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What Roofers Do About this section

Roofers
Roofers install shingles, asphalt, metal, or other materials to make the roof weatherproof.

Roofers replace, repair, and install the roofs of buildings, using a variety of materials, including shingles, bitumen, and metal.

Duties

Roofers typically do the following:

  • Inspect problem roofs to determine the best way to repair them
  • Measure roofs to calculate the quantities of materials needed
  • Replace damaged or rotting joists or plywood
  • Remove existing roof systems
  • Install vapor barriers or layers of insulation
  • Install roof ventilation
  • Install shingles, asphalt, metal, or other materials to make the roof weatherproof
  • Align roofing materials with edges of the roof
  • Cut roofing materials to fit around walls or vents
  • Cover exposed nail or screw heads with roofing cement or caulk to prevent leakage

Properly installing and repairing roofs keeps water from leaking into buildings and damaging the interior, including equipment and furnishings. Roofers install or repair two basic types of roofs: low slope and steep slope.

Low-slope roofs are the most common, as they are typical on commercial, industrial, and apartment buildings. The complexity of installing low-slope roofs varies with the type of building. Roofers may install these roofs in layers, building up piles of felt set in hot bitumen over insulation boards to form a waterproof membrane. They also may install a single-ply membrane of waterproof rubber or thermoplastic compound over roof insulation boards.

Steep-slope roofs are typical on single-family homes. Roofers commonly install asphalt shingles, although they may also lay tile, solar shingles, metal shingles, slate, or shakes (rough wooden shingles) on steep-slope roofs.

Roofers also install green technology rooftop applications. These include vegetative roofs, rainwater harvesting systems, and photovoltaic products, such as solar shingles and solar tiles; however, solar photovoltaic (PV) installers typically install PV panels. Plumbers and heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics also may install solar thermal systems.

Roofers use a variety of tools when installing or repairing roofs. Their tools include roofing shovels, roof cutters, and pry bars to remove old roofing systems and hammers, nail guns, and framing squares to install new ones.

Work Environment About this section

Roofers
Roofing work can be physically demanding since it involves heavy lifting, climbing, bending, and kneeling.

Roofers held about 161,600 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of roofers were as follows:

Roofing contractors 73%
Self-employed workers 19
Construction of buildings 3

Roofing work is physically demanding because it involves climbing, bending, kneeling, and heavy lifting. Roofers work outdoors in extreme temperatures, but they usually do not work during inclement weather.

Although some roofers work alone, many work as part of a crew.

Injuries and Illnesses

Roofers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations, as well as one of the highest rates of occupational fatalities.

Workers may slip or fall from scaffolds, ladders, or roofs. They may also be burned by hot bitumen. Roofs can become extremely hot during the summer, causing heat-related illnesses. Roofers must wear proper safety equipment to reduce the risk of injuries.

Work Schedules

Most roofers work full time. In northern states, roofing work may be limited during the winter months. During the busy summer months, roofers may work overtime to complete jobs.

How to Become a Roofer About this section

Roofers
Most roofers learn their trade on the job working with experienced coworkers.

There are no specific education requirements for roofers. Although most learn on the job, some roofers enter the occupation through an apprenticeship.

Education

No formal educational credential is typically required for roofers.

Training

Roofers typically receive on-the-job training to become competent in the occupation. In most on-the-job training programs, experienced roofers teach new workers how to use roofing tools, equipment, machines, and materials. Trainees begin with tasks such as carrying equipment and material and erecting scaffolds and hoists. Within a few months, they learn to measure, cut, and fit roofing materials. Later, they lay asphalt or fiberglass shingles. Because some roofing materials, such as solar tiles, are used infrequently, it may take several years to gain experience for all types of roofing.

A few groups, including the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers & Allied Workers and some contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs for roofers. Apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with technical instruction, usually requiring a predetermined number of hours for both.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Roofers may obtain specific certification to qualify for additional work opportunities or greater pay.

The National Roofing Contractors Association offers certification for experienced roofers. Experienced roofers may become certified in various roofing systems, such as thermoplastic systems or asphalt shingles. Certification as a roofing foreman is also available for experienced roofers.

Most employers require that roofers complete safety certification that meets Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, either before or after being hired.

Some employers require roofers to have a driver’s license to enable commuting to different jobsites.

Advancement

After gaining experience in the occupation, roofers may have opportunities to advance to become a supervisor, job superintendent, or estimator or to start their own business. Roofers working in a union may advance within their local union to become a business manager or apprenticeship instructor or to other positions of union leadership.

Important Qualities

Ability to work at heights. Roofers must be comfortable working at great heights.

Attention to detail. Roofing materials must be installed to precisely match design patterns and to ensure that the roof is waterproof. 

Balance. Roofers should have excellent balance to avoid falling, because they often work on steep slopes at great heights.

Manual dexterity. Roofers need to be precise in handling and installing roofing materials in order to prevent damage to the roof and building.

Math skills. Roofers use math to measure and calculate roofing areas. 

Physical stamina. Roofers must be able to endure spending hours on their feet or bending and stooping, often in hot weather.

Physical strength. Roofers often lift and carry heavy materials, such as bundles of shingles that weigh 60 pounds or more.

Pay About this section

Roofers

Median annual wages, May 2019

Construction trades workers

$46,340

Roofers

$42,100

Total, all occupations

$39,810

 

The median annual wage for roofers was $42,100 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,540, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $70,920.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for roofers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Roofing contractors $42,320
Construction of buildings 39,160

Most roofers work full time. In northern states, roofing work may be limited during the winter months. During the busy summer months, roofers may work overtime to complete jobs.

The starting pay for apprentices is usually 50 percent of what journey workers receive. Apprentices get pay increases as they advance through the apprenticeship program.

Job Outlook About this section

Roofers

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Construction trades workers

3%

Roofers

2%

 

Employment of roofers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations. Replacement and repair of roofs, as well as the installation of new roofs, will create demand for roofers.

Roofs deteriorate more quickly than most other parts of buildings, and as a result, they need to be replaced or repaired more often. Demand for roofers will be driven by the need to repair and replace roofs on existing buildings. In addition to replacement and repair work, the need to install roofs on new buildings is expected to result in job growth. Some demand for roofers may come from the installation of solar photovoltaic panels on building rooftops.

Job Prospects

Despite slow growth, about 14,700 openings for roofers are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations (especially in other construction trades) or exit the labor force, such as to retire. Jobs for roofers are generally easier to find during spring and summer.

Demand for roofers is less vulnerable to downturns than demand for other construction workers, because much roofing work consists of repair and reroofing, in addition to new construction. Still, workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of new construction falls, and shortages of workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity.

Employment projections data for roofers, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Roofers

47-2181 161,600 165,400 2 3,800 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For details about apprenticeships or other work opportunities for roofers, contact the offices of the state employment service, the state apprenticeship agency, local contractors or firms that employ roofers, or local union–management apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship program online, or by phone at 877-872-5627. Visit Apprenticeship.gov to search for apprenticeship opportunities.

For more information about the work of roofers, visit

National Roofing Contractors Association

United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers & Allied Workers

For more information about OSHA training, visit

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

O*NET

Roofers

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