Roof contractors facing 10- to 12-week delays in Cedar Rapids area

Shingles, other materials in short supply

Mike Jacobis pushes a portion of tree trunk away as a neighbor helps on the ground in northwest Cedar Rapids on Aug. 12.
Mike Jacobis pushes a portion of tree trunk away as a neighbor helps on the ground in northwest Cedar Rapids on Aug. 12. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

If you need a new roof because of the Aug. 10 derecho storm, don’t be surprised if your contractor tells you it could be weeks — or even months — before the work can begin.

The reason?

Shingles, tar paper and other roofing materials are in short supply nationwide due to several factors, according to Timothy Vaske, branch manager of ABC Supply Co. in Cedar Rapids.

“The pandemic had a lot to do with slowing the factories up,” Vaske said.

“Some of the factories had COVID-19 in them, and others were in states where they were not considered essential businesses and were shut down for a while.”

And then there were those who decided it was good time to have that work done to their residences.

“People received a stimulus check and decided that if they were not going to go on a vacation, they would spend some money on their house,” Vaske said.

“They were able to get projects done that they had been putting off and that included getting new roofs.

“The roofing material manufacturers really thought this was going to be an off-year due to COVID, so they didn’t stockpile like they usually do. Now, we have the perfect storm in Cedar Rapids with what is taking place here.”

As far back as mid-March, Roofing Contractor, an international industry website, warned of possible supply shortages — along with delays and higher costs — due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.


“Production of aluminum, plastic, slate, timber and rubber have all declined worldwide since the early weeks of the outbreak — mainly due to the lack of workforce and transportation stoppages plaguing much of Asia,” the site said.

It also noted China’s Shandong Province, the location of a number of large aluminum makers and especially hurt by the pandemic, manufactures “more than 90 percent of the world’s collated roofing nails.”

‘Really Tough’

Vaske also suspects there are a lot of “ghost” orders placed by suppliers in other states who want to be prepared for potential storms.

Think of what happened in Louisiana because of Hurricane Laura, for example.

“They only need a thousand bundles of shingles to get through and they place orders for 10,000 bundles because they’re scared they aren’t going to have anything when they need it,” he said.

“Just because you place an order for 10,000 bundles doesn’t mean you are going to get them any faster than if you placed an order for the thousand that you needed.”

Vaske expects the demand to taper off in another month and a lot of orders will be canceled.

“Unfortunately for guys like us who really need them, it’s really put a hamper on what is going on in Cedar Rapids,” he said.

“I stock five brands and I have an order for 30,000 bundles of one color alone called Willow Wood. It’s really tough for contractors and suppliers right now.”

Beloit, Wis.-based ABC Supply is the nation’s largest wholesale distributor of roofing products with more than 800 locations and $12 billion in annual sales.

Lumber itself also is hard to come by.

International Construction on its website Wednesday said the price for lumber has climbed 134 percent since last year. It cited an overall shortage due to lockdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic in the spring.

That price tag equates to about $800 per thousand board feet, it said.


In a letter emailed to The Gazette on Thursday, Glenn Siders, Greater Iowa City Area Home Builders Association board of directors president and president of Siders Development in Iowa City, called on the U.S. Congress and the Trump administration to address “soaring” lumber prices.

The recovery of residential construction, an “essential” component of the economy, has been threatened, he wrote.

“Insufficient domestic production and tariffs on Canadian sources have led to a staggering shortage that has skyrocketed prices. Since April, lumber prices have escalated more than 160 percent, resulting in a typical new single-family home increase of $16,000.”

Such increases, he noted, “will constrain housing supply, thereby exacerbating existing housing affordability woes.”

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