If you’ve decided that you need a roof replacement, you’re almost certainly seeing dollar signs. Once you request bids from roofing contractors, they’re seeing dollar signs, too, and they’ll use every tool they have to get you to sign on the dotted line. When it comes to roof management, a warranty is an effective marketing tool, and suppliers will talk about it with great pride during your negotiations.
Before you let yourself be impressed by all of that warranty talk, there’s one thing you should know: Roofing warranties aren’t about you. They exist for one reason only, and that is to benefit the manufacturer and the contractor. A carefully worded warranty can, on the one hand, be the lure that gets you to sign, while on the other hand, protecting them from having to pay for repairs. It’s a lot like going to a casino: The rules are designed to favor the house.
So – before you start seeing that warranty as a gift, you need to look the gift horse in the mouth. Here are some things to watch out for:
1. Scope of Coverage
This refers to whether the warranty covers defects, workmanship, or both.
- Manufacturer’s materials warranty: This type of warranty only covers defects in the actual roofing materials. So leaks around flashings or rooftop pipe supports, for example, wouldn’t be covered. Neither would any problems due to installation mistakes. Even if you are able to get something covered under a manufacturer’s material warranty, it probably won’t cover the labor required to make the repair. While the timeframe can be impressive – most of these warranties are good for 10 to 30 years – the scope is so narrow that they aren’t nearly as impressive as they sound.
- Manufacturer’s system warranty: System warranties are like material warranties, except that they also cover defective workmanship. Also like materials warranties, they’re often full of loopholes. Many exclude the contractor from liability after two years, even though the warranty may be billed as lasting 10 to 30 years. They usually also exclude leaks caused by other roofing components, like flashings, penetrations, and rooftop pipe supports.
- Contractor’s workmanship guarantee: This type of contract typically covers both materials and workmanship. While it might last only one to five years, it can be more valuable than the other warranties because you’ll have an easier time getting things covered. It’s still important, however, to read the fine print for exclusions.
2. Dollar Limits
Some warranties have monetary caps that limit payouts to the original cost of the roof. That could be very different from the replacement cost, which would likely be a lot more, and it would likely exclude any interior damage resulting from the leak or downtime while the leak is being repaired.
3. Determination of Applicability
That’s a somewhat formal term that simply refers to who gets to decide if the warranty applies in a certain situation. Some warranties specify that the manufacturer gets to make that determination, which is rather like the fox guarding the henhouse.
This is one of the most common ways manufacturers and contractors protect themselves from warranty claims. Some warranties include a list of circumstances under which leaks won’t be covered – if the leak is caused by a natural disaster, for example, or one of your rooftop pipe supports failed and dropped its load on your roof. Some also limit your legal recourse options, such as seeking compensation based on breach of contract.
Warranties often include a list of things that will void your warranty, a last-ditch effort to avoid payment. For example, did you know that you could void your warranty by not keeping a record of everyone who has access to the roof? Or making any alterations without getting written permission from the manufacturer?
During the bidding and negotiation process, people love to talk about their warranties and how easy ongoing roof management will become. But what somebody tells you is irrelevant when it comes down to getting a warranty claim covered; all that matters is what’s in the fine print. So make sure you read it carefully because the little details in the warranty could very quickly turn a good deal into a bad one.