Some common statements we hear about warranties are:

“My ten-year-old roof has a 20-year warranty.”
“The company that installed my roof gave me a 10-year warranty.”
“I don’t need a maintenance program. I have a 15-year warranty.”

The assumption behind these statements is that the building owner does not need to worry about their roof for the life of the warranty; everything will be taken care of for them. So, let us break down the types of warranties, and the pros and cons of each one to properly understand your exposure.

Materials Warranty

A Materials Warranty is the most basic and provides for replacement in the case of material defects which generally occur during the manufacturing process.

For composition shingles or rolled roofing, discoloration is the most common defect, followed by granule loss. In both cases, however, there is a wide latitude of interpretation by manufacturers as to what “discoloration” means or what they consider excessive loss of granules.

For single-ply membranes, since they are manufactured in pristine and sterile environments, material defects rarely occur. Where the problem can occur is when the manufacturing process itself is flawed. In this situation, material failures are widespread, the manufacturer goes into bankruptcy, and the material warranty is worthless.

For coatings, a material warranty is worthless since the quality of the installation depends almost exclusively upon the quality of the installation itself.

In addition, all material warranties are limited. They may pay for some of the materials and some of the labor required to replace your roof, but that amount often covers only about fifty percent of the actual cost.

Workmanship Warranty

A Workmanship Warranty is provided by the manufacturer when your roof is installed by a certified installer, usually inspected by a manufacturer’s representative, and an additional fee is paid when the warranty is issued. This warranty will cover issues related to faulty installation by the contractor, but typically are the responsibility of the contractor for the first two years.

Read the fine print on a workmanship warranty! There are many exceptions and exclusions, but the single biggest “out” is the failure to properly maintain your roof. In other situations, a manufacturer’s inspection of a potential warranty issue may decide that yes, there is a problem, but it does not provide a significant risk at this time. By the time the “significant risk” turns into a major problem, the warranty may have expired, leaving you high and dry.

Given these drawbacks, is a manufacturer’s workmanship warranty worth the price? View the warranty as cheap insurance: you will probably never use it; it may be limited, but you are protecting yourself against catastrophic failure.

Contractor’s Warranty

A Contractor’s Warranty is a workmanship warranty issued by the contractor and covers installation related issues. The warranty is as good as the reputation and stability of the company that installed your roof.
Many companies will offer a “ten-year warranty”, but did you know that 90% of all roofing companies go out of
business after five years? Even older, more stable companies can cease to exist, rendering their warranty
meaningless. For this reason alone, we suggest that a contractor’s warranty always be couple with a
manufacturer’s warranty.

Even a warranty does not mean that you have no costs associated with issues on your roof. Any installation issues will generally be uncovered the first time you have heavy rain. Most problems on your roof are caused by other trades being careless, new equipment being installed, weather-related issues, or vandalism. None of these would be covered by the typical warranty.

The Bottom Line

All warranties should be taken with a grain of salt. Having a warranty, or multiple warranties, on your roof, does not absolve you from taking proper care of your roof, or exempt you from any further costs. A comprehensive strategy involves five critical building blocks: a strong relationship with your contractor, a regular maintenance program, a materials warranty, and a manufacturer’s workmanship warranty. Combined, these elements will provide you peace of mind going forward.

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