When was the last time you read all the terms and conditions of a service or product you purchased or used? Have you ever read the terms and conditions? If not, you’re most certainly not alone. Who has time to spend an extra half hour going through a surplus of 140,000 words telling you what you can and can’t do or what is and isn’t? Certainly not the majority.
The scary part is we see this type of thing in the roofing industry all too often, especially when it comes to warranties. No one sees them, no one reads them, no one understands them until it’s too late.
While the industry as a whole has come a long way, there are still a few things to figure out, and warranties are definitely one of them. From what we’ve seen, it is clear that coverage varies big time and the actual extent of a roofing warranty is equally elusive.
A consumer sees the word “warranty,” “consequential damages,” “labor and material,” etc., and immediately thinks insurance policy, but the reality is that the buyer:
1. Only sees what the seller or manufacturer wants them to see;
2. May only be seeing the warranty application – Pro tip: the warranty application looks like the warranty, but nothing on the page guarantees coverage;
3. Pays for the warranty up front with the assumption that it covers all bases – against leaks, performance protection, labor and material costs and even that it will function for term without additional costs – but doesn’t see the actual warranty in all its glory until the roof is installed;
4. Or worse yet, never sees or reads it at all!
And when you do get that warranty in front of you, what will you see?
To start, it’s important to know that the majorities have a fee for any and all types of warranties available.
Second, there is a big difference between defect and performance. Manufacturing defect is not a promise that the product or system is to perform a certain way, only that the manufacturer didn’t make the product wrong, which in big box companies is rare. They have a formula, and they follow that formula over and over mass-producing the same old product. Not one thing is mentioned about what the roof SHOULD be doing, you will only see statements about what IS and IS NOT covered in the “will cover leaks” statement in the first sentence of the first paragraph.
Also, there is typically an obsessive amount of emphasis given to the tenure of the warranty and not so much the life cycle history of the product. A 20-year warranty is great and all, but how long has the product been on the market? And, more than that, how exactly has the product been tested? Lab testing is just the beginning; has the product been tested over an extended period out in the elements with its performance observed? Usually not.
After a period of time, usually 10 years, but can be as soon as 2, the customer/contractor/building owner must come up with a percentage of the cost to replace any warranty failures. Costs include: labor, materials, removal and disposal of roofing waste, and of those costs, warranties only cover a portion if the product was defective. If not, the owner will dish out 100% of the costs.
And, if we didn’t drive the point home enough already, major pro tip here: anything that will make your flat roof fail prematurely is going to be excluded and not covered.
Read your warranty like your roof is already leaking. Understand and know your warranty like you have to defend yourself in court, knowing exactly where to point out the words “this roof will not leak under any condition, and if it fails to do so, the manufacturer will cover all costs because of the lack of performance.”
There is no substitute for the lack of quality control, for the lack of high-quality materials, workmanship, design, and manufacturer or supplier support to ensure top roof performance.
Some final words of wisdom, do your homework, look for case studies or proof of performance and don’t assume that a warranty covers anything or everything.