In the roofing world, performance matters. From measuring wind resistance to comparing warranties, successful roofing contractors help homeowners understand how a roof system’s performance protects a home from the elements, optimizes ventilation and improves energy performance.
But amid the conversation about roof system performance, how do the “softer elements” of a roof—specifically shingle color—influence homeowners’ roof system replacement decisions? Who in the home is the influencer when it comes to selecting design materials such as shingle color? Does a color-coordinated exterior add value in the eyes of real estate agents? What tools and techniques do contractors use to help homeowners think beyond shades of gray to choose the right shingle that not only will protect their homes but also improve their homes’ curb appeal? Such questions prompted Owens Corning,® Toledo, Ohio, to commission research.
Trigger points and influencers
In 2016, Owens Corning commissioned a third party to conduct research regarding how homeowners make roofing decisions. The company sought to gain insight into the personal preferences and concerns that influence homeowners’ buying behaviors when it comes to their roofs. Conversations with roofing contractors provided perspective regarding how roofing companies are helping customers confidently make roofing decisions.
The research validated color not only presents an extraordinary opportunity to boost a home’s curb appeal, but homeowners also want expert resources to guide them when selecting shingle colors that coordinate with the rest of their homes’ exteriors.
Research compiled by the Home Improvement
Research Institute (HIRI), HIRI.org, for a 2015
Project Decision Study: Roof Replacement published September 2015 reveals some insights into the factors and people who influence roof buying decisions.
Because storms and natural disasters often trigger news reports about roof replacements, one might expect storm damage to be the leading factor driving a roof system replacement. Yet HIRI reports that since 2013, funding for roof replacements is tilting away from insurance proceeds toward out-of-pocket costs as storm damage replacement incidences decline.
Age is the leading reason for replacing a roof system with 86 percent of HIRI respondents citing the necessity of replacing old, worn out materials as the reason for a roof system replacement. And when homeowners decide to replace their roofs, the roofing projects provide an opportunity to enhance their homes’ curb appeal.
According to the research, the male head of household or contractor tends to make decisions regarding the functional materials used in a roof system’s design. A roofing contractor also can significantly influence design as HIRI data finds roofing contractors’ involvement when replacing roof systems goes beyond labor to materials selection with 36 percent of contractors reporting they provide input regarding design materials.
However, women become more involved when the decisions turn to design and aesthetic considerations, and many savvy roofing contractors say women’s voices come through loud and clear when it comes to the design materials used on their homes’ exteriors, including the roof.
During qualitative research conducted with groups of women, one female participant stated: “I’m going to get what I want no matter what my husband thinks.” Another woman said, “I’ll just let my husband think it was his idea.” These perspectives probably don’t come as a shock to most roofing contractors.
Offering a roofing contractor’s perspective about roofs and color, Derric Stull, owner of NRCA member Ridge Valley Exteriors Inc., Kennesaw, Ga., says women overwhelmingly are the style and color decision makers, and most men expect and respect a woman’s decision regarding matters of style.
“Women are absolutely and overwhelmingly the decision makers when choosing the shingle color on the home,” he says. “There is wisdom in the saying: ‘Happy wife, happy life.’”
Stull adds that though homeowners almost always ask his company to recommend a color, Ridge Valley Exteriors refrains from suggesting shingle colors. Instead, the company allows homeowners to make a decision by physically getting on their roofs and showing different shingle options. It also uses visualization technology to demonstrate how some of the more popular colors will look on a homeowner’s house.
The case for color
Even individuals who are closely involved in the relationship between home improvement and home value admit the roof as a design element can be overlooked. Speaking to a group of consumer media editors, remodeling expert and HGTV personality Mina Starsiak stated: “I used to think the roof was just something you added to top off a house. After my eyes were opened to the difference color on the roof can make, I wish I could go back and do over several remodels.”
As a licensed real estate professional, Starsiak appreciates the value a color-coordinated exterior adds to a home.
“A home with a color-coordinated exterior will get looked at before a home that is not color coordinated,” she notes.
To understand how real estate professionals and homeowners across the U.S. value a color-coordinated home, Owens Corning commissioned a “Roofing & Home Value Research” report in November 2016. Real estate professionals were asked to compare photos of homes, including a home with a new roof and the same home with a color coordinated exterior. Ninety percent of real estate professionals surveyed agreed a color-coordinated exterior increased the value of a home. Consumers were even more convinced a color coordinated exterior added value as 94 percent of those surveyed agreed a color-coordinated roof and exterior added to a home’s value.
When considering home improvements, return on investment is a common factor in the decision. Jason Loiacano, president of Palm Harbor, Fla.-based Done Rite Roofing, an Owens Corning Roofing Platinum Contractor, says many of his customers consider how a new roof—and its color—may affect the future sale of their homes. According to Loiacano, future resale consideration is more prevalent among homeowners aged mid-50s and older who may be thinking about a future sale. But that doesn’t mean these homeowners stay with a neutral roof color. In fact, Loiacano says a shingle that integrates subtle hues can make a home more attractive to buyers.
“Not everyone sees color the same. People’s eyes see color a little bit differently,” Loiacano says. “I like to use the Owens Corning Duration® Designer Colors Collection Shingle in Sand Dune because the subtle colors integrate into the shingle. The eye will pick up on certain shades in the color palette and people can see how the shingle will tie in with the paint, trim or siding on their houses.”
