The roofing industry 20 years ago Professional Roofing magazine

The roofing industry 20 years ago Professional Roofing magazine

The roofing industry: 20 years ago

by Krista Reisdorf

In 1988, the average gas price was 95 cents per gallon, a postage stamp was 25 cents and the average price of a movie ticket was $4.11. George H.W. Bush was elected U.S. president, Mikhail Gorbachev became president of the Soviet Union and Bruce Springsteen’s "Tunnel of Love Tour" was under way.

Obviously, a lot has changed since 1988. But what about the roofing industry? What was it like 20 years ago? Looking back at roofing trends and market information reported in 1988 issues of Professional Roofing magazine can help answer that question.


A December 1988 Professional Roofing article, "Aiming for the future: a look at industry trends," discusses current issues in the roofing industry and where the industry is heading. According to the article, even in 1988, roofing contractors were facing a problem attracting and keeping good roofing workers who wanted to stay in the roofing industry. Commenting on the labor shortage, C. Scott Widdes, president of Widdes Roofing Inc. San Diego, said "There is a lack of interest in dangerous work. And many don’t want to become journeymen."

Regarding safety and health at that time, NRCA had petitioned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to exempt asbestos roof tear-offs from OSHA’s asbestos regulations; roofing contractors were awaiting a ruling on the Hazard Communication Standard, which required that information about hazards caused by chemicals and associated protective measures be communicated to workers and employers; and then-Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) suggested that OSHA become involved in promoting a drug-free workplace. In fact, drugs in the workplace were an important issue at the time, and businesses were pushing to allow employers to conduct drug testing.

Single-ply was a popular material in 1988, accounting for 50 percent of the commercial roofing market. It became a more popular material for new construction because of easy installation and roofing contractors’ growing familiarity with it, and more than 30 percent of all single-ply installations were on new construction. Manufacturers were focusing on better seaming techniques, including using electric heaters instead of torch heaters for modified bitumen systems. For life-cycle purposes, white and light-colored membranes were expected to become more popular because of their reflectivity and ability to reduce HVAC costs.

Meanwhile, built-up roofing (BUR) was said to be making a comeback after the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association and NRCA joined to figure out ways to promote BUR. In 1987, BUR systems accounted for more than 45 percent of the total membrane market.


In a February 1988 Professional Roofing article, "Market outlook finds all systems holding their own," NRCA made predictions for the 1988 roofing market based on 800 responses it sent to commercial and residential roofing contractors.

According to the survey, more than 90 percent said they were involved in commercial and residential roofing. Sixty-six percent of the total roofing market was commercial roofing, and 34 percent was residential roofing.

Seventy-one percent of roof construction was reroofing, and 29 percent was new construction. Of the reroofing market, 61 percent involved roof replacement and 39 percent involved re-covering roof systems.

Commercial roofing contractors claimed about 52 percent of business was single-ply, with EPDM being the most popular at 27.8 percent, and BUR accounted for 38 percent of commercial roofing.

In the residential market, the most common product being installed was fiberglass asphalt shingles, which constituted 44.6 percent of the market. BUR constituted 17.7 percent, 6 percent was modified bitumen and 4.2 percent was metal roofing.

The more things change …

Since 1988, there have been many changes in the roofing industry—technological advances, regulations, environmental initiatives. But according to data from the NRCA 2006-07 Annual Market Survey . some things have not changed significantly. In 2007, EPDM was the most popular material for low-slope roof systems, and fiberglass asphalt shingles continued to be the leader in the steep-slope market. Numbers have changed slightly regarding new construction and reroofing, with new construction accounting for about 25 percent and reroofing accounting for about 75 percent.

Will 2028 be similar, too?

This Web exclusive information is a supplement to As I was saying … .

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