required to satisfy the needs of Florida's homeowners and contractors who are waiting for their roof tiles, and we're doing everything possible to increase manufacturing capacity," says Charles McGrath, managing director for TRI. "We are facing the same shortages as other building material companies, like those dealing in cement and plywood. The problem exists nationally, although Florida is one of the most highly affected states."

Exceptionally high demand, fueled by a sustained residential construction boom, is the largest contributor to building material shortages. Over the last year, this has led to an approximate 17.5 percent price increase for steel and a 10.5 percent increase for concrete, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

"Concrete roof tile lead times, prior to the hurricanes, were already creeping up to about 12 weeks," says Steve Munnell, FRSA executive director. "Then the hurricanes arrived and 400,000 homes need new roofs or roof repair, and many of them require roof tiles."

In addition to high demand, concrete roof tile supply is also affected by the shortages facing the cement industry, the key ingredient of concrete. According to the PCA, cement shortages are widespread, but are more heavily affecting Florida and other states with heavy construction activity, such as California, Texas and Arizona.

"U.S. cement companies cannot meet the strong demand on their own," says Ryan Puckett, PCA spokesperson. "Nationwide, imports account for 25 percent of cement consumption, and Florida in particular, relies more heavily on imports."

The challenge in securing cement imports is due to the limited availability of barges and shipping lines to transport cement to the United States. Many of the existing ships are headed to China to feed their industrial boom, and as fuel costs rise, so does the cost of securing transport. In addition to a shortage of tiles, roof tile installation delays in Florida have been exacerbated by a shortage of roofing contractors.

"Our contractors have projects stacked up since the hurricanes," explains Munnell. "On top of rebuilding efforts, new housing construction continues to increase."

Following the hurricanes, Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed an executive order allowing out-of-state roofing contractors to operate in the state, in order to help with re-roofing efforts. However, out-of-state contractors are not allowed to install tile-roofing systems because of the state-specific installation codes and trade practices. Randy Cole, a Punta Gorda building official, estimates that his community, which consists mainly of tile roofs, still has 500 to 1,000 homes in need of tile. Although there is no quick fix, roof tile manufacturers are doing everything they can to fulfill orders in Florida, including increasing production at their southern plants.

"The entire roof tile industry is working together proactively in order to meet customer demand for a superior roof system," says McGrath. "And TRI and FRSA continue to meet regularly to review issues pertaining to roof tile availability and installation." For more information about the TRI, PCA or FRSA, please visit www.tileroofing.org, www.cement.org or www.floridaroof.com.

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