Typically, December-March is the off-season for roofers. I time to rest, train and prepare for the next roofing season. This year that was not the case.
On Jan. 13 Spokane and the greater Inland Northwest got hit by a massive windstorm. Thousands were left without power, two people were killed and many trees fell due to the up to 70 mph winds.
“It really increased business,” said Rebecca Aldana Rojas, co-owner at Stay Dry Solutions. “All these people probably wouldn’t have even thought about replacing or repairing their roof this year and then all the sudden the wind storm comes through and is exposing all these issues with their roof that is effecting their home and then the volume of phone calls massively increased. I would say it probably increased by times four each day.”
And business has increased. According to Russ Zhuk, permit tech II in the development services center at the City of Spokane, said 2019 the city of Spokane had about 93 RFSW (roofing, siding, and/or window permits) permits with the word “roof” in the title filed and in 2020 there were about 167. This year, 2021, there have been about 288 RFSW permits with “roof” in the title filed.
Zhuk did say that this number does not include roofs on a building permit, this means if someone applied for adding a deck or a remodel it could also have a roof on it.
This means there have been three times more roof permits this year than in 2019 and about two time more than 2020.
“We had probably about 200 calls that we got for the three-week period after the storm and we’re still getting calls through,” said Alex Zhelez, the general manager at Avidus Roofing. “It kind of reminds me of the 2015 storm that came through the Spokane area and took out I don’t know how many trees but I know it was in the thousands. I know some of the jobs are still coming through from 2015 due to the people not noticing the damage.”
There has been a big backlog in roof repairs and replacements. Both Rojas and Zhelez said they are booked out for the forseeable future.
“Our appointment line got booked up,” Zhelez said. “We’re running probably 90 appointments a month per estimator. They are full time, booked out and on it. We’re pretty busy as far as that goes. We can’t respond to all of the calls so we say ‘Hey, if there is another company out there you are more than welcome to call them and ask,’ because like I said our appointments are booked for the next three to four weeks out.”
Rojas said her company has probably given out 100 more estimates than they normally would at this time of year.
“One of the main challenges we’ve faced is we are such a small company and just trying to keep up with the volume and keep our customer service level great with a smaller team,” Rojas said. “The biggest way that we’ve overcome that is by doing teamwork. As an owner just being really
hands on with my team and my partner, who is also really hands on out in the field, so we can make sure people get great customer service even though there are so many customers.”
The windstorm added delay onto an already delayed timeline for getting a roof replacement or repair. Raw material has been backlogged due to COVID-19 which creates a delay for the roofers in their timeline to complete a roof.
“The biggest challenge for the roofing industry, at least in the Northwest, is material,” Zhelez said. “We have so many jobs that are on the schedule waiting to go and the suppliers are about 11 to 12 weeks out. We can’t get the material in time and it’s kind of a domino effect from last year because we are in the middle of covid. The suppliers had lockdowns and the material got used up and the stock got very small.”
He said that if someone were to call right now an estimator would be about three to four weeks booked out, but if it was an emergency, they would prioritize that and try to get it on the schedule quickly.
“If it’s an insurance job and there is a significant amount of wind damage, we try to prioritize those or at least make sure there is not exposed sheeting or decking.” Zhelez said. “If we run into that problem where someone calls saying they have exposed plywood or sheeting then we send out our emergency team for them to at least do the temporary covering before the estimator can go out there and go through the process.”
Rojas explained that when an estimator goes out to inspect a roof the customer thinks they want a repair when in reality what they need is a full replacement. She said the company makes sure to provide evidence as to why a replacement is warranted, especially after a big storm like what happened in January.
Both Rojas and Zhelez expressed the importance of these inspections and how vital it is to keep roofs in good shape.
“When the shingles fly off, it’s like the check engine light turning on,” Zhelez said. “It indicates that the life of the roof and shingles were compromised. Going in there and slapping a couple shingles on is only a temporary patch before the next wind comes in.”
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