What women really want
As previously discussed, anecdotal evidence reveals women tend to be far more involved with selecting design materials during the roof system replacement process than research might suggest. To glean insight into how women view their homes’ exteriors and, specifically, the color selection process, Owens Corning conducted focus groups during the fourth quarter of 2016.
As the women discussed color and their homes’ exteriors, a point of frustration soon emerged. Focus group participants joked about the prevalence of neutral colors in their neighborhoods, with one respondent referring to her home as the “fifth brown house on the right.” Most respondents shared they want their homes to look distinct from other homes in the neighborhood and want to feel good about their homes’ appearances when they and others arrive in the driveway. Yet at the same time, respondents were clear they did not want to be perceived as the unusual or odd home in the neighborhood. “No one wants to own that house,” stated one respondent.
When it comes to tools to assist with roofing decisions, the women weren’t aware of the resources available to assist with the decision-making process. Some focus group participants compared looking at small roofing color chips to looking at paint chips in a store and trying to effectively assess how a color would look on a home. And despite women’s comfort with the Internet and new technology, many focus group participants did not know about the online resources available to help guide the shingle color selection process.
During the conversations, it became clear women enjoy color and want their homes to express their personal styles. When exposed to visualization tools, such as Owens Corning’s Design EyeQ® Visualization Experience and online shingle-pairing inspiration boards, the respondents became quite engaged in exploring color options. The exercise was an eye-opener, and roofing contractors cannot assume homeowners are familiar with visualization technologies that can assist with seeing exterior home improvements.
Although men and women may focus on different aspects of the roof system replacement project with men gravitating toward functional decisions and women focusing on design, are there facets beyond gender that factor into how roofing materials are selected? Most of the evidence is anecdotal, but some contractors say younger homeowners tend to make decisions jointly. Much has been reported about the behavior of the millennial generation and its desire to work in a collaborative environment.
“It used to be that the wife would be the sole decisionmaker when it came to the color of shingles that we installed on a house,” Loiacano says. “But with younger couples, it’s typically more of a joint decision.”
Kyle Myers, owner of Southern Restoration Inc., Rock Hill, S.C., says homeowners in their 20s, 30s and 40s are particularly interested in digital presentations when it comes to reviewing materials.
“They don’t want to see a big sample board brought into their houses,” he says. “They want an app or a tablet presentation when making a decision. It also means less wear and tear on the sample boards.”
Color seals deals
By its nature, color is personal. Therefore, it is understandable a roofing contractor may be reluctant to serve as the authoritative influencer when it comes to shingle color selection. Yet the focus groups Owens Corning conducted confirmed industry research that contractors typically serve as the “professional experts” when it comes to shingle color selection. One focus group participant stated: “You feel powerless if someone else does the work (on big projects), but you have no choice.” Many of the participants said the sample board was their only point of guidance.
When a homeowner’s confidence is low, roofing contractors have an opportunity to play the role of hero if not design authority. Loiacano says most of his customers expect his company to offer color recommendations when the conversation turns to shingles.
“Most customers leave it to us when it comes to recommending a shingle color,” he says. “Customers will tell us they want a roof that looks just like the one on the house a few blocks over, so we’ll get in the truck and drive to that address.”
His team also maintains a list of addresses featuring different roofing styles and colors. Done Rite Roofing doesn’t rely on a single photo to show off a home’s color.
“Depending on the time of day, a shingle will look different, so we photograph a home’s roof in sunny and cloudy conditions and in the morning, afternoon and early evening,” Loiacano says.
Stull says seeing is believing.
“As an NRCA member and roofing contractor, I believe our industry has a responsibility to educate customers and let them know about all their options when it comes to the roof,” he says. “Some customers are afraid of things they don’t understand, so we show them the difference color can make and how color on the roof can improve the appearance of their homes.”
In addition to visualization tools, such as Owens Corning’s Design EyeQ SnapShot™ app, Ridge Valley Exteriors places full-size shingles directly on a home’s roof.
“Once homeowners see the depth and dimension the TruDefinition® Duration Designer Shingles add to their roofs compared to their old shingles, it’s easier for us to sell a higher-level shingle,” Stull says. “Color seals deals. When we install a color roof system in a subdivision, we inevitably receive several calls from neighbors inquiring about enhancing their home’s roof.”
Continuing the color conversation
The manufacturing community is listening to roofing contractors’ interest in color. Most recently, Owens Corning enhanced its contractor visualization tool, the Owens Corning Design EyeQ SnapShot app. The app allows users to upload a picture of a homeowner’s home and has a series of pre-rendered homes to save time. New app upgrades include enhanced editing functionality and a zoom capability that helps when drawing or editing fine details. The app also allows homeowners to compare up to three shingles side by side.
Stull suggests contractors show no more than three options at a time.
“Customers can find themselves dealing with analysis/ paralysis,” he says, noting three is a reasonable number of options to present.
As the research, comments and roofing contractor perspectives reveal, color increasingly is a consideration for homeowners and an opportunity for roofing contractors to help their customers create roof systems that deliver superior performance while boosting a home’s curb appeal and expressing a homeowner’s personal style. And I might add a new adage: “A happy homeowner is a happy new lead.”