Construction: With roof maintenance and repairs, no 'stopping anytime soon'

BY Laurie Schreiber

Photo / Dave Clough
Photo / Dave Clough
Peter Horch, founder of Horch Roofing

Peter Horch founded Horch Roofing, in Warren, in 2003. In recent years, it has been among Maine's fastest-growing companies.

Roofing's fortunes are linked to those of the construction industry, particularly new construction, which has been on a slow and steady rise since the recession. Re-roofing and roof maintenance on older buildings, the bulk of his projects, remain a strong sector, he says.

“I think building construction and the trades in general will continue to grow,” Horch says. “People need maintenance on their buildings. And I don't see the Portland market, with all the growth there, stopping anytime soon.”

Issues include workforce and trucker shortages, and increases in material costs. Steel prices have shot up 25% in the past three years, he says. These circumstances translate to increased pricing to consumers, he says.

Lack of skilled workers remains a major issue. More and more entry-level workers have no experience with basic tools of the trade like a hammer or tape measure, he says.

“In the past, entry-level workers had a baseline understanding of how to use these tools,” he says. “Increasingly, we've found it's a skill that needs to be taught.”

He continues to offer on-the-job training. Horch is also involved with technical schools, locally and statewide, to try to get more young people interested in the trades and to demonstrate that the trades both pay well and are more manageable than days gone by.

“A trade school can offer much quicker turnaround at a much more reasonable cost, and provide a good career that pays well,” he says. “And the work has become easier with the tools we have now. For example, we have power ladders to bring materials to the roof, so we're not carrying them up anymore. So young people shouldn't be afraid of the trades, as in, 'I'll be exhausted every day' or 'I'll hurt myself.'”

He points out that construction prices continue to rise, a result of the labor shortage and cost of materials.

“I don't see the need for skilled labor and lower material costs changing anytime soon either,” he says. “So the future looks like prices to consumers will continue to increase until we can take care of some of these things long-term.”