The quarterly study was conducted between 8th and 21st December 2020 and analysed activity from October to December of that year.
The answers from the 141 roofing contractors that responded were weighted to reflect the size of the individual firms and the structure of the roofing sector.
When asked to rank their top three concerns for 2021, 48% of participants put material shortages at the top of the list.
Roof tiles were the most common material reported to be lacking by roofing contractors, with almost half of firms struggling to get hold of them (49%).
They also listed timber and battens (17%), slates (14%) and insulation (5%) as other materials in shortage.
Deficiencies are said to be having a knock-on impact on material prices, with 76% of firms reporting inflation pressures in the last year, and 65% of roofers claiming that prices have increased on the previous quarter.
Labour shortages was the second-highest area of concern highlighted for 2021.
Despite this, contractors experienced a positive end to 2020, with 41% seeing an increase in their workloads in Q4, compared to the previous quarter.
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The UK-wide survey also found:
- workloads were up in all roofing sectors in Q4 of 2020, with domestic repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI) performing the strongest, followed by commercial RMI and public non-residential RMI
- all nations and regions of the UK, apart from Northern Ireland, experienced higher workloads than the previous quarter; Scotland performed best, with 80% of Scottish roofing contractors reporting higher activity levels
- employment levels increased compared to the previous quarter, with a net balance of 12% of firms announcing a higher staff count than in Q3. However, it still down 3% on the previous year
- some 45% of firms reported that recruitment was becoming more difficult
- roofing businesses are optimistic for the year ahead, with more firms expecting workloads to grow in 2021 rather than reduce.
Commenting on the survey results, James Talman, chief executive at NFRC, claimed: “The last year has seen manufacturing plants temporarily shut down, whole shifts of workers having to self-isolate, disruptions at ports, and enhanced international competition for many products such as timber — it is, therefore, no wonder that the top concern for roofing contractors this year is material shortages.
“Despite these challenges, the industry ended the year on an optimistic note, with healthy order books and a good number of future enquiries across all parts of the industry.”
Allan Wilen, economics director at Glenigan, added: “Roofing contractors reported a strong growth in workload driven by an increase in RMI work — in particular, domestic.
“Industry expectations and an increase in new enquiries point to a further, broad-based rise in workload during 2021.”