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Raising the roof

Finding bargains anytime soon on a new roof may be difficult

Sharon Theimer I Associated Press

It’s an expense homeowners must face eventually, however tight the household budget: roof replacement.

Those who find themselves needing new shingles this roofing season may be surprised to find prices rising, even though the home-renovation market has slowed and petroleum costs less than it did last summer.

The price of asphalt shingles, which cover the vast majority of houses in the United States, rose 57.5 percent from March 2008 to this past March, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Producer Price Index.

This year, it went up 3.8 percent from February to March alone.

Soaring petroleum prices last summer accounted for much of the rise in asphalt shingle costs then. Asphalt is derived from crude oil.

Last year’s high petroleum prices are having a lingering impact on asphalt shingle prices, said James Baker, spokesman for the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association.

“It takes time for things to readjust back down,” he said. In addition, hurricanes, hail and other roof-damaging weather can drive demand for shingles up rapidly.

There’s another factor at play here: Asphalt is most in demand for roadwork, and government attempts to revive the struggling economy include an infusion of money for roads.

The bottom line is that homeowners shouldn’t expect bargains on new roofs, even as home values and the overall demand for housing renovations have plummeted.

“We’re not foreseeing any big price increases” in coming months, said Bill Good, executive vice president of the National Roofing Contractors Assocation. “But we’re also not seeing any big price drops.”

That is true across all roofing product lines, not just asphalt shingles, Good said.

Material and labor costs can vary widely, regionally and contractor to contractor, he said. Though new-home construction is down dramatically, the roof replacement/repair market overall is fairly steady.

“What we’re seeing is homeowners deferring as long as they can on a buying decision, which is certainly understandable in the economic environment today,” Good said.

Bob Kersch, co-owner of Brothers Roofing Supply in New York City, said the reroofing business in his area is depressed.

“These guys are going to any lengths they can to get a job off the street,” Kersch said.

Roofers who used a specific brand of shingles all their lives are willing to use less expensive brands to try to cut costs, he said.

“I think there are a lot of people that are just not doing the work right now. Or they’ll come and buy some roofing cement and do a patch and hope they can put it off a few more months or until the end of the season, or maybe until they get a better price,” Kersch said.

Homeowners on the brink of foreclosure have little incentive to put money into their roofs, he noted.

There is one bit of good news for homeowners, depending on what kind of shingles they choose. The federal government is offering a tax credit of up to $1,500 through 2010 for certain energy-saving reflective asphalt shingles.

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