Warranties - What Are You Really Getting?
Warranties are great. Warranties can protect us from things that go wrong and are often cheap insurance that protects you, as the consumer, from failed materials or shoddy workmanship. But, do you really know what any given warranty covers? What types of conditions does a warranty exclude? Will the warranty cover the same value of the failure in year twenty as it would in year one? We want to help you better understand warranties in general and why they are a good tool to have. Let’s get into it!
I am a big believer in warranties; roof warranties at least. I’m not a “buy an extended warranty for a leaf blower” kind of guy, however, I’ll take that risk. Over the past couple of decades, I have seen scenarios where roofing products have failed, and ultimately warranties protected customers from a potentially huge loss. This is not common, but occasionally products have defects that go unnoticed for many years. This can happen in the manufacturing phase, it could be that materials were handled or stored improperly, or it could simply be a poor installation leading to a shortened life span of the roof. Like I said, these things are rare, at least with reputable contractors, but it happens. Most warranties are little to no cost and just make sense to include in your project. The low cost can offer great peace of mind. But do you really know what you are getting with that warranty? I want to offer some information to help simplify what warranties can cover and how they can help.
A lot of consumers buy roofs based on what kind of warranty is offered. In fact, this is one of the most common questions I get when selling a roof - “What kind of warranty is there?”. For the most part I hear people speak in terms of years. 10-year warranty, 20-year warranty and so on, but what are these warranties actually covering and who is offering them? I spend a lot of time educating customers on the three main types of warranties: Workmanship, Materials, and Manufacturer. These all cover vastly different things and can come in a variety of time spans so don’t be fooled by the idea that all 20-year warranties are the same.
Let’s break it down: A Workmanship warranty generally comes from the installing contractor. I have seen these range from 1 to 20 years but 3-5 years is common in the industry. However, a workmanship warranty will generally cover the actual labor used to install the roof. If there is an issue because of incorrect installation methods, a workmanship warranty will usually cover the repair at no cost to you. Now be aware, for these warranties to remain in effect, the consumer will have some obligations. Some examples of these obligations are ensuring the roof is cleaned and maintained on a regular basis or that a known leak must be reported to the contractor within a given time period.
Materials Warranty A Materials warranty is just that: A warranty from the manufacturer of the specific product installed. Typically these will only cover a product if it can be proven that the failure was caused by the manufacturing process itself. In the case that the manufacturer is at fault, they will usually only replace the materials, but not cover the labor to remove the old and re-install the new. You will be responsible to find a contractor and pay for the repair. You will likely only get materials to replace the damaged or defective areas, and not the entire roof unless the manufacturer deems it necessary. You can see how it would be easy to tell someone that a given roof has a 20 year warranty, which may be technically true, but omit the fact that it is only a materials warranty.
Manufacturers Warranties / System Warranties Manufacturers Warranties (or System Warranties) are an “all inclusive” warranty that covers not only the product but also the labor of the installation process. All manufacturers offer a form of this warranty, however, they will vary slightly per company and per product. In order to offer these warranties, a contractor must be registered with the respective manufacturer and have gone through a vetting process to ensure they can install roofing to the manufacturers’ standards. Oftentimes testing and training has to be performed before approval can take place. For this reason it is common for contractors to have “preferred manufacturers'' as it can be difficult to maintain this type of status with all the major brands.
These system warranties come in all shapes and sizes so it is a good practice to ask what different types of warranties the contractor can offer. Ask to see example warranties so you can understand what is covered and what is included. Pay close attention to the time frame. Is the warranty pro-rated, meaning, will its value diminish over time? One of the most common tactics I see others use is offering a 50 year total warranty. Sounds great right? Well, what might not be so clear is the fact that the warranty may only cover the full cost of the roof for the first 5 or 10 years (when it is least likely to fail), but then the subsequent years are pro-rated. The “value” of the warranty is decreased every year up until the 50th year when it is worthless. So this means at year 30 when your roof is very likely to fail, most of the value of that 50 year warranty is gone, and you would be lucky to receive a very small portion if you're willing to go through the process of a warranty claim. Again, I don’t think these warranties are a bad thing, quite the opposite in fact, but if you are using the warranty language to try and determine how long your roof will last compared to another bid you will likely be disappointed.
So let's recap; warranties are good for what they are, just make sure that you understand them. Ask your contractor where they are coming from (contractor, manufacturer, etc.) and what they specifically cover and exclude. Ask to see example warranties so you can read the fine print for yourself. Discuss what your goals are with the contractor and make sure you are picking a product that is going to hold up to your expectations because in 20-30 years there is very little action you can take if it does not. If a contractor is unwilling to have these conversations that should be a concern.
Please reach out and we would be happy to talk through your concerns and see if we can provide a solution.