How serious is the algae streaking problem in the Houston area?

All of the homes in our service area are likely to develop algae streaking within a few years after installing a new roof. It’s my understanding that this is a nationwide problem, however, in Houston; it’s particularly serious because we’re near the Gulf Coast and our climate favors this troubling organism. Most people are very aware of the streaks because they’ve either experienced them on their own roof or seen them on roofs in their neighborhood, even if they don’t know algae is the cause.

Is roof cleaning an option for homeowners to remove the algae streaks?
Commercial roof cleaning services are almost nonexistent in this market, even though roof cleaning is common practice in some parts of the country. In fact, in many of Houston’s mid to upscale neighborhoods homeowners are more likely to replace a badly streaked roof than to clean it, even if the roof hasn’t reached its full service life. As a result, we’ve found that customers who are re-roofing for whatever reason, appreciate a chance to prevent the black streaks, which avoids replacing their next roof prematurely or living with another dirty looking roof

Do homeowners frequently ask about products that prevent the common black algae streaking caused by algae?
An increasing number of homeowners are informed about shingle products with preventive features like copper granules that inhibit algae growth on roofing granules. Almost all of the major shingle manufacturers now offer a variety of shingle products with algae-resistant (AR) granules, and the word is getting out to homeowners who are looking for a long-term solution. Most of the homeowners in our service area immediately upgrade to an AR product when they learn that they can prevent the stains and gain peace of mind that their roof will look clean and keep its color for years. But this option isn’t just for upscale homeowners. Everyone wants their home to look nice, regardless of its market value, and the roof is a large part of the exterior appeal.
Have you installed shingles with algae-resistant granules? What sort of results have you achieved?
We’ve been selling shingles with the algae-resistant feature since they first became available on the market. However, the original products relied on zinc as an algae inhibitor, which has subsequently proved less effective than today’s copper granules. So far, we’ve seen copper granules hold up very well against the black streaks. Currently, we’re interested in selling the 3M Algae Block System, a special mix of 3M copper granules that protect themselves and regular 3M colored granules from discoloration due to algae growth. Many of the shingle manufacturers we work with are incorporating the system into their product lines. We already know that copper is an effective algae inhibitor, and 3M’s reputation conveys quality and innovation to homeowners, so this looks like a promising opportunity to improve sales of algae-resistant products

Is it easier or more difficult to sell a shingle with the algae-resistant feature?
Any tool like the AR feature makes any job as a sales person easier. Homeowners welcome information and options that help them get involved in the selection process and make objective decisions about their new roof. Our job is first as an educator, giving the homeowner as much information as needed to make a prudent choice. We then follow up with professional installation of proven products from manufacturers who have a strong quality process from start to finish and solid product warranties. Most material upgrades are affordable from the consumer’s viewpoint, especially considering the service life of today’s asphalt roofing products. For example, you’re probably looking at a couple of hundred extra dollars, at the most, to upgrade to the AR feature

What type of contractor can be successful selling the AR feature?
It all depends on the contractor’s approach. There are two ways to operate in this business. Some roofers work just as applicators going from job to job, simply installing shingles that meet low bids. Then there’s the sophisticated contractor who operates a professional business involving all aspects of customer service, because he knows a strong reputation will produce more business down the road. Contractors who are conscientious about consumer needs and who take the time to educate their customers about specific features will benefit their business in the long run. Homeowners require information about product options in order to feel comfortable upgrading. The contractor who positions himself as an expert with a variety of options that meet consumer needs will be successful selling algae-resistant products.
What are the greatest advantages of opportunities for contractors who market algae-resistant products?
Contractors should embrace this new feature as a way to improve their business and ensure complete customer satisfaction. Depending on the competitiveness of the market and bid, most jobs allow for some markup on materials, offering an opportunity to increase profits. Plus, by adding value to the aesthetic components of a roofing job, they can improve the integrity of their business by building a uniform set of consistent, high quality jobs for future referrals.
What kinds of materials are important to your sales delivery when pitching upgraded selling features?
Presentation is everything when you’re selling upgrades. We rely on manufacturers for product literature and samples, plus various sales tools to support our presentation. The job site is equally important, because 90 percent of our work comes from referrals. Our clean and professionally uniformed crew, company-identified trucks, and prominently displayed yard signs all work to display a professional image that remains in the customer’s mind.

How receptive is the market to AR products?
I think it’s just a matter of time before the AR feature becomes standard in this market. Already, some manufacturers sell only AR shingles. An example is in Florida and other parts of the South. Manufacturers are realizing that they can exclusively benefit the consumer by making it part of the manufacturing process rather than an upgrade option. This makes sense from the homeowners and contractor’s point of view, because if everyone is selling it, it’s apples to apples on price. We prefer to sell this feature on every job, and most of our customers are open to it as well.

How does the AR feature fit within your current arsenal of selling strategies?
It all comes down to focusing on the features that will improve and preserve the aesthetic qualities of a roof. There are many artistic opportunities to create beautiful roofs with today’s shingle designs. And if you enhance the overall look with a new roof, you’ve just gained a happy customer who will provide testimonials to your business and generate future referrals. Installing quality materials and providing unsurpassed customer service are the keys to success in this industry.