Robert Ciepiela is the owner of Revived Exteriors, a roofing company located in Chicago, Illinois.
Throughout the years, the roofing industry in Chicago has always been considered competitive, with many roofing contractors unable to sustain their business due to the hyper-competitive climate.
Fortunately, Ciepiela and Revived Exteriors have survived the gauntlet of many Chicago roofing seasons, including the first half of 2021, a year that’s been challenging for nearly every roofing contractor in the Windy City due to supply issues and perilous weather.
“The roofing industry in Chicago is pretty cutthroat,” Ciepiela says, adding that roofing contractors in his market need to always be prepared in case of inclement weather.
“When a recent storm devastated many homes in Chicago, my roofing company got called in the next morning and guys were already putting on emergency tarps.”
In Chicago, when hailstorms and tornadoes ravage a neighborhood, local roofing companies are available to help.
At the same time, the storm damage also attracts storm chasers from around the country, some of whom will stop at nothing to land roofing jobs.
“I already lost one homeowner to another roofing company,” Ciepiela says, describing a recent occurrence that saw another contractor swoop in and steal a job from his roofing company, even though Revived Exteriors already had a crew working to mitigate the homeowner’s damage.
Beyond dealing with the ruthless nature of roofing contractors in Chicago, business owners like Ciepiela have to deal with repairing poor-quality roofs that come as a result of cheap materials being used and shoddy workmanship.
This includes fixing homes made with bricks that are no stronger than vinyl siding, and roofs with shingles that are much lighter and less durable than previous products.
Ciepiela adds that even common roofing materials like plywood are suffering in quality.
“The sad part is that the plywood being produced now is falling apart and is out of shape,”
Ciepiela says, who then explains that the 2021 price increases on plywood have added to his frustration.
“There have already been eight price increases on plywood this year. In a typical year, we get maybe one or two price increases, and they’re typically only by a couple percent.”
Ciepiela even mentions that in 2021, he has seen the price of coil go up by as much as thirty percent compared to other years.
Still, it isn’t just the price of plywood and coil that has given Ciepiela pause.
“There are a lot of other roofing supplies that are going up, including shingles. They are going up and the demand for those shingles is still there because homeowners have leaks in their roofs,” he says.
With so much demand for shingles, some roofing industry experts are predicting that by the end of August 2021 the roofing industry will have a shortage on shingles.
Worse, homeowners will also have to be patient as other home supplies like bricks, a common form of siding in Chicago, are in critically low supply.
“It’s challenging getting the same type of bricks for homeowners because some manufacturers have gone out of business. We then try to match the bricks as best as we can, but it can become a huge expense for the homeowner,” Ciepiela says.
One bright spot to this crazy year in the roofing industry is that insurance companies are helping homeowners, some of whom have been forced to leave their homes due to the storm damage.
“Insurance companies are covering homeowners right now, and they should be. People are being displaced from their homes for months. It’s a very tough situation for homeowners right now,” Ciepiela says, then noting that the influx of storm chasing contractors walking around impacted neighborhoods has added to some homeowners’ dismay.
“There are homeowners who have hundreds of roofers and contractors knocking on their door and trying to earn business. It all adds up to a lot of stress. I have seen a lot of tears related to the recent storm damage.”
Even though many homeowners in Chicago are in need of a new roof, that alone hasn’t resulted in local roofing companies turning a profit.
In fact, Ciepiela says 2021 has been made more difficult by the fact that Chicago has not received much hail.
“Over the last week, a couple of my competitors have complained that it has barely rained this year. This leads to fierce competition for homeowners who do need help, but sadly a lot of the roofing businesses in Chicago aren’t equipped to do retail work, meaning they’re not used to selling jobs for what it actually costs because they usually do insurance restoration,” Ciepiela explains.
The roofing industry has always been fickle, with businesses opening and closing every year.
Ciepiela understands this reality very well, but he’s also concerned for the sales reps of roofing companies who soon will be forced to close their doors.
“The scary part of this is that a lot of sales guys are 1099, meaning if a roofing company goes out of business, those same salespeople aren’t getting paid,”
Revived Exteriors won’t have any trouble paying their sales reps this year, but Ciepiela also acknowledges that the craziness of the roofing industry has trickled down to the crews who install roofs.
“I’ve never had so many roofing crews come to my office looking for work. I’m typically begging crews to work with us, but this year that has flipped,” Ciepiela says.
This work shortage can once again be traced back to the lack of hail because for too many roofing companies in Chicago, no hail equates to no business.
“Many roofing contractors will go out of business, at least until the next hailstorm hits, and then new roofing businesses will pop up again,” Ciepiela says.
“What’s crazy is that a lot of the sales guys for these businesses also have 1099 companies that make them look like they’ve been in business for a few years, and then after a storm those sales guys will try to market themselves as a legit business to homeowners. That’s problematic because those sales guys have no idea how to run a roofing business.”
As mentioned earlier, this exercise in roofing futility plagues all types of Chicago roofing companies.
Ciepiela says he attributes these failures to a lack of ingenuity on the part of roofing contractors.
“A lot of businesses are not marketing. They only knock doors and leave door hangers,”
“If you haven’t marketed your roofing company for the few years you’ve been in business, that means when a hailstorm comes, you won’t have any leads.”
For Ciepiela and Revived Exteriors, they will always have a presence in the Chicago roofing market because they have built a brand that homeowners can trust, one that doesn’t rely on hailstorms and other adverse weather.
This is a big reason why, in spite of every calamity 2021 has thrown at Chicago roofers, Revived Exteriors will continue to generate profits.
“We’re going to do the same amount of business as we did in 2020. We fell behind early in 2021, but in the last two months we’ve started to pick back up,” Ciepiela says proudly.
“When it was dry, our phones barely rang because people weren’t afraid of leaks, but the second we got three inches of rain, that’s when we started getting calls. It also helps that we were already advertising everywhere.”
To learn more about Revived Exteriors in Chicago, visit their website today or give them a call at 847-908-5327!