Someone said something to me the other day that caused me to pause: "You guys have priced yourselves out of the market!” He was commenting on some prices he had received for a new metal roof and we were comparing the numbers he was receiving. It made me wonder if there was something we (and I’m speaking now as if I represent the entire metal roofing industry) were doing that was reducing our competitiveness in the marketplace. I was curious enough to review projects that I had been involved in from 20 and 30 years ago to see if I could understand my friend’s comments. Here's what I found about metal roof prices in Reno, Nevada — then and now.
Metal Roofing Prices in 1998
In 1998 (already 23 years ago — my, does time fly!), there were a lot of metal roofs being used to replace wood shakes in Reno. It wasn’t unusual at the time to supply a complete material package for an entire house and attached garage for $10 to $15,000. Back then, the labor to install that same job by a good roof contractor was approximately half that, so most homeowners of a “typical” ranch-style home in or around a place like Reno might have spent somewhere around $20,000 for a new metal roof. Today, that same job costs double that number! What happened?
Metal Roofing Prices in 2021
Most metal roofs haven’t changed that much since those days — maybe increased by 30 to 40 percent. That seems likely to jump up again as governments all over the world interfere with the metals markets and shipping and transportation costs skyrocket, but that’s a different angle to this story entirely. Let’s just say that instead of $15,000, an equivalent metal roof material package might today cost $20,000. It's definitely an increase, but nowhere near as big a difference as was causing my friend to complain.
The Price Tag Increase
What has changed even more is the labor cost, and that has tripled here and in many other markets. The scarcity of competent roofing labor has resulted in roofers fighting for tradesmen. The way you fight is to offer more money! On top of that, work rules, insurance, increasing regulations and general overhead expenses have all risen in concert. Permit fees are many times what they were back then. Combine all these pressure on roof contractors, and they have no choice but to raise their prices — and they have. It used to be that the material cost more than the labor. Now it’s the opposite!
It’s not all bad news, however. Those $20,000 metal roof installations in 1998 are still performing today and have decades of life in them yet, while the cheaper alternatives of the time are now approaching the end of their service life. And considering they have tripled in price, too, they aren’t looking so cheap anymore. What's more, that house that you could buy for $250,000 in 1998 (the one that cost the owner $20,000 to replace their wood shakes with metal) is now $700,000 or more. If you take the big-picture view, while it’s true that metal roofing has risen in price dramatically in the last 20+ years, so has the price of even the cheapest roofs. From the cheapest to the most expensive roofing options available, none of kept up with the price of residential homes. So if you’re shaking your head at the price of roofing, maybe that context will provide some rationalization.
One thing is true — it's a great time to be a do-it-yourselfer!