Entering the Roofing Industry: Employee or Starting Your Own Business?

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One business that will always be viable is roofing. Wherever you see a house there is a potential for repairs or replacement at some date in the future. As long as there are people living in houses, there will be a need for roofs! A question on many people’s minds is whether they should start their own roofing contractor business or simply work for an established company.  This is a very good question and one that depends on many factors.

Experience

First, take into consideration your own experience. Did you grow up on roofs working with your dad or another family member? There is a lot to be said for the college of hands on experience, and if you know roofs backwards, forwards and upside down, starting your own roof repair business could be a great idea. On the other hand, if you have never nailed down a shingle or haven’t the faintest idea what roof decking is, you probably want to get in on the ground floor with an established contractor to begin learning the ropes. Your experience should look something like this:

  • New/Repairs- your experiences should be about 60/40: New construction is a bit different from repairs.
  • Proper Process- have you learned the best processes and roofing practices? Just because you have worked for a contractor does not mean you have learned the “right” way.
  • Safety- have you learned everything about roof repair safety?

Now, if you are great with money and have a strong business acumen you could hire a crew of experienced roofers and still start your own company successfully, however you should still get to know the “work” side of your business. Keep in mind you should be financially capable of tearing off and completely replacing a roof if your work should fail in the next 1-12 years.

Getting Dirty / Heights

If you have an aversion to heights or getting dirty, starting your own roofing contractor business or becoming an employee of one is not the best idea. When you start out working for a crew, you will be on the bottom rung of the ladder, which is going to mean lots of “fetch” work and clean up. At the end of each workday, you are going to be covered in grime, sweat and dirt. Heights is another thing you cannot have a problem with for obvious reasons.

Location

Where do you live? Is there a need in your community for a good roof repair business? Even if there are a couple of established contractors, there may be room for more. Starting a business in any economy can be tough, but it is going to be exceptionally difficult if you are trying to establish yourself in a saturated market.  Call around to a few contractors to get an idea of how busy they are now and when business begins to slow down, this will give you a better idea of how much of a need there is in your location.

Do not forget to check on local regulations governing small business and particularly construction. You may be required to obtain a business license and specific permits in order to do business locally.

Types of Roofing

Have you considered learning about different types of roofing? There are many different types of roofing materials including asphalt shingles, slate, tile and membrane, each of which requires a different skill set. Before you launch your own roofing contractor business, it might be beneficial to examine what is most popular in your area and where there is lack of service. For example, are your local businesses bringing in contractors from outside the area to deal with their flat membrane roofing?

Safety Equipment

Whether you are en employee or employer safety equipment is important.

  • Proper foot wear- steel toed boots with non-skid soles
  • Harnesses- OSHA has different requirements on this depending on location and type of roofing
  • Belts- safety belts can be helpful, but are not always required and must be used properly to be effective.
  • Eye Protection- safety glasses are considered a hassle by many but they do provide valuable protection for your vision
  • Anchor- roof anchors are necessary when harnesses and other fall protection are employed

Conclusion

Should you start your own roofing contractor business or simply apply to work with an established roofing company? It depends on your level of experience, financial stability and the need in your current area. There are pros and cons to both situations and it all depends on who and where you are!

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