Low-slope roofing guarantees

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Photo courtesy Interstate Roofing

by Mike Russo
Understanding and estimating the value of low-slope roofing manufacturers’ guarantees can be confusing. Part of the reason for this is even well-meaning industry sources can contribute to the plethora of inaccurate or misleading information FOUND in the market on the purposes and potential value of roof manufacturers’ guarantees.

For example, when it comes to choosing a roofing product, the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) advises property owners that:

A roofing guarantee’s length should not be the primary criterion in the selection of a roofing product or roof system because the guarantee does not necessarily provide assurance of satisfactory roof system performance.

Poor workmanship on the part of the roofing contractor is the primary reason for roof failures. Fortunately, there are guarantees that provide the property owner with various degrees of protection from these workmanship issues.

The selection of a roof system application should be based on the product’s qualities and suitability for the prospective project. A long-term guarantee may be of little value to a customer if the roof system does not perform satisfactorily and leaks.(For more, visit staticcontent.nrca.net/consumer/warranties.pdf).

The first statement in this quotation is correct, but the second is not always true. There are long-term roof guarantees offering a high level of protection against workmanship roofing problems. Additionally, what happens if the architect or roofing contractor misjudges the product’s “qualities and suitability” for a particular application? Before offering a long-term guarantee, most roofing manufacturers require detailed drawings for new roofing projects. On reroofs of existing buildings, an inspection report is required to ensure the assembly being installed is appropriate.

NRCA points out failures of the actual roofing product or material being guaranteed by the manufacturer are extremely rare. This was certainly not the case 30 years ago, but it is generally true of today’s technologically advanced roofing systems. However, it adds that:

Manufacturer’s guarantees usually only cover the cost of the roofing materials, and they usually do not cover the labor and other costs associated with the removal and replacement of the existing roof.

The key word to note in this last statement is “usually.” For example, certain guarantee programs do cover the cost of labor (and more).

The long-term no dollar limit (NDL) guarantees offered by many roofing manufacturers today have a wide range of benefits to the property owner. Roof guarantees encourage—and almost always require—regular roof maintenance and inspections. According to NRCA, regular roof maintenance and inspections are key elements in extending the life of roofing systems, whether guaranteed or not.

In the roofing industry, guarantees are generally written to protect the manufacturer and they are not necessarily protection for the property owner. Guarantees are also issued as a legal safeguard against workmanship performed by the roofing contractor who does not meet the manufacturer’s published installation specifications.

Roof guarantees encourage—and almost always require—regular roof maintenance and inspections by the property owner or contractor. A roof maintenance program offered by a certified roofing contractor is a key element in extending the life of today’s roofing system Photo courtesy GAF
Roof guarantees encourage—and almost always require—regular roof maintenance and inspections by the property owner or contractor. A roof maintenance program offered by a certified roofing contractor is a key element in extending the life of today’s roofing system
Photo courtesy GAF

The cost and quality of today’s roof guarantees vary greatly and can be used as competitive tools by the manufacturers to sell their products. This is not a bad thing, and no manufacturer guarantees its roof will last forever. However, it is important to have some type of guarantee coverage on low-slope roofs, unless the property owner plans to sell the building immediately after roofing. Even under these circumstances, the property owner may still be liable to the new owner of the building based on the contract documents of the sale.

The typical guarantee offered by the roofing contractor lasts from one to two years. If a property owner has just spent $1 million or more on a roofing system to protect a building, how secure will the property owner be with a short-term contractor guarantee—assuming a professional roofing contractor was used and is still in business before the guarantee expires?

While it is true most roofing defects show up under close scrutiny within a year, there is no guarantee the property owner will notice these problems until water begins to leak directly into the building after the contractor’s guarantee expires.

That is why most roofing manufacturers use the services of ‘authorized’ and ‘master’ commercial roofing contractors when certain roof guarantees are offered. Most major manufacturers handle their guarantee programs in a multi-tiered certification process. Only the most highly trained, top-tier ‘master select’ contractors offer property owners the most comprehensive guarantees. These roof contracting companies have been provided with various extensive educational materials developed by in-house technical experts—allowing them to stay current in the latest roof installation techniques. That is why manufacturers authorize them to offer enhanced system guarantees—some of which even includes a program offering a factory inspection of the finished roof.

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