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For The Metal Roofing Industry To Reach Its Potential, Contractors Must Change


By Ray Smith, Managing Director, AppliCad USA

The Metal Roofing Association (MRA) recently released the results of its research into the use of metal in residential roofing and the changes during the past decade or so. They found that the percentage of residential properties specifying metal roofing has increased from 3% to 14% in that time. Spurred on by these results they have set an ambitious target of 20% market share by 2020.

The MRA has set an ambitious target of 20% U.S. market share for metal roofs by 2020.

I have some thoughts to share on this target, but first I will highlight some numbers to put my comments into some perspective. My company, AppliCad, has its corporate head office in Australia, and this is where and why we have developed considerable experience over 27 years servicing the market with estimating software. In Australia and New Zealand, metal comprises between 55% and 75% of all residential roofing depending on region, and over 90% of all commercial/industrial roofing. Between 75-80% of all roofing installed in Australia is estimated using my software, the Roof Wizard.

Beyond Australia, with our software installed in 148 countries, we have over the years gained a lot of experience about what metal roofing businesses need for installers, contactors, manufacturers and component suppliers. Most of our innovations for roofing and cladding estimating continue to be unique in the world.

So, a few days ago at METALCON in Las Vegas, I had a chat with a gentleman from the industry, and I was explaining how our software reduced waste on most residential roofs by as much as 12-15%. He expressed dismay that we would do such a thing – he needed to “sell more steel, not less!” Really!

Now here’s the thing, if we can’t make metal roofing competitive against other roofing options then we will never improve the market share. We sell more metal by making metal more competitive.  Surely, that is obvious.

A metal roof is not a like a shingle roof in estimation, production, or installation

Another issue I have observed, especially in North America, is the lack of investment in training.

If the industry wants to sell more metal roofs, then we need to train the staff to estimate correctly and accurately. A metal roof is not like a shingle roof. If you’re a bundle or two short of shingles, you just whip down to the nearest hardware store and buy another couple of bundles and finish off the job. If you have ordered too many, the supplier will take them back and give you a credit. Estimating is called estimating because it is an estimate!

Estimating does not cut it for metal roofing. If you screw up a metal roof take-off, then you are in a very bad place. If your panels are too short, then that is a catastrophe – you can’t stretch metal panels. If the panels are all too long, then you waste time with extra cuts and you have increased the waste (material that you have paid for that ends up in the trash) and reduced your profit margin. It also means that your job was over-priced, even if you convinced the customer to pay for it.

I don’t like “estimating” roofing, any roofing, but especially metal roofing. I want my customers to know exactly how much material they need, get that quantity correctly supplied and then do a proper job of installing it – and that starts with an accurate take-off – materials only if you’re a manufacturer or distributor, or materials and labor if you’re a contractor – and I want every clip, screw and tube of goop included automatically with the cost to install it all.

Educating the industry is key

Now, the biggest challenge for the MRA and others, if they are to meet their target of 20% by 2020, is to educate roofers with 40 years’ experience installing shingles, how to accurately “estimate” metal roofing and trim. “Estimating” based on dollars per square for panels and dollars per foot for trim is simply not going to cut it.

In my opinion, metal roofing and cladding will never be a viable competitive option if pricing jobs is an “estimate”.   An accurate “estimate” is not only necessary, it is essential if we are to meet the aspirations of the MRA.

The right tools for the metal roofing industry

"...metal roofing and cladding will never be a viable competitive option if pricing jobs as an 'estimate'."

To achieve this they need to use the tools that allow them to get an accurate cut list for panels AND trim, quantities calculated based on accurate roof measurement geometry, priced according to how it is fabricated and how it is installed. I then want them to have the documentation for accurate fabrication and then I want documentation for precise installation, optimising for the panel layout for reduced waste wherever possible. I also want to send the cutting list directly to my roll forming machines so that there is no chance of a data input error.

After the dust has settled on this part of the process, I then want seamless integration with my business management tools.

Computer software exists to do this – The Roof Wizard is tried and tested in one of the most competitive markets in the world during 27 years of continuous development. Software specifically developed for your industry, providing tools for residential and commercial roofing and cladding and all manner of cladding materials for roof and walls in one integrated program. The program is supported by a comprehensive online training program so that the users learn how to get the most from it.

I reiterate that the training program is not an option. Metal roofing is complex enough with the 100’s of variations and permutations of substrates, profiles, assemblies, finishes and fixings. To get the most from a software program designed for metal roofing requires the local office guru to define how panels and assemblies go together, and then apply costs to each component and then you’re ready to go. The user doesn’t need to worry about the individual item price or variation as that is accounted for by the automatic assembly function of the software.

Twenty percent 2020 is achievable and a realistic target, but everyone must go in with their eyes wide open and understand that the commitment to learning how to do the best possible job can only be met with the right software tools and a total commitment to correct implementation for the business.

About AppliCad

AppliCad USA Inc. is a specialty CAD applications software development company focused on the needs of the roofing, cladding and solar industries. To learn more,visit

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