An old saying tells us an oral agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. Some homeowners suspect the same for roof warranties — those warranties never seem to hold a contractor accountable. The problem is not the warranty; the problem is the type of warranty. Most roof warranties people consider are provided by the manufacturers, not contractors, and cover only manufacturing defects. Here’s the low-down on the highs and lows of roof warranties.
How Do Roof Warranties Work?
New roof installation is a two-pronged process. One half is the roofing material (the fiberglass-asphalt shingles, metal panels, tiles, etc.) and the other half is the workmanship and labor to install the roof.
Roof material manufacturers can warrant — insure — only what they can control. They make the roof shingle in a clean, modern factory, so they can guarantee the shingle. They cannot be certain of the installer, so the warranty is for materials only, not for installation.
“Lifetime warranties” are now common in the roofing industry, but they are almost always for materials, which (in the case of shingles) typically last 20 to 22 years. The manufacturer warranty usually addresses only one of the issues: the roofing materials. To fully protect yourself, consider the workmanship warranty, which must be of the highest quality.
Leaky Roof, Leaky Warranty
Shingles are not waterproof. They are water resistant. They shed water, and the slope of your roof does the rest of the work. Water beads up and rolls down into your gutters. A fiberglass-asphalt shingle can effectively do this job for two or more decades, gradually losing the volatile chemicals which keep it pliable, resilient, and water resistant.
So a homeowner valiantly puts in a claim 5 years after installation and the manufacturer just shrugs and says, “Not a factory defect, it was poorly installed. We decline to cover that.” Such a warranty leaks as much as the poorly installed roof it covers.
The biggest issue here is installation – shingles installed incorrectly will leak much faster than shingles installed by a properly trained crew who takes the time to do your roof right the first time.
No, the secret to a strong warranty is not the warranty for the manufacturer’s product. It is the warranty of the roofing contractor’s installation – or workmanship. A great roofer can install a moderately priced shingle so well it will last for years and deserves the best warranty.
On the other hand, a terrible roofer — a storm chaser, Chuck in a truck, or a guy who picks up day help from the parking lot of a home improvement store — can take a great product and do such a bad job installing it the roof will quickly sprout leaks.
What homeowners deserve and need is two warranties:
- Warranty for the roof material
- Warranty for labor and installation
In most ways, the workmanship is more vital than the material. Some really good roofing contractors provide such workmanship warranties on their own work. They know the training their crews receive; they know the oversight their project managers show. They are so confident in their own installers’ work that they can afford to offer installation warranties, often for a decade or more.
Limitations on Warranties
No warranty creates an impervious barrier against all of Mother Nature. Workmanship warranties cannot protect you against, for example, any of this:
- Natural disasters such as ice storms, tornadoes, or trees falling on roofs
- Third party vendors ruining the roof — Satellite dish installers, chimney sweeps, plumbers, solar panel installers
- Modifications to the structure — Building contractors changing the roof by adding an addition, installing a chimney cricket, building a new roof over a deck, and so on
- Ice dams — No warranty, neither from a manufacturer or a roofing contractor, will protect against ice dams
You can keep your warranty in force by performing due diligence; enlist a professional or buy a snow rake, for example, to prevent ice dams. Emphasize to third-party vendors that care must be taken with the roof.
No matter what, of course, stay off your home’s roof. Roofs are dangerous enough for fully trained crews wearing fall protection. They are even more dangerous for amateurs, so please, stay off your roof!
But the Manufacturer Said …
No matter what your materials warranty says, your focus needs to be on the workmanship and the contractor you trust to install your roof. Protect your investment by partnering with a local, reliable roofer, one with deep roots in the community.
Picking a good contractor also makes material selection easier. Your trusted roofer can explain the advantages of each brand and budget line of shingle, so you know you are getting the highest quality for your budget.
Regardless of a manufacturer’s warranty, start your roofing project by engaging a great roofer. Please allow us at Victors Roofing to help you better understand roofing warranties. Contact us today and we can show how the highest quality roofers can offer the strongest warranties on both materials and workmanship.