Roof Warranties Explained

With an expensive purchase like a new roof, you expect it to last for a very long time, hopefully for the life of your house. That may be a little optimistic; however it is not unreasonable if you expect your roof to last at least 20 to 30 years. The good news is that most roofs come with warranties. With a warranty comes peace of mind. Now what happens when something occurs to your roof? What is the extent of your coverage? If your roof wears out after 10 years what do you do? In this following section we will dissect the warranties sold by shingle companies. Few people truly understand what is in the fine print of roofing warranties.

Who issued the warranty?

It is important to know who issued the warranty. Is it the shingle manufacturer or the contractor? Manufacturers generally provide warranties which cover only the materials. A roofing contractor would provide a warranty for the workmanship. Since they cover two different aspects (material versus installation), you need to be aware of the terms of each one.

If the warranty is provided solely by the contractor, be wary. Roofing contractors come and go therefore if the contractor becomes insolvent after a few years, the warranty is now useless. If you are dealing with a reputable company who has been in business for a long time, you will generally not have this issue. When purchasing a roof, you do not want to rely exclusively on the contractor’s warranty. You will want to ensure that there is also a manufacturer warranty.

roof warranty material and labor

Does the warranty cover materials and labor? Only materials? Only labor?

In a roofing warranty, there is a distinction between materials and labor. Most manufacturers will provide a guarantee over the materials but not the labor. Therefore if your entire roof needs to be replaced and your warranty specifies that it is materials-only, the manufacturer will ship you the new material but you will need a contractor to install it and pay for the installation yourself. Given the fact that labor makes up about half the cost of an installation, you will still end up spending a lot of money to fix your roof.

Even if your warranty is materials and labor, you still want to read the fine print closely. You want to see if the warranty contains the term NDL (no dollar limit). A no dollar limit warranty is just that. The manufacturer will cover the entire cost with no limit. If it is not a no dollar limit warranty, the manufacturer may only be liable for a prorated portion of the cost. Therefore if your roof breaks in the tenth year of a 30 year warranty, the manufacturer will only cover 33% of the cost.

Other hidden terms may specify that the manufacturer or contractor is only liable for the initial cost of the installation, which represents the total amount you paid for the installation. If costs have increased due to inflation (a roof replacement 10 years ago is less expensive than a roof replacement today), you will be liable for the increase in costs.

Other terms

Here is a list of other terms you want to be aware of:

  • Maintenance: Some warranties specify that the contractor is required to come back yearly for regular maintenance while others state that it is the responsibility of the homeowner. If it is the homeowner’s responsibility, you want to make sure that you get your roof inspected yearly (or however many times a year/few years that warranty requires). Some contractors will void your warranty if it hasn’t been inspected regularly. You should also keep all your inspections reports and receipts as evidence. If maintenance is the responsibility of the contractor, you need to make sure that you book appointments for them to come back and perform the maintenance. A regularly maintained roof will last twice as long
  • Some warranties don’t kick in until the contractor has been paid in full. Therefore if you are on a deferred payment plan and an issue occurs before you finalized your last payment, you will not be covered by the warranty.
  • Consequential damage: Read the fine print to see if the warranty covers consequential damage. If your roof leaks and damages your insulation or the inside of your house, some contractors may only be liable to fix the leak and not cover any of the associated damage. Make sure your warranty is clear when it comes to consequential damage. The associated damage, especially if it causes mold and mildew, is a lot more expensive than the damage to the roof.
  • Extreme weather: Some warranties won’t cover extreme weather such as hurricanes or intense windstorms. If you live in an area prone to extreme weather conditions you want to make sure your warranty is clear on its position regarding damaged caused by extreme weather.
  • Transferability: You will want to read the fine print associated with transferability of the warranty. If you sell your house, is the new homeowner covered by the warranty? Sometimes there’s a transfer fee and other times the warranty can be transferred free of charge. This is important to know and it is a selling point for a potential buyer.
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