Anthony Riccio, general manager of Total Roofing, in Southern California, wasn't all that surprised when a load of asphalt and rolls — everything a crew needed to do a built-up roofing job —disappeared from a site over the course of an evening. It was the third time it's happened this year. “The pricing's going up so high, you can't leave anything on the jobsite,” Riccio says.

All across the country, roofing companies have seen materials prices go up, up, up.

An April story in The Philadelphia Inquirer found that the wholesale price of nails in 50-pound quantities had jumped from $13.95 to $20.95 and that the 4x8 sheet of plywood that cost $8.32 in 2003 now cost $17.92. That's in line with what Total Roofing is paying for plywood, says vice president Bob Roskowick.

“A year ago, I was paying $9.50 or $10,” he says. “I have paid as high as $22 a sheet, after the Iraq situation and the hurricanes. Now it's back down to $15.” When prices were at their highest and supplies at their lowest, Roskowick says he typically would purchase $10,000 or $15,000 worth of plywood at a time from Lowe's, to lock in a price and ensure supply.

“The biggest increase is in plywood,” says John Sorrentino, assistant general manager at ABC Supply, in Bozrah, Conn. Sorrentino maintains that the increase has resulted from so much plywood and OSB being shipped to Iraq. This past spring, he says, “everything was being shipped overseas,” leaving ABC Supply's contractor customers who happened to have signed contracts with clients facing 30% or 40% increases in some materials costs.

Jeff Head, owner of Head's Roofing Contractors, in Evansville, Ind., says he's seen a 13% increase in the cost of asphalt shingles and a leap in OSB prices from $5 or $6 a sheet to $18. Head says nail prices have almost doubled and that anything made of metal costs more than usual.

Randy Brown, owner of Clearwater Home Improvement, in Mystic, Conn., says consecutive price increases lifted his asphalt shingle costs 20% in 2004. And he's waiting for the next one. Brown says suppliers informed him that oil and transportation costs had driven up prices. “Every time fuel goes up, shingles go up,” Brown says.

Experts anticipate that a softer market for new home construction could ease such increases in 2005. In the meantime, roofing contractors have raised their prices to avoid margin loss. Brown says that with every supplier letter advising him of a forthcoming price increase, he writes out a note and tacks it to each salesperson's door. “I let them know to add a few dollars to the price we charge.” — Jim Cory. This story originally ran in REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR.

Going Up Contractors are facing sharp price increases for materials that go into houses. Here are the numbers for selected building products:

Material 2003 Now Percentage Change
Plywood, 4x8 feet, mill price $8.32 $17.92 +115%
10-foot metal stud $2.46 $4.05 +65%
16d bright common nails* $13.95 $20.95 +55%
Copper sheet, 3x8 feet, wholesale $40.00 $60.00 +55%
SBS rubber flooring roll $38.99 $41.99 +8%
*wholesale price for 50 pounds.
Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer