What's it really like?
Stephen Raynor is a highly-experienced roofer, and runs his own company called Nottingham Roofing Services. He works mainly in the UK Midlands area.
What made you decide or choose to get into this sort of career?
I went into roofing because my father ran a small roofing business. That said though, I couldn't have chosen a better career - travelling around, never in one place for more than a few days, out in the open air, no one looking over your shoulder telling you what to do. I suppose I'm a bit of a gypsy!
Do you have a standard day or a standard type of `exercise'?
Basically, every roof is very much the same, so in a way each day is standard. You always have to carry things up ladders, load and unload vans, kneel down to felt and then stand and then kneel and so on. The days are fairly typical.
What is the most common type of problem/call-out/enquiry to which you must attend?
I concentrate on the domestic market, so the most common type of enquiry I receive is from people with a leaking flat roof. I don't really do a lot of “new” work, for example corporate or bespoke repairs.
What do you like most about the job?
The freedom. You are able to fix your own hours, but only to a degree, as you need to make sure you have enough work queued up to make it all pay regularly.
What do you like least about the job?
The boredom when I'm not busy. I think a lot of self-employed people would have experienced this in the past, and it just comes with the turf; it’s the flip-side of the independent good points!
What are the key responsibilities?
Maintain the accounting records, ensure I have felt in stock to complete forthcoming jobs, pricing new jobs and ensuring that customers are happy.
What about academic requirements? Any formal demands, eg A Levels?
This job is an accumulation of skills; you start off labouring, then completing actual roofing repairs whilst working under the guidance of someone else, then eventually working for yourself. To start with, you just need to enjoy the job. If you plan on eventually working for yourself, I suppose you'd need to be A-level standard, but they are not really required in truth. You need common sense and the ability to learn. Very few start off working for themselves without going through the various stages, i.e. labourer, roofer, self employed.
What is the starting salary, and how does this increase over time with promotion?
Salary is dependent upon the state of the economy, i.e. if large contracts are being undertaken during a time of growth, this results in the demand for large roofing contracts; large roofing contracts mean higher bonuses, and obviously the reverse is true in times of recession.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into this as a career?
Try taking up fishing; if you enjoy being out in all weathers whilst fishing, then there's a good chance you'll enjoy being on a roof! I mean, how many people are there in the building trade that go fishing?
What are the most important qualities an applicant must and should possess?
In general, if someone is working for a firm, they have to work hard without complaining, have to get up early in the morning and sometimes have to work late. You need to be someone who wants to learn, and someone who is willing to take orders and also act on your own initiative.
Any closing questions, comments or additional advice?
If you are going to be a roofer, it is also worth learning ancillary skills such as plastering, decorating etc, so eventually, if you work for yourself, in times of recession, when you go out to price up a leaking roof you can also price up a repair for the damaged ceiling below.
A roofer is somebody who installs and repairs roofing, guttering and fascias on a commercial building or private property.
A roofer is usually a self-employed individual who completes repairs and installation of complete roofs or roofing materials for a property. A majority of small, local roofers work with flat felt roofing because it is the least complex in terms of time required to be on site. This is referred to as the domestic market, and incorporates garage roofs, dormer roofs, shed roofs, fascias and guttering.
Roofing companies who offer to work with a complete variety of roofing materials can find themselves working in slates and tiles, EDPM (plastic), sheets and cladding, GRP (fibreglass), zinc, lead, copper, coatings, and even highly-specialised materials such as thatching. There is also often a demand for moss removal, which along with the installation of fascias, is a key additional service which roofers can offer. Some companies are now starting to receive enquiries for the installation of photovoltaic roofing panels as part of a renewable solar system, so the industry is evolving in new directions in this respect.
Based on discussions with several interviewees in the UK Midlands area, a reasonable pre-tax net profit for a self-employed roofer with over four years of experience is in the £25,000 to £30,000 range. The salary is highly sensitive to the cycles of growth and recession, as customers tend to put off repairs when the economy is slow and spend on their houses to try and realise additional value in times of “boom.”
A roofer who is employed by an established firm can expect to receive around £16,000 per annum. This is based on an average of searches on at least three job search web sites. A labourer is typically paid at minimum wage. In the UK, this is currently £5.93 per hour for workers aged 21 and over, £4.92 for those in the 18-20 age category, and £3.64 for young workers aged between 16-17 (source: DirectGov UK).
- Provide a quotation for the installation or repair work, including guttering and fascias
- Arrive at customer’s site at agreed time and place
- Procure materials necessary to complete repair
- Maintain tools and safety equipment
- Complete repair work in line with customer requirements and agreed scope of work
- Observe strict health and safety practices, particularly when working beyond the first storey of a house
Many self-employed roofers are unqualified beyond GSCE level, although further education can be of benefit for those who wish to set up their own small business. An A-level in business studies can be of great help in terms of managing and marketing one’s own business, and will help the sole trader to maximise profitability and minimise risk as they go about establishing and building their business from the ground up.
- Have a common sense attitude to health and safety at work
- Have a desire to see a job well done, and a happy customer who may become a repeat customer
- Understand what is required in order to complete the repair as necessary
- Have knowledge of all of the roofing materials being worked with
- Be prepared to start early and finish late to get the job done
- Be prepared to work weekends when required
- Be able to drive the company van, if required
- Enjoy, or at least tolerate, working outside in all weather
Installing materials to the upper parts of a house or commercial property is potentially one of the riskier jobs in the construction industry. Roofing technicians working in teams must be aware of each other’s actions at all times and maintain a strong sense of positioning and responsibility. The job involves a lot of ladder and scaffold work, and those working on larger commercial projects will have additional responsibilities placed upon them in terms of legislative requirements. All roofing companies must have public liability insurance to continue to trade with affiliation to the roofing association. Many roofers comment that the job is completely safe, which would seem to be contradictory to the number of “roofing accident claim specialist” companies which have sprung up in the last decade. Personal protective equipment should be worn at all times, as it may mitigate serious injury during a fall.
New entrants with no experience or qualifications often begin as labourers, as this is a good way to learn about the construction industry, learn some roofing skills and prove to an employer that the candidate is reliable and able to become a roofer.
Self-employed roofers often consider expanding their range of services in order to “spread the net” for winning future jobs; this can span from the typical one-man-band all the way through to large companies with several hundred installers working in crews on large commercial projects.
There is not one single company recognised as being the market leader in the UK. Most firms operate locally rather than nationally below a certain size, and the industry is competitive at this small-company tier, making growth beyond a local market quite difficult.