Monthly Archives: March 2017

Roofing Warranties Provide Course of Action

A warranty will stipulate exactly what remedies you may seek if there is a problem. Some will limit the remedy only to bringing the roof back to a watertight condition. This can mean only patching is covered, no matter how bad the system is. It may not cover items like wet insulation or rotted wood; as long as the roof no longer leaks, the warranty provisions are satisfied. Furthermore, some manufacturers retain the right to solely decide whether the leak is covered or not and will charge the owner back for the site visit if the leak is determined by the warranty holder not to be a covered condition.

Remember, the warranty is a contract, and like most business contracts, the terms can be negotiated. If you do negotiate out some of the more unacceptable clauses, be sure the changes are made by someone authorized by the company to make these changes and sign off on them.

Another key point: Be sure that the warranty form is made out in favor of the building owner, not the contractor, management company, or any individual.

Building owners often ask whether they should obtain a warranty and what length is best to get. Because warranties can help with catastrophic failures, it is generally worthwhile to obtain both a roofing-contractor and a materials-manufacturer warranty. The roofing contractor warranty should generally not be longer than five years since most installation defects show up within the first three. Paying for a warranty longer than that gives diminishing returns. Any clauses requiring the contractor to be hired to provide the maintenance should be negotiated out of the contract. If the roof is asphalt-based, include a rider that the roofer will fix any and all blisters that occur within the first five years. This is because almost all asphalt-based manufacturers exclude blistering from their covered issues.

Even if a roof is designed for a 20-year service life, it’s probably best to go with a 15-year, no-dollar-limit, labor and materials warranty from the roofing materials manufacturer. Longer term warranties are more warm blankets for owners to give them a sense of security than they are useful. Warranties longer than 15 years are expensive and difficult to collect on due to normal aging, maintenance issues, and lack of stipulated leak notifications.

Certificates get lost over time, making collection even more elusive. Long term warranties are used as sales tools by roofing materials manufacturers since they know there is little chance of an owner collecting on them after that many years. The list of exclusions and limitations of liability on the warranty can make it virtually impossible for you to collect on it but they can sell you one anyway and make you feel good about their system.

Installation and maintenance matter more
Recommending the shorter warranty life also is an acknowledgement that the service life of a roof has very little to do with the warranty length. A long lasting, serviceable roof has everything to do with having a knowledgeable and experienced consulting architect or engineer design the roof and observe its installation, selecting a competent and qualified roofing contractor to install it, and having a dedicated and organized building owner to maintain it. Even the National Roofing Contractors Association has stated that the best way to assure a well-installed roof is to have an independent observer watching the installation full time. Using all three legs of a stool can result in never even having to dust off the warranty certificate because you can feel confident that you are getting the most appropriate roof for your building and that it will last as long as its design life was intended.

A final word of advice: You may not need to get a warranty on your roof if you have it designed, installed, and maintained properly. If you do decide to get one, read a specimen copy very closely prior to contracting for the roof and be sure to review all of the fine print. Have your lawyer also read it and together go over the limits of liability, the list of exclusions and the owner’s responsibilities under the warranty to be sure you understand what you can and cannot do, what you must do, and what you can and cannot have.
Warranties can provide assurances to the owner that the roof will perform as intended, but only if you read them first.

Know The Advantages and Benefits of Roofing Warranties

The most important advantage of a warranty is that it gets the manufacturer involved in the roof installation, and any extra eyes on a roofing project is a benefit.

First, the manufacturer may provide a review to assure the system meets its qualifications. Most manufacturers require that the roofing contractor submit their intended system to the manufacturer before starting the roofing project. If no architectural or engineering consultant is involved in the selection of the roofing system, this manufacturer review is essential, even though it is a minimum review done primarily for the manufacturer’s benefit. It’s better than nothing.

Second, because the manufacturer wants to minimize its exposure, it will also do an inspection of the roof to be more comfortable that the roof has been applied according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions before the warranty is issued. Once again, this is mostly for the manufacturer’s benefit but again better than nothing. It is always helpful to have an extra set of eyes on the installation. Manufacturers have lists of approved applicators that are, in general, more familiar with the methods of installing the manufacturer’s roofs and in many cases are preferred installers. If a warranty is to be obtained, one of these contractors must be used to install the roof. If the manufacturer is selective about which contractors can become an approved applicator, this can help the building owner to select a more competent roofer and hopefully obtain a better quality installation.

