Tile Talk: Supply Chain Challenges

Working in Unison To Survive & Thrive During This Time

by Richard K. Olson, president & technical director, Tile Roofing Industry Alliance

(Editor’s Note:  Richard K. Olson is president and technical director for the Tile Roofing Industry Alliance.  The association represents industry professionals involved in the manufacturing and installation of concrete and clay tile roofs in the United States and Canada, and works with national, state, and local building officials to develop installation techniques, codes, and standards for better roofing systems.  Olson can be reached at rolson@tileroofing.org.)

The world news is overwhelmed with industry analytics that are indicating the supply chain challenges will be getting worse.  We are feeling the effects in our roofing community as the demand for products and services are increasing from the start of a post-pandemic world.  The labor shortages, global economies, and vaccination challenges have created a global shortage of raw materials that affects the entire construction industry.  Our producing members and associate suppliers have been equally affected by raw material shortages, escalating transportation costs, and lack of inventories to meet the contractor’s needs.  What can we do as design professionals to survive during this period?

         The best course of action for the design professional will be the open and honest dialog you have with your builders, contractors, suppliers, and roofing professionals.  Designing projects that will be delayed from the lack of labor or materials will continue to slow the construction markets.  With record demand for housing in most regions, we need to work collectively to create designs that consider positive outcomes for completion in the short term.  When working on steep-slope installations there are a few opportunities worth considering.

Roof Design

         With labor shortages, you might consider working with your roofing professionals to discuss ways to achieve your desired appearance with labor-conscious workforce alternatives.  When the roof has a complex roof geometry, it will require additional layout, cutting, and potential extra materials to complete.  In the short term, the use of less labor-intense roof designs might be one option worth discussion and consideration.  The use of more gable-oriented roofs might be one answer.  These designs will potentially reduce costs, labor, and materials in the near term.  If using gables, the consideration of a few less roof planes might again help in the short term. 

Roof Colors

         While creating a unique roof color might be desirable, it may delay the project, as manufacturers are trying to keep the more traditional roofing colors in stock.  Special colors and short runs are expensive and some of the raw materials for special blends may not be readily available.  Working with your local tile manufacturer will help identify color schemes and options that can help keep your project on track.  Most of our members have architectural design centers that can provide the latest in products and color options to meet your needs.

Alternative Products

         This might be a good time to explore more cost-effective options when considering your custom roof designs.  Designers and roofing professionals across the country can save their remodeling clients tens of thousands of dollars by offering existing slate, composites, or wood shake roofs a concrete or clay flat tile roof system alternative. 


         As the design professional we should work with our material suppliers and contractors to identify components that we might integrate into our project to increase performance and reduce labor.  While traditionally thought of as upgrades, many of the components will reduce the amount of labor required on a project.  For our tile systems, this will include items such as venting, weather blocking, flexible sealants, and batten extenders.  By working with your roofing contractor and tile supplier you can identify and incorporate the use of these time saving materials that will help extend the life of your roofing system.

            We must continue to stay engaged in the conversations surrounding the supply chain challenges.  The Tile Roofing Industry Alliance remains committed to our contractor partners to provide legislative pressure wherever needed to help ease the challenges we are all facing.  The supply chain problem will continue well into 2022 and we need to collectively work in unison to provide more accurate information to the entire roofing community. 

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