Roof tiles scarce, soaring in price


Article Courtesy of Palm Beach Post

By Pat Beall
Published on March 18, 2006


Homeowners desperate to repair cracked or broken roof tiles are taking matters into their own hands. Literally.

"People are going to places where roofs are being repaired to try and get salvaged tiles that are not damaged," said Robert Bryson, an associate broker with Mersky Realty Group. "It's, 'Hey can I have a couple of roof tiles?' Because they can't get them anywhere else."

Clay: It's the new gold.

An unpublished survey conducted by the Florida Roofing, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association reports that since late 2004, the cost of clay roof tiles has doubled from $500 to $1,000 per 100 square feet. At about $700 per 100 square feet, concrete tiles are a little less expensive, but you'll need to take a number and be seated: Delivery delays that last year stretched from six to eight months are now running between nine months and a year. 

True, those figures all include partial installation. And Steve Kolter, whose Delray Beach-based Kolter Project Management Inc. represents developers, said the prices he is seeing for barrel tile are lower, about $600.

Still, he said, "It's highway robbery."

Kolter doesn't blame manufacturers. In fact, roof tile plants are running at full capacity, and new ones are starting. Stuart-based Entegra Roof Tile Corp., for instance, is expected to have its new Okeechobee concrete tile plant open for business within several weeks.

The problem, said Steve Munnell, executive director of the state roofing association that conducted the survey, is that "you have got this huge market for new residential construction and now this hurricane recovery market, and the combination of those two things is just more than the tile man can handle."

In a cooling real estate market full of hurricane-battered roofs, the combination of high prices and slow delivery can quickly add up to trouble. Bryson cites the case of a would-be Jupiter home buyer who discovered her new house had just enough loose concrete tiles to put the purchase in limbo.

No insurance company would write a policy unless the roof was replaced. Prices quoted were running about $1,000 per 100 square feet. She couldn't afford it. The seller's insurance wouldn't pay for it. Even if it had, Bryson said, "We have been told by two different companies that it will be upwards of a year" before they can be delivered. 

New construction has its own set of problems. Roof tiles, not shingles, are the material of choice for many high-priced high-rises, and many of those are already struggling with hikes in building expenses. A Boynton Beach condo, for instance, recently returned reservation money to buyers after the developer cited "meteoric rises in construction costs."

Costs can rise even further if tiles aren't placed on a roof. The life span of the waterproof covering beneath tiles can be shortened by exposure to Florida's high heat and summer rain, said a spokeswoman for Polyglass USA, which makes such underlayments.

Bob Landrum, regional manager for building-material distributor Bradco Supply Corp. which has several locations in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast believes that much of the supply squeeze will be eased within the next year. Until then, he advises patience.

"Most wanting repairs will not get the color they want," he said. That's not a small issue. Deed-restricted communities may allow homeowners to repair roofs with just one scarce color, or one type of hard-to-get roof tile.

"We have a few members who still have blue tarps on, not from Wilma, but from two years ago because they can't get the tiles they need to appease homeowner associations", said Jan Bergemann, president of Cyber Citizens for Justice, a statewide property owners' rights group. 

Insurers and general contractors are almost as unhappy. When contractors provided repair estimates after Hurricanes Jeanne and Frances, "insurance adjusters would look at the (roof repair) dollars and say, 'No way.' They thought there was price gouging," Munnell said.

The result was a meeting of insurance, construction and state officials that led to creation of a published guideline for what homeowners could reasonably expect in the way of home repair costs.

But those were last year's prices.

A spokesman for the Florida Department of Financial Services said it will be compiling another list this year.