The Truth About Roofing Warranties

Roofing warranties make big claims to exploit your fear of the worst but the truth is that most of these warranties are worth little more than the paper they’re written on.  Understanding roofing warranties can help homeowners make logical choices to safeguard their home.

Understanding motivations will save you Money

Homeowners, manufacturers and contractors all have different motivations for offering promises that may or may not ever come to fruition, but ask yourself if you’ve ever known anyone who has collected or benefited from a manufacturers warranty?

Manufacturers Motivations

Fear is the driving force behind the warranty claims. Corporate profits and how these corporations can exploit your fears does little for you in the long run.  If you have a fond memory of how a corporation cared took care of you out of the kindness of their non-existent heart, then go ahead and embrace these corporate warranties.  But if water comes in, they’re not going to give you a reassuring hug or

Corporations answer only to their stockholders and their stockholders are looking for profit. If you’re actually read these legal documents (not just the glossy printed brochures), you already know that they’re written by attorneys and actuaries.  Those actuaries know that the average person only lives in their home for 7 to 10 years. They know that when you buy your house, you’re picking out paint colors and furniture and the last thing on your mind is registering that warranty that was supposed to transfer within the first 30 days in order to be valid.

Homeowner Motivations

Your home is likely the biggest purchase you’ll ever make. You want to know that your home will be protected. This is natural and fair, but most homeowners only see the picture a corporation wants them to see. Smiling, comfortable homeowners on a warm sunny day is what we all would like to see. Statistically speaking, you’ll be living somewhere else in 10 years and a lifetime warranty on a house you don’t own will not matter.

Contractors Motivations

Not every contractor, like every corporation or every homeowner, will be a do-gooder. They receive manufacturer brochures and training that will help them sell more which motivates them to go out and preach the gospel of that manufacturer.  Most new roofing contractors don’t even know that there is an 80% failure rate after just 2 years and a 95% failure after 3 years.

Everyone deserves the dignity of making a living and for those who are good at what they do, they can make a respectable living. But more of the successful contracting companies are getting gobbled up by venture capitalists and hedge funds than ever before. Their hard core sales techniques continue to get better.  Smaller companies are often put at a disadvantage and homeowners are unlikely to know whether it is a small, local company, or a big hedge fund that owns the company.  Recently a local “veteran owned” company was sold to a group of venture capitalists who continue to present themselves as local and “veteran owned”.

In order to offer these appealing sounding warranties, the contractors must typically use 5 components from a manufacturer. The more products a manufacturer can require without the contractors balking, the more the stockholders of that product will make.

Is any warranty good?

That’s a subjective question but a fair one. Here’s some of the reasons that warranties may not be honored:

  • A manufacturer can change their name or go out of business
  • A manufacturer has an installation requirement that a contractor did not follow — even if that requirement is not best practices for all climates and conditions.
  • A manufacturer required more components to be made by them than the contractor used, even if those products are not the best for your homes needs.  (But by requiring you to use more of a manufacturers products, they’ll profit more.)

The Lifetime Warranty

First, notice that most lifetime warranties have the word “limited” before warranty. The warranty is not covering the roof for your full lifetime.  In fact, the average roof in the upper midwest only lasts for 18-20 years.  If on year 18, will you remember where your paperwork was?  Will your contractor, who is likely no longer in business, be around to help you get a copy?  What if that contractor didn’t use the exact nail pattern or installation technique the manufacturer requires?  At what year did your warranty begin to pro-rate down until the warranty was effectively worthless?

A manufacturer can require any number of items in their warranty.  We recently replaced a roof in Glendale where the home was roofed by a highly rated contractor according to the top certification that the manufacturer offers.  That roof was only 6 years old and the installer did not cut away the wood underneath the ridge vent.  That roof cooked and burned out quickly.  The roofer was out of business and the manufacturer would not warrant it because it had not been installed to their specifications.  And here’s the thing — the manufacturers don’t go back to inspect all the roofs that the companies they promote as their top tier.

So what criteria should I look for when buying a roof?

Look at products, not promises. Maybe a manufacturer makes a great shingle, cap shingle and starter shingle but they’re not known for their ventilation, their flashings, edge metal or ice and water membrane. Find a contractor willing to mix and match the best of the best and be able to explain to you why he or she has come up with their own system rather than a system that relies on corporate promises. Maybe that means using a different manufacturer for the ice and water membrane than the one who made the ventilation product, or maybe the underlayments and flashings were made by different manufacturers with products that work well in your climate.

Don’t make your decision based upon fear or anything that a corporation promises you to do. Our motivation is not to be alarmists, but to give you good information from our decades in the industry to help you make a good decision.

Choose a Contractor you can trust

If you can look into the eyes of the person selling you their roof and if you believe that they’ll follow the Golden Rule to treat others as they would like to be treated, you’re ahead of the game.

It’s better to look at a local company and talk with others to see what kind of work a company has done – not just last week, but even someone who may have had their roof done a year or more ago.  Take a look at a contractors work. If you’re really worried, ask a person who had work done by a contractor. The best advice I can offer is to get a reliable installer who does the job right the first time.

Reviews are important

  • Even reviews can be scammy, but here’s a few tips that can help you sort out the real from the fake ones:
  • Does a company have a google presence?
  • Do they have at least 10 reviews?
  • How old is their oldest review?
  • If they claim they’ve been in business for 10 years, do they have reviews that go back 10 years?
  • Do they have a whole bunch of reviews all clustered together on the same day or month but nothing before?
  • Do they have only positive reviews and do you really believe that every reviewing customer is telling the truth?
  • If they have negative reviews, did the company respond?
  • Did they respond professionally?
  • Does the company reply to other reviews?

Once you’ve read the reviews, you’ll know who you would even want to trust to come to your house. If you haven’t even looked up your contractor before they came out to your home, don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’ve done your homework. Due diligence has become an overused buzz-word, often coupled with a lack of personal responsibility, but if you really want a great outcome at an affordable price, you’ll need to hold yourself accountable too and that means doing your homework.

We hope this has helped.  We understand that it is difficult to wade through a mountain of information, only to find that it is actually impossible to do an apples-to-apples comparison.  This is frustrating for homeowners, but it’s also frustrating to contractors who know that homeowners will get overwhelmed.

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