Warranties are a major selling point for roofers. When deciding on a major purchase like a new roof, you might be swayed by a warranty that’s good for 25, 30, or even 50 years. If the roof has issues at any time in the next two or three decades, you’ll get a new roof for free, right? Not necessarily.
Roofing warranties are complicated and fragile. Know what yours is, what it promises, and what you need to do to protect it.
Manufacturer Warranties – Material Only vs. Enhanced
Most roof warranties are provided not by the contractor who installs your roof, but by the manufacturer of the shingles. Most roofs are made of asphalt shingles, which usually have a life expectancy of either 25 or 30 years (there are also 50-year and “lifetime” shingles). Standard material warranties only cover the cost of the roofing materials (i.e., the shingles), not the cost of the labor required to remove and dispose of old shingles and to install new ones. Additionally, material warranties are generally prorated, which means you only get reimbursed for the original cost of the shingles less the value of the time expired. For example, if there were 10 years expired on a 40 year roof, the manufacturer would reimburse 75% of the original cost of the shingles.
Enhanced warranties, on the other hand, may offer full replacement value and may cover labor for replacement. It’s important to know what your warranty does and does not cover.
Most contractors offer some form of warranty. These can look vastly different depending on the contractor that you use. Here are a few suggestions:
- Ask for a written copy of their warranty to understand what is covered and what is not. Be wary of someone who cannot provide this.
- Understand whether their warranty covers just the workmanship, or covers the materials that were installed. Most contractor warranties cover only workmanship. Materials are generally warranted by the manufacturer or supplier of those materials.
- Be wary of long warranties offered by companies that don’t have a demonstrated ability to stand behind those warranties for the duration of the warranty period. For example, how much can you trust a warranty offered by a company that’s only been in business for a few years or doesn’t have a permanent place of business?
Protect your warranty from being voided or diminished by taking the following steps:
- Get a Regular Inspection: Your roof is under a constant barrage of wind, rain, ice, snow and sun. An inspection every one to two years allows your contractor to spot and fix any minor issues with vents, flashing, individual shingles, caulking, etc. This prevents the need for major work down the line and also protects your warranty.
- Stick with the Original Contractor Who Installed Your Roof: By calling the original contractor, you’re protecting more than just his feelings. You’re also protecting your warranty. Most contracts include language that voids the contractor’s warranty once a separate contractor has altered the original work. Maintaining continuity also makes it much more likely that the original roofer will catch his own mistakes. A good contractor should be your roof’s lifelong partner, which is both prudent and a cost-saver.
- Register Your Warranty: Always send the warranty registration to the manufacturer! Even if your contractor says it’s not necessary, even if you read something else online, send it in anyway. If you don’t have a registered warranty, you may not have a warranty.
- The Fine Print: Make sure your contractor is certified through the shingle manufacturer, and is authorized to provide the warranty that is specified. Lack of certification is almost always a cause for warranty voidance. Better yet, get a contractor that has received the manufacturer’s highest certification — these contractors can offer enhanced warranties. Make sure your contractor is aware of the manufacturer’s guidelines. If the roof is installed outside of the recommended guidelines, your warranty is almost always void.
Like your roof protects your family, it is your job to protect your warranty. Know what’s in your warranty and what can void it, and take the necessary steps to keep it valid.