What Is It Like to Be a Roofer?

By Dawn Killough 01-26-2023
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To get a firsthand account of what it's like to be a roofer, GAF spoke with Trenton Wisecup, president of Arrow Roofing Services in Michigan, and David Laurain, Arrow Roofing's vice president, to learn about their experiences in the roofing industry.

Wisecup's career as a roofer began when he was 19 and working as a waiter. While serving the general manager of a large storm restoration roofing company—who was in town working on projects caused by a local hailstorm—he was offered a job as a roofing salesperson. A year and a half following his acceptance, he became an insurance adjuster. This gave him experience in handling claims and learning how the insurance industry looks at repairs. With this unique background, he started Arrow Roofing Services in 2017.

Laurain was recruited by Wisecup when he was attending community college with a specialty in computer-aided drafting. They had mutual friends and Wisecup asked him to attend an event with him in order to increase the representation from Arrow Roofing. Laurain realized how much respect Wisecup had already earned in the industry, how great the people were, and how unlimited the possibilities for professional and financial growth could be. The next day, he joined Arrow officially.

What Classes or Education Would You Recommend for Someone Looking to Get into the Roofing Industry?

Wisecup: One thing I would suggest is considering the GAF CARE Contractor Training program, because with it we've learned a ton about materials, warranties, installation, and manufacturer specifications. Without their training, I don't think we would be where we're at today.

Laurain: Education doesn't matter to me so much when I'm looking to hire onto my team. It does speak to your discipline if you have a degree, but I've honestly seen the best results from people who have no specific education. I agree with Trenton that the GAF CARE training has been an absolutely phenomenal resource that helped us level-up our knowledge on installation, products, and upcoming technologies in the industry.

Do Roofers Work Every Day?

Laurain: Yes, they do. Obviously, in this market, when it gets frigidly cold out, you do less—but you never stop. In the summer we're working from daylight to dark, but in the winter months we're still selling roofs. The installation side slows down a little bit due to manufacturer specifications, but, basically, when you can work, you work. However, there is some flexibility, especially around holidays.

Is Roofing Work Hard?

Wisecup: Whether you're on the labor side or the sales side, roofing is one of the hardest businesses to be in. This is because it requires so much drive and effort on a daily basis, especially if you're a commission-based worker. Everything is based on your ability to generate and close sales.

If you get stressed out easily or don't deal well with stress, I would say that roofing is not for you. We're dealing with people, and that can be difficult. But if you can work through the stress, it can help you develop your personal and professional character.

How Much Do Roofers Make?

Wisecup: Roofers can make as much as they want to—up to six figures in both sales and installation. People think that roofing contractors aren't getting paid much on the installation side, but they have the potential for incredible wealth if they appropriately invest, save, and spend their money.

Laurain: How much you earn will correlate to your effort, education, and training. If you give it your all, six figures can be a breeze in most cases.

Are Roofers Licensed?

Wisecup: In the state of Michigan—where Arrow Roofing Services operates—yes. The contractor or builder pulling the permit must be licensed with the state. In addition, the roofing company needs to register with the local municipality or city the project is located in.

Is Being a Roofer Worth It?

Laurain: It's absolutely worth it. It's one of the hardest things you'll ever do, but it can also add a lot of value to your life if you're successful. Roofing often finds you—I never thought I'd be a roofer, but once I came into this industry, I felt at home. I feel like it brings me value and I've found my purpose in this industry.

Is There Demand for Roofers?

Wisecup: Housing is a human need. When GAF says they protect what matters most, it really is that, in essence. There are always going to be houses, roofs, storms, and time, which means inevitable roof damage, decay, and deterioration. Roofs will always need to be repaired or replaced, so there's absolutely a need for roofers.

We have some really big GAF roofing contractors in our market. But, because we are able to perform both storm repairs and retail sales — and then some things that we do behind the scenes — it helps us stay competitive, especially as a newer company. Some of the other companies have been in business for 20-plus years, so naturally they have more branding awareness, relationships built with crews, and in certain cases a larger reach. However, we're able to stay competitive through advanced technology and software, whether it's drones or the applications we use to take measurements or coordinate and organize projects. We streamline and make our process a professional experience.

To learn more about being a roofing professional, check out the GAF Roofing Academy. These intensive one- and two-week in-person trainings will offer the skills and knowledge you need to stand out as a qualified roofer. The academy has already helped many candidates find the right career for them.

Dawn Killough is a freelance writer in the construction, finance, and accounting fields. She is the author of an ebook about green building and writes for construction tech and green building websites. She lives in Salem, Oregon with her husband and four cats.
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