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Building Operating Management

Understanding What a Roofing Warranty Is, and What It Is Not

First of a three-part article explaining everything FMs ever wanted to know about roofing warranties.
Before providing a warranty, roofing manufacturers typically require the contractor to submit the intended system to the manufacturer for review.

By Karen Warseck, Contributing Editor February 2017 - Roofing   Article Use Policy

Whenever a roofing project is in the design phase, one of the first items discussed is the length of the warranty. Rather than focusing on what is important, the warranty is shown off like a ten-carat diamond to dazzle the building owner into using that roof system. The question becomes — is it all hype or is it an essential part of any roof installation? The answer lies somewhere between. To know where the truth lies, one must first understand what a roof warranty is and what it is not.

There are two types of warranties: express and implied. The first is what people generally think of as “the warranty” when they choose a roof system — the one that says how long the warranty will be and what the terms are. The second is more fundamental. According to the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), for every manufactured product, regardless of what it is, if it is brought to market, the producer implies that the product is fit for its intended use. If a company makes a teapot, it is implying that the teapot will hold hot tea if you don’t crack it or turn it over, i.e., you use it the way it is intended. If a company makes socks, the company implies that they will keep a foot covered and comfortable — but only if you choose the right fit and don’t wear them wet. The manufacturer does not imply that the socks will be functional if you first use them as a dog toy.

If a company makes roofing materials, the implied warranty under the Uniform Commercial Code says that the materials will be serviceable as a roof and will keep the building dry if installed as instructed by the manufacturer on a building that is suitable for the roof installation. The roofing manufacturer has implied that its roof system will function as a roof if designed and installed correctly.

The first type of warranty is a written contract between the owner of the building and the warranty holder (roofing manufacturer, contractor, or both) that expressly states the extent of responsibility and the limits of liability of the warranty holder. It is absolutely not a guarantee that the roof is not going to leak. The express warranty states in legalese not only what the warranty holder will or will not do in the case of a roof failure but also what the owner is required to do to keep the warranty intact. The express warranty also may attempt to negate the UCC by stating that the written warranty overrides any other warranty “written or implied,” thus acknowledging that the materials may not be fit for their intended use.

There are also two different entities that may provide a warranty — the roofing materials manufacturer and the roofing contractor. The roofing contractor’s warranty will generally only repair the roof to make it watertight if problems occur. Because the warranty is issued by the contractor, the only assets available to back up the warranty are those of the contractor itself. Thus, a bankruptcy of the contractor will mean you have no warranty at all. Best you investigate the solvency of a roofing contractor before accepting a contractor-only warranty.

Another clause that bears noting: Some roofing contractors stipulate that their warranty is only intact if the building owner hires them (for a fee) to provide the maintenance on the roof for the warranty period. This seems like extortion. The building owner should be free to hire whomever he or she pleases to provide maintenance. An alternative to hiring a contractor to be responsible for inspections is to hire a roofing architect or engineer to provide the maintenance inspections and a contractor to do the repairs noted in the report. That way the owner only pays for the work that is required at that time and the maintenance requirement of the warranty is still fulfilled.

Manufacturer warranties
A manufacturer’s warranty can cover either the roofing materials only or both labor and materials. A materials-only warranty is useless as the materials are already covered under the UCC, and failure of the materials is a violation of the implied fitness for use. A materials-only warranty may in fact override the implied warranty. Be sure to read a materials-only warranty carefully, before you ask to receive one, to be sure the warranty does not revoke your rights under the UCC.

Even labor and materials warranties need to be carefully scrutinized. Some manufacturers only provide pro-rated warranties where the amount payable for repairs or replacements depends on the length of time the warranty has been in place. This means the longer the roof has been down, the less money may be available for remedies should the roof fail. The manufacturer justifies this by saying that you have had the use of the roof for the warranty period that has gone by, so why should they pay you for the time you have already used it? Other warranties limit the amount that can be applied to a replacement to the initial cost of installing the roof. This also can provide not enough funds because inflation will often raise roofing costs significantly past the original cost of the roof. The last option is an NDL or “no dollar limit” warranty. This absolutely does not mean that the manufacturer will pay for everything no matter what the cost to repair or replace your roof; it simply means that the warranty is not pro-rated nor is it limited to the original roofing cost. The manufacturer may pay all of the replacement costs if it is found that the manufacturer is liable for the failure but it is the manufacturer’s option whether to do so.





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