Understanding Your Roof Warranties:The Fine Print
Here’s a detailed explanation of roof warranties, including what to expect from your roof’s manufacturer and installer warranties.
2 Roof Warranties
When you purchase a new roof for your home, you should receive 2 warranties, and both should be in writing. One is from the manufacturer of the roofing material covering the integrity of their product and the other is from your contractor covering the integrity of their installation workmanship. Too often, contractors will take advantage of homeowners’ assumptions that the product warranty covers workmanship as well. However, that is not the case with ANY installed home improvement product. The manufacturer covers what they have control over – the product, and the contractor covers what they have control over – the workmanship. As you can see, this makes it very important to choose both a high-quality manufacturer and a high-quality installer.
Roof Warranties are Very Different from Other Warranties
As you investigate roofing materials and warranties, it is important to keep in mind how vastly different roofing warranties are from warranties on other things you purchase. For example, when you buy a flat screen television, you fully expect that television to last much longer than its 1-year warranty. The same thing goes with the 3-year warranty on your new car. However, with roofing products, you often hear of warranty lengths far longer than you’ve ever heard of a roof actually lasting. For this reason, it’s critical to read and understand the “fine print”. While metal roofs can usually be expected to exceed the length of their warranties, most other roofing materials cannot. So, there are numerous exclusions and limitations embedded in the warranties to make up for the unrealistically long warranty terms.
The reality is, with the number of manufacturing plants they have in order to reduce the costs of shipping their products, if the products produced by traditional shingle manufacturers really started to last the length of their warranties, the companies would all go out of business, unable to support their own infrastructure and overhead. Oftentimes, too, their warranties are a way to ensure recurring business when their products fail and they provide warranty holders with a small coupon to buy another roof from them.
When you purchase an installed roof, you will receive a warranty covering the installation workmanship from your contractor. You should request a written warranty that specifies exactly what is covered, for how long, and under what terms. Workmanship warranties should be a minimum of two years and we’d suggest longer is appropriate for higher end products. The warranty should specify whether it is transferable to future owners of your home. (It would be uncommon for a workmanship warranty to be transferable but, if you intend to sell your home in the near future, you may be able to negotiate one transfer of the warranty.) Pay attention to anything that voids the warranty. Storm damage will void most workmanship warranties, and that is understandable. Please note that storm resistance warranties may fall under the manufacturer’s product warranty.
Product Warranty: 4 Key Areas and Fine Print
The product warranty from your manufacturer will have several key areas to pay attention to.
- Manufacturer’s Defects. Pay close attention to product warranties that cover only “manufacturer’s defects” and have no coverage for specific things that could happen to the product as it ages. Unfortunately, many manufacturers hide behind “defects” warranties and, if the product simply degrades and fails due to “normal weathering conditions,” they are able to escape liability because the product technically did not have a manufacturing “defect.” Instead, look for warranties that also cover things like cracking, splitting, fade, granule loss, and etc. Trying to prove later, as a homeowner, that your roofing product had a defect that led to failure will be difficult and costly.
- Proration. It has been the history of roof warranties to be pro-rated, meaning that homeowners receive less compensation the older their roof is when a failure occurs. This makes sense – the homeowners end up paying for the portion of time that the roof provided good service. Typically, there was a short “non-prorated” period followed by the remainder of the warranty period during which the warranty was reduced by the same percentage each year. However, we have seen many companies begin to offer warranties which prorate on a different schedule. One example is a warranty that prorate to something like 50% perhaps at year 10 and then prorate each year through the duration of the warranty. Also, there may be different proration schedules for future owners than there are for the original owner.
- Transferability. Things can be all over the map in regards to warranty transferability. Some roof warranties do not transfer ever to future owners, and some might transfer once or twice, while others transfer as many times as the home is sold during the warranty period. Limiting warranty transferability allows manufacturers to capitalize on the fact that the average home sells every 7 years. For example, a warranty that only transfers one time allows them to have their liability only last 14 years, but yet advertise a much longer warranty period. Warranties that have limited transferability cast some shadow of doubt over the manufacturer’s confidence in their product, something which affects all owners of the home.
- Limitations and Exclusions. Part of the “fine print” will include limitations and exclusions. Here is a list of some of the things to look for in your roof warranties:
- Does the warranty cover materials and labor if repair or replacement is necessary, or does it only provide materials?
- Is there any maximum payout to the warranty?
- Does the warranty include a requirement for installation over a proper or approved substrate? If so, it will be important to know what an approved substrate is. The qualifications for an approved substrate may include ventilation requirements and, of course, very few homes are ventilated to meet building codes.
- Does the warranty offer specific wind coverage but then have exclusions for hurricanes and tornadoes?
- Is there a “normal weathering” exclusion and, if so, what things might the manufacturer consider “normal weathering” that you may consider as “failure”? A roof that looks ugly due to weathering will impact your home’s beauty and value.
Let Us Help with Your Analysis of Roof Warranties
If you’re considering a certain roofing product, email its warranty to us at email@example.com. We will be happy to help you analyze it and determine the value the roof warranties offered to you and to future owners of your home. We have analyzed many warranties over the years and will be happy to help.
Check Out What’s Different About the Classic Warranty
Classic Metal Roofing Systems is one of the oldest and most proven manufacturers of metal roofing for residences. Because of our exacting Quality Assurance measures, and our Made In The USA status, we have a tremendous track record with just a handful of warranty claims. As a result, we confidently offer our Lifetime / 40-Year Transferable Limited Warranty that covers material AND labor AND is 100% non-prorated for anyone who owns the home during the warranty period. We do not believe anyone offers a warranty of this coverage and value.
More Roof Research?
Roofing Expert Todd Miller, President of Isaiah Industries and Classic Metal Roofing Systems answers all kinds of questions about all kinds of roofs. His expertise is free for the asking at AskToddMiller.com.