The Number of Roofers in the UK
An increase of 70 per cent in the number of new roofing businesses last year has led to a large rise in roofing contractors.
According to the figures from Companies House, around 2,300 new roofing industry firms launched in 2022. The number of roofing businesses starting up the previous year was just 1,341 in comparison. It begs the question of how many roofers in the UK there are today.
In terms of age, the new start businesses also show an increase in the number of 18-25-year-olds who are starting up in the trade, as well as more people in the 50-plus age group. The latter launched 406 roofing businesses last year, while the number of young directors was 223.
Number Roofing Companies
Fast-forward to today and the number of companies currently working in the UK roofing industry totals around 10,822. These firms provide roofing for both the commercial and residential sectors, mainly on the construction side, but also provide maintenance and repair services.
The pandemic resulted in a slowdown in construction activity. This was exacerbated by problems with the supply of materials and generally unstable economic conditions overall. Brexit played it is part too, in terms of a shortage of available labour for construction projects.
Despite all this, revenue in the roofing industry has grown 3.7 per cent per year on average from 2018 to 2023.
The roofing industry is very fragmented, with many companies specialising in particular areas. This has resulted in the creation of a number of small, independent firms. However, in terms of revenue, some of the largest companies in the UK roofing industry are CA Group Ltd, Breyer Group plc, Hathaway Roofing Ltd and MITIE Roofing Ltd. The market share for the sector is low, with the top four companies generating around 40 per cent of overall revenue.
Number of Roofers
There are around 40,176 people employed in the roofing industry in 2023. The majority of roofing contractors work with materials such as slate and clay tile (51.4 per cent). Those who work with felt and mastic asphalt are the next highest group (27.8 per cent), followed by a far smaller number of roofing contractors specialising in laying metallic and synthetic sheeting.
Most roofing contractors in the residential construction industry are employed in the South East (18 businesses) due to a higher number of housebuilding projects there. Many are also working in London and the surrounding areas. There are 12 businesses in the East of England and 10 in the South West.
Change Over Time
The future outlook for the roofing industry is positive. This is mainly due to the government’s commitment to providing funding for building 300,000 new homes every year by the middle of the decade.
Their £12 billion affordable homes programme, revealed in June 2020, will alone support up to 180,000 new affordable homes for ownership and rent. This in itself has had an impact on how many roofers in the UK work in the industry.
Call for more sustainable roofs
Other factors which can lead to changes in the roofing industry over time include increased demands for sustainable and low carbon roofing initiatives. This includes roofs which use renewable materials and solar panels. Green roofs are also increasing in popularity and so too are ‘cool roofs.’ These are coverings which reflect more sunlight and in doing so, absorb less heat.
Artificial intelligence making it is mark
It looks like the industry won’t escape the domination of Artificial Intelligence (AI) either. Drones already help with assessing roofing damage and AI is predicted to lend a hand in roof inspections in the near future too. Robots can already help lay bituminous membranes for roofs.
Smart roofing is already here. This is a type of covering, enabled by IoT technology, which can monitor how a roof is standing up to particular weather patterns, as well as check it is overall durability. A smart roof can also send the householder an alert if any ‘roofing’ issues arise that require inspection.
Improvement in materials availability
Supply chain difficulties and materials shortages – particularly slate, steel and clay roof tiles – are less in evidence in 2023 compared to previous years.
Both the cost of materials and labour have increased since the start of the year. So too have energy costs, with 77 per cent of roofing contractor firms saying their energy costs had risen markedly compared to the same period 12 months ago. The average energy bill increase was as much as 84 per cent.
Demand for Roofers
The demand for roofing contractors is high, especially within existing companies. To the extent that a survey published by The National Federation of Roofing Contractors showed that 49 per cent of firms who responded, said they found it increasingly difficult to recruit. This compared to just nine per cent of companies who said they felt the situation has improved over time.
In terms of workload, 43 per cent of roofing contractors said they have experienced an increase in their workload for the first quarter of 2023, and 21 per cent reported a decline. This was compared to the previous three months of 2022.
More than 60 per cent of larger firms (i.e. those whose reach is national) said they had more work at the start of the year compared to the same period in 2022. Roofing contractors in Northern Ireland saw the biggest growth in workload.
Conversely, four regions saw a drop in enquiries and work. These were Scotland, Wales, Yorkshire & the North East and the North West.
Much of the data for this article has been derived from 2023 reports compiled by the research company IBISWorld and also from the roofing industry trade magazines Roofing Contractor and Roofing Today.