Homeowners facing major backlog to repair damage from May 21 storm

Two weeks after a deadly derecho storm ripped through Ottawa, Essaid Bensoudane is still clearing up the trees and branches that fell on his bungalow in the city’s Grenfell Glen neighbourhood.

The violent May 21 storm “damaged half of the house,” Bensoudane told CBC as he stood outside his home surrounded by fallen debris. 

The house suffered structural damage and will need repairs to its roof, ceilings and drywall, Bensoudane said.

That could take months, as the home repair industry deals with the sudden spike in demand coupled with existing supply chain delays, rising material costs and a serious labour shortage

“This could take all summer,” Bensoudane said he’s been told.

Hundreds of calls

The week following the storm, the phone was ringing off the hook over at Roof Master.

“It was about 400 phone calls and about 200 online requests,” said William Hrynewich, an estimator with the Ottawa roofing company. 

William Hrynewich says the phone has been ringing off the hook over at Roof Master. (Georges-Étienne Nadon-Tessier/CBC )

Hrynewich said the labour shortage began early in the pandemic. Add supply shortages and shipping bottlenecks, and the industry has been working at capacity for some time now, he said. 

Since the storm, Roof Master has had to triage calls instead of treating them on a first-come-first-served basis, to help those who were worst affected. That means those whose homes suffered less severe damage will have to be patient, Hrynewich said.

“People can expect to wait a longer period of time to get work done.”

Labour shortage continues 

The storm fallout could also worsen existing supply problems,said Pierre Lafontaine, president and chair of the board of the Canadian Roofing Contractors Association.

Pierre Lafontaine, president of the Canadian Roofing Contractors Association, says many of the problems facing the industry existed before the May 21 storm. (CBC)

Lafontaine, who’s also with Raymond Roofing, said even before the storm items such as screws and other fasteners were in short supply. That, coupled with the labour shortage, and roofers have had to refuse some projects, he said.

“Labour shortage is a big thing. We have about 200 workers right now working for us, siding, roofing [and] small construction. We could easily take 30, 50 more staff to get things going,” he said.

Meanwhile, the phone keeps ringing.

“I’ve been told by other local contractors that they’re [receiving] about 100 calls a day,” Lafontaine said. “So there’ll be a major, major backlog for sure.” 

Material costs continue to rise 

The industry is facing yet another challenge: the cost of construction materials keeps climbing. 

“Just this year, we’ve seen two 10 per cent price … notifications already,” said Hrynewich.

He said the price of metals such as aluminum and steel has nearly tripled, as has the cost of plywood. As a result, roofers are forced to raise their prices.

Hrynewich said potential price-gouging is a concern, too.

“It’s certainly something to be wary of,” he said. “But the answer to that is always to get more than one opinion and get more than one quote.”