Does working outside in the elements appeal to you? Are you good with your hands and not afraid of heights or hard work? If so, roofing work may be a good way for you to earn a living. Roofers install, repair, maintain and replace roofs for buildings of all types. Read on to learn more about the work and the career path for this trade.
Roofers are responsible for ensuring that materials are installed and applied correctly for a completely waterproof result. Many contracts are actually re-roofing projects on existing buildings. You might first remove previous materials or add a new layer, and you'll be expected to know how to handle edges, chimneys, peaks, valleys and joints.
Roofing work is usually dirty, demanding and sometimes dangerous. You'll need strength, good balance, flexibility and a tolerance for a variety of weather extremes. Some days could require extra work to keep a half-done project watertight before it rains; on the other hand, work may be impossible for weeks or months in colder climates.
As a roofer, you could eventually focus on a specialized area, such as typical asphalt shingles on higher-pitched residential roofs. You could also learn the multiple steps required for low-pitched or flat roofs on commercial buildings. You might find your niche with 'green' or environmentally friendly options, such as solar panels or roof gardens. Mastering a specific or unique type of roofing material, such as Spanish tiles, metal panels or wooden shingles, is another option you can choose as a roofer.
You can also apply your roofing experience to other tasks, such as estimating for new or re-roofing projects. With additional training, you might be interested in becoming a building inspector or a carpenter, or moving into construction management.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected job growth for roofers to increase four percent during the 2008-2018 decade, which is slower than average and considerably weaker than the 19% growth expected for construction contractors (www.bls.gov). However, the high turnover rate in the roofing industry could result in available jobs for new workers. Because roofers usually work in repair, maintenance and replacement, they're not as vulnerable to the ebb and flow of the economy as builders. The BLS reported an average salary of $37,880 for roofers as of May 2010.
Math classes and a high school diploma could help prepare you for a job in the roofing industry. You can learn roofing skills through a formal apprenticeship offered by a roofing contractor union. An apprenticeship might also branch into related skills, such as waterproofing, framing carpentry or home inspection.
The BLS stated that a roofing apprenticeship usually includes 144 hours in the classroom and 2,000 hours of hands-on training. You'll generally be paid about half the going rate for roofing labor while you learn about safety, scaffolds, materials, tools, techniques and angles. An informal on-the-job training program conducted by an experienced roofer is another training option. This route can teach you the same basic skills, but could be less structured than an apprenticeship.
You might also consider roofing, building trade or construction technology classes offered by community and technical colleges. These programs provide supervised instruction in industry practices and standards, tool usage and safety, and they may include classes or lessons on green technology or historic preservation. Completing this kind of program often allows you to earn an associate's degree, certificate or diploma and prepares you for entry-level employment in roofing.
After completing a training program, you can work under a roofing contractor who is licensed by the state. Most states require that residential and commercial contractors or construction companies obtain sufficient insurance, bonding and state licensure. In some cases, a company can designate a single person to pass a state-issued or approved examination to satisfy licensing requirements for an entire roofing crew. If you plan on working as a roofing contractor on your own, you'll usually need to meet all state requirements as a sole proprietor.