If the building is to be sold, a transferable warranty can give the buyer some comfort that the roof is still within its design life. A caution here to buyers, however — an intact warranty is no substitute for a good due diligence inspection by a qualified roofing architect or engineer.
Building owner responsibilities

A warranty can provide repairs or replacement of the roof if there is an issue due to product failure or installation problems as long as you have kept to the terms of the owner’s responsibilities. So it’s important to understand those responsibilities.

One major responsibility is maintenance. Many owners evaluate a warranty based on its length. Unfortunately, the length of a roof’s service life has very, very little to do with the written warranty. The service life is a function of how the roof has been designed, installed, and maintained. Roofing is like a three-legged stool. Take out one of the legs, and the stool does not stand up. Roofing manufacturers recognize maintenance as the third leg of the stool, and most specifically include a stipulation that the roof must be maintained on a regular basis for the warranty to remain intact. In fact, lack of maintenance is one of the main reasons for a manufacturer to deny a warranty claim for a roof failure. You can liken this to car maintenance. If you never change your oil, when the engine blows up, no car manufacturer will honor a warranty because of your lack of maintenance.

The other big responsibility is that most warranties stipulate that the building owner must notify the warranty holder in writing within 30 days after a leak occurs. Failure to notify the manufacturer of leaks can void the warranty. The reason is that if a leak can be remedied while it is still a minor annoyance, it has less chance of becoming a major disaster. Because manufacturers wish to limit their exposure, fixing a small leak will cost them less than replacing a roof so they want to know about them as soon as possible.

Warranties also tend to have exclusions where the warranty does not apply at all. These usually include standing water, wind over gale force, movement in the structure, materials not supplied by the manufacturer, blistering, and other items that will be listed in the warranty.

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

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.

Contractors Key in Roof Replacements

‘Any contractor will do’

Most roof replacement projects must go through a bidding process. Selecting a roofing contractor is based heavily on the bids that are submitted, and the most important factor — often the only factor considered — is the cost. But cost does not determine the long-term success of the project. Instead, success depends more on the performance of the installer.

Poor workmanship is one of the leading causes of roof failures, so managers must properly vet the contractor before making a decision. Review bids carefully to make certain the roof system being bid is the one specified.

Equally important is installer certification. Most roof manufacturers certify companies to install their products. As a result of this process, the contractor’s employees receive the proper training in installing the roof, and the manufacturer affirms that the contractor has performed up to its standards on past projects.

Managers also need to make certain the contractor is insured and properly licensed. Just because a contractor says it is does not necessarily make it so. Obtain a certificate of insurance from the contractor as part of the bid package, and confirm it with the insurance company. Similarly, managers must require bidders to provide license information and verify it with the appropriate state or county office.

The bid package also must include information about past projects the contractor has performed and a list of references, as well as the number of years the company have been in business. Each reference should include the type of roof installed and the date of installation, as well as contact information for each reference. Most importantly, managers must contact each reference or, better yet, visit the facility.

Overlooking the warranty

Too often, the only factor managers consider or even remember concerning a warranty is its length. Every roof comes with a warranty, yet most warranties bought and paid for by a building owner never have a claim completed against them. While claims might be filed, they often are dismissed, since they are for excluded items or because the owner has failed to meet the requirements necessary to keep the warranty in place.

Warranties spell out the steps owners and managers must take to keep the warranty in effect. Twice yearly inspections, limited foot traffic, debris removal, drain cleaning and prompt repairs all are typical warranty requirements. It is important to read and understand these requirements, and it is equally important to document all activities in the event of a warranty claim.

Before settling on a particular contract, managers also need to read the offered warranty closely. Who issues the warranty, the manufacturer or the installer? This is an important question because it is more likely that the roof manufacturer, not the installer, will be in business over the length of the warranty.

Is the warranty for materials only, or does it include labor? What are the exclusions? Is damage to the facility and its contents covered in the event of a warranty-related roof failure?

When facing a large bill for repair or replacement, a manager does not want to find out that the warranty is worthless or has been voided.