The Job and What's Involved

Roofers build, maintain and repair roofs on houses, factories, offices, public buildings, shopping malls and stadiums. They work with many different roofing materials, including red tiles, grey slate, sheeting and even thatch (thatching is a specialised craft).

There are two types of roof - flat and pitched (sloped). Most commercial, industrial, and apartment buildings have flat or slightly sloping roofs. Most houses have pitched roofs. Roofers can work on both types, or specialise.

Roof slaters and tilers lay new roofs and also replace broken slates and tiles on existing roofs. They lay slates and tiles in horizontal rows, working from the bottom of the roof to the top, and cutting tiles to fit corners and gable ends.

Built-up bituminous roofing involves putting layers of felt on top of each other. Roofers measure and cut materials to fit, and use a blowlamp to melt bitumen on the back of the felt as it is laid. They may finish off the roof with fibre-cement tiles, slabs or granite chips.

Single-ply roofing is where PVC sheeting (or a similar type) is used to cover the roof. The sheeting is jointed, often by hot air welding. The job is completed with one single layer, and often does not require any surface finishing. It is fast, and does not require any naked flame to be used.

Lead sheet is used as a weatherproof shield for flashing weatherings. It can be used on houses, as well as for unusual shapes such as spires.

Roof sheeting and cladding is carried out by fixing corrugated or profiled sheets to roofs or walls. These can be made from plastic, fibre-cement, steel, aluminium or galvanised steel. Teams of roofers hoist up the sheets and fix them in position.

Liquid applied roofing is where a liquid is applied by brush or roller to the surface of the roof. With this method, two or three packs of chemicals are often mixed together to produce a watertight membrane.

Some roofers also waterproof and damp-proof masonry and concrete walls and floors. They hammer and chisel away rough spots, or remove them with a rubbing brick, before applying a coat of liquid waterproofing compound. They may also paint or spray surfaces, or attach waterproofing membranes.

The working week is normally 37.5 hours, but it may be necessary to work overtime in the evenings and at weekends. Roofers have to be flexible, making the most of daylight hours. Self-employed roofers often work additional hours, especially when first becoming established.

Roofers work outdoors and at heights, sometimes many storeys above the ground. They use ladders and scaffolding, and may need to use nets or harnesses for safety. The work is physically demanding, and roofers may have to work in cold and dirty conditions.

Some materials, such as roof sheeting, can be difficult to handle when it is windy. There is also a risk of burns from hot bitumen, and roofs become extremely hot during the summer.

Roofers travel from site to site, working on a project and then moving on to the next one. They may also have to work away from home for short or long periods.

Trainees may earn around £12,500 a year. There is a national minimum rate for all craftspeople working on construction sites, although the hourly rate for certain crafts is much higher than the minimum. There may also be bonuses and overtime pay. Many roofers are self-employed, and can earn more.

There are national rates for travelling time, travel expenses and the cost of accommodation, but these can also vary.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are over 63,000 roofers throughout the UK. The demand for qualified roofers is increasing and there are more vacancies than applicants for jobs. Roofers work for specialist roofing firms, building contractors, local authorities and other public organisations. Many are self-employed and work as contractors. They can work on a 'labour only' basis, with materials supplied by the building contractor.

Vacancies may be advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices or in local newspapers.

Education and Training

It is possible to start work as a trainee roofer straight from school and train on the job as a craftsperson.

Young people can train through an Apprenticeship for which it is useful to have some GCSE's/S grades (A-E/1-5), or a vocational qualification. Maths, design and technology, and English, are important subjects. Applicants usually have to do a selection test to start a construction Apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most people train by finding work with an employer, and learning practical skills on the job, while spending time at college or a training centre to gain qualifications. These include:

  • NVQs Levels 2 and 3 in Roofing Occupations.
  • NVQs/SVQs Levels 1 and 2 in Applied Waterproof Membranes.
  • NVQs/SVQs Levels 1, 2 and 3 in Mastic Asphalting.
  • NVQs/SVQs Levels 2 and 3 in Roof Sheeting and Cladding.
  • SVQs Levels 2 and 3 in Roof Slating, Tiling and Cement Work.

Apprenticeship Schemes offer structured training programmes usually leading to an NVQ/SVQ Level 2.

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Roustabouts do basic tasks to help keep the rig and platform working efficiently and Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.


Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Roofers need:

  • Practical ability.
  • To be fit, strong and agile.
  • To be able to work at heights.
  • To be able to plan jobs in advance and carry out tasks in the right order.
  • To understand drawings and plans.
  • To follow written or spoken instructions.
  • Teamworking skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

It may be possible to progress to technician level and then to construction management. Self-employed roofers can run their own specialist firms.

There may be opportunities to work abroad on contracts.

Get Further Information

CITB-ConstructionSkills, Bircham Newton,
King's Lynn, Norfolk PE31 6RH
Tel: 01485 577 577

CITB-ConstructionSkills Education Unit,
4 Edison Street, Hillington, Glasgow G52 4XN
Tel: 0141 810 3044

Construction Apprenticeship Scheme Helpline
Tel: 0870 4177274

Construction Confederation,
55 Tufton Street, Westminster,
London SW1P 3QL
Tel: 0870 8989 090

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