Business & Economy

El Niño is 'crazy good' business for roofers, gutter installers

File: Roofer Michal Swiderski works on putting in a new roof of his home in L.A.'s Panorama City.
File: Roofer Michal Swiderski works on putting in a new roof of his home in L.A.'s Panorama City.
Richard Vogel/AP

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As calls pour in from customers panicking over El Niño, rain gutter installer Mike Boucher said he feels overwhelmed, understaffed — and elated by all the new jobs.

"Crazy good, I might say," said Boucher, project manager for Easy Flow Raingutters in Thousand Oaks. "Crazy good."

Across Los Angeles, gutter specialists and other contractors, such as roofers, report boom times ahead of El Niño storms. Businesses like Shea Roofing in Burbank had automated recordings apologizing to customers for a delayed response because of a recent uptick in business.

Boucher said he has been getting 30 to 50 calls a day in recent weeks and needs to add to his crew of six men.

"We're now working seven days a week just to keep up with supply and demand," Boucher said.

The first El Niño-related storms are forecast to hit L.A. County on Tuesday night, dropping up to six inches of rain by Friday, according to the National Weather Service. 

The city of L.A. has set up a website, ElNinoLA.com, to help homeowners prepare their homes for the storms. But some of the work is best left up to professionals, according to Maria Doiev of Gutter Depot in Hawthorne.

Installing rain barrels to collect water from the gutter, for example, requires measuring roof surface area to determine how large a container is needed, Doiev said.

"And you have to look at where’s the best place to place them to get the best result," Doiev said.

Doiev said she's delighted by the uptick in business — but said it would have been easier to fill orders if homeowners had started thinking ahead last year.

"We just wish they’d spread it out," Doiev said.

To lighten the work load for his crews, Boucher is advertising jobs and putting out feelers in the building industry. He said someone who's worked in construction and isn't afraid of heights could be a candidate.

Boucher hopes the heaviest storms will hold off for another month so his crews can complete more jobs. When it rains, he doesn't let his men work on houses over a story high.

"Roofs get slippery, ladders are slippery," Boucher said. "It's just not a safe environment for my guys."

More rain, he said, also means more jobs get put off.