Andy Williamson, Group Managing Director IKO Plc is BMBI’s Expert for Roofing Products.
The final quarter of 2016 was in line with the rest of the year for roofing – inconsistent, but up on the same period in 2015. The industry went into 2016 with high expectations, but due to unprecedented events such as Brexit, the US presidency, a fluctuating exchange rate, and the ensuing complications and consequences a number of projects were delayed in 2016, although RMI was largely unaffected. In roofing, the single ply market saw a cyclical swing to hot melt after years of strong growth.
The NHBC recently commented that house building has remained resilient, with some good regional growth outside London. The RICS Q4 2016 Construction Market Survey saw expectations for workloads regain lost ground following Brexit, after a noticeable dip around the time of the referendum. Both are indications of a good 2017 for roofing. The storms and frosts we normally get in January and February mean there’s usually lots of shed work to repair the damage done, so Q1 2017 should be up on Q4 2016.
There are still plenty of challenges, however. The RICS report also mentioned that skills shortages continue to be a key impediment to construction growth and with Article 50 to be triggered this year, this will become even more of an issue as EU workers facing an uncertain future are more likely to leave the UK.
Oil prices continue to rise – Shell Chief Executive Ben van Beurden expects the point of peak global oil demand “sometime in the 2030s” – so we have a long way to go. We’re also likely to see raw material rises and possibly raw material shortages in some areas of roofing, which will affect prices, and therefore work.
One key issue for roofing is using torch-on products. We have seen too many fires caused by using a torch flame on a combustible substrate for example, without fixing a non-combustible layer first. This is a fire risk no matter how capable the roofer. Training can only help – but using the right products with the right applicants is even more important.
This year will bring its own challenges, and no doubt surprise us, but overall roofing should hold up well.