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Understanding Roof System Warranties

March 2, 2020

It is certainly preferable for building owners to understand the manufacturer’s warranty of the roofing material that is being proposed for any reroofing project prior to signing the contract. However, if your reroofing project has already been completed, it is still a worthwhile exercise to request and then read through the warranty for the roofing material that is now on your building.

Building owners can request a sample of this roofing material manufacturer’s warranty from the roofing contractor being considered; or who was contracted to install your building’s roof. You should ask questions and request any clarifications in writing for any warranty terms that are not completely clear to you. Below are explanations of various roofing material warranties that are available and several important items you need to look for when reviewing your warranty.

No Dollar Limit (NDL) Warranties 

Manufacturer’s roof warranties can have 5, 10, 20, 25 and 30 year durations. These warranties typically cover labor and manufacturer-provided materials. Such warranties are, many times, referred to as, “No Dollar Limit” (NDL) warranties. Most NDL warranties cover complete repairs to the problem with the warranted roof, no matter the cost required to make the repair. And if a complete roof replacement is required as a result of failure of the manufacturer’s products, the manufacturer is typically required to supply the replacement material and the labor to replace the roof. 

However, it is important for owners to read the “Terms and Conditions” of the NDL warranties. If you do not understand all the legal points of the warranty, consult an attorney who specializes in construction. If you cannot identify an attorney, we recommend you contact Hendrick, Phillips, Salzman & Siegel, P.C., or Smith, Currie & Hancock, LLP.

As for leaks in your warranted roof system, the roofing material manufacturer’s warranty only covers leaks which are a result of that manufacturer’s defective materials or the workmanship of the roofing contractor approved by that manufacturer to install that particular roofing material. Leaks that are not a result of roof failure are typically due to roof damage caused by foot traffic related to building systems where contractors require rooftop access for building system equipment service. Of these building systems, HVAC service is most often related to the cause of the leak. Structural problems are excluded from warranty coverage.

The next most common causes of leaks related to roof damage are due to Acts of God. One of the most common Acts of God that cause roof damage and subsequent leaks are related to wind. Due to this, manufacturer NDL warranties usually come with a wind-speed or uplift limit. For example, if your contractor proposes a NDL roof system with a 55 mile-per-hour wind speed limit, you can be exposed to roof damage repair expenses in the event of a storm where wind speeds exceed 55 miles per hour. This is a particularly important condition to consider in coastal locations where there can frequently be higher than normal wind speeds during storms. Another important reason to understand your roof warranty’s wind-speed or uplift limits relates to the required weather conditions of your insurance policy to cover roof damage related to Acts of God. Ideally, you can mitigate your roof’s warranty limitations by confirming your building’s insurance provisions so that roof failures due to Acts of God are covered no matter the weather conditions that affect your roof system.  

While NDL warranties add to the overall cost of a reroofing project, even with the above limitations and exclusions, paying more for a roof with a NDL warranty is typically well-worth the cost.

Labor and Material “Limited” Warranties

A manufacturer’s Labor and Material “Limited” Warranty covers labor and materials, but the warranty has limits to cost and coverage. Again, understanding the limits of the limited warranty is important, and understanding these limits prior to signing a contract for a reroofing project is ideal.

Material Only “Limited” Warranties

Manufacturers also offer “Material Only” warranties. These warranties come at no cost and typically only cover material provided by the manufacturer in the event that material fails. No amount of labor is covered. 

Roof System Warranties 

Roof System warranties are offered by most manufacturers. However, these warranties ONLY cover manufacturer-supplied materials, plus the labor to install the manufacturer’s material. Other components not provided by the manufacturer are not covered. For example, if the manufacturer provides only the roof membrane, but not the insulation or flashings, and you have a roof leak or failure due to non-manufacturer components (such as insulation), you may have no coverage whatsoever. It is always best to use roof system components from the same manufacturer.

Exceptions

Our firm was involved with a claim under a material-only warranty, and the manufacturer (one of the world’s largest) issued Standard a purchase order to pay for all labor and related costs to repair the 200,000 square foot roof area. The manufacturer provided all the required materials at no charge. The labor and related costs exceeded $180,000, all paid by the manufacturer. While this situation was extraordinary, Standard had a long and positive history with the manufacturer. Two lessons here: (1) Pre-qualify your contractor; (2) Require a letter from the manufacturer confirming the contractor’s good standing with the manufacturer.

Familiarity with limits and conditions of any warranty is important to safeguarding your investment, so make sure you clearly understand the limitations of your roof’s warranty and work with your insurance provider to be sure you have the most advantageous coverage available to compliment whatever warranty you do have.

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