by Elaina Adams | September 1, 2012 3:02 pm
By Jennifer Wanzel
Shingle manufacturers offer long-term warranties ranging from 25 to 50 years, or even a lifetime. Roofing contractors, in most cases, recommend which shingle manufacturer to use and then the builder/property owner makes the decision primarily based on the product’s esthetics and the warranty information provided.
Unfortunately, many building owners are confused or misled by the warranty details given, and assume the roof will last the term indicated on the package or the years as stated by the contractor. However, the warranty is generally not properly explained or fully disclosed, and it is based on manufacturing defects, not wear-life.
Most roofs last no longer than 12 to 18 years, says Steve Meltz, roofing contractor and owner of two roofing companies. This is primarily due to defective shingles, incorrect specifications, and/or the contractor’s inability to follow the proper installation procedures required by the shingle manufacturers.
Manufacturer and contractor warranties
Incorrect specifications or installation is not covered under manufacturer warranties; in other words, they become the building owner’s expense, unless there is a contractor’s warranty guaranteeing the workmanship. When planning and installing a roof system, it is ideal if both the manufacturer warranty (i.e. product warranty) and the contractor warranty (i.e. labour and workmanship) are fully explained and taken into consideration before making any decisions. The best way to ensure a satisfactory outcome is to have the contractor put in writing a guarantee the work performed, the specifications, and the workmanship when installing the shingles is in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications and application instructions.
Standard (i.e. three-tab) roofing shingles generally comprise:
Before the 1960s, most asphalt roofing shingles had a standard tile appearance and came in various colours. They had an asbestos mat, high-quality asphalt, and a good granule surface. These shingles came with warranties of 10 to 15 years but would generally last up to a quarter-century because of the quality of the raw products used to make the shingle. When asbestos was banned and no longer allowed in shingle production, the manufacturers had to re-evaluate their designs and come up with an alternative material––rag cloth or cotton.
The oil embargo in the 1970s increased the production cost and the shingle marketplace became very competitive. During this time, the fibreglass mat shingle was developed and the traditional organic shingles began using lesser quality, but more cost-effective material, and, therefore, cotton was replaced by recycled paper.
Even with this lower-quality shingle, due to the competitive market, the manufacturers had to come up with another angle. Without making any changes to the shingles themselves, they increased their warranties from the standard 10 to 15 years to 20 and 25. This was a strategic marketing plan ultimately facilitated by contractors, architects, and specifiers as they would pass on the information to their clients and recommend a certain shingle based on their warranty.
According to Meltz, after 1986, most shingles in the market—especially the organic ones—would not last beyond 12 to 18 years. This can often be blamed on contractors not providing proper or adequate ventilation, incorrect specification, and not following manufacturer installation specifications. Even in newer homes with properly ventilated attic and substrate installation, if the shingles were not aligned and nailed as per these specifications, there would be blow-off and roof leaks.
Meltz explains he goes into subdivisions daily and sees shingles that have lost their granule and are curling and cracking, despite being only eight to 12 years old.
“As a roofing contractor, it has been very frustrating to have seen some manufacturers increase their warranties on the products in an effort to gain market share, yet they have not changed the quality of their products to reflect those changes,” says Meltz. “In fact, the lower-end product warranties have increased and the higher-end product warranties have typically remained the same.”
The manufacturer warranty is commonly taken at face value, and the actual details and limitations are neither understood by the property owner, nor fully disclosed by the contractor.
Today, most manufacturers have steered away from organic materials and are primarily producing fibreglass shingles. The warranty battle continues, and has been used as a marketing tool. When one of the manufacturers extends or changes certain warranty stipulations, its competitors may be forced to do the same. In one recent incident, a manufacturer changed its upfront protection from the industry standard of five years and extended it to a decade. Upfront protection covers labour and material for up to 10 years on shingle product warranties of 30 to 50 years or limited lifetime. At the same time, this company extended some of its 30-, 35-, and 40-year warranties to 50 years, without a single change to the product itself.
Warranty versus guarantee
It is important for the building owner to understand how the manufacturer warranty typically works. A warranty is not a guarantee; the difference by definition is:
A guarantee is (business/commerce) a formal assurance, especially in writing, that a product, service, etc., will meet certain standards or specifications.
Whereas a warranty is given to the purchaser by a company stating that a product is reliable and free from known defects and that the seller will, without charge, repair or replace defective parts within a given time limit and under certain conditions.
Another key warranty element often overlooked or misunderstood is manufacturers tend to only cover defects that result in leaks. Curling, cracking, buckling, distortion, granule loss, and colour change are not the manufacturer’s responsibility, yet they are some of the biggest reasons building owners will change their roofs. A shabby roof diminishes the structure’s value, and is a main factor prospective buyers will take into consideration when making an offer. Unfortunately, unless these issues are causing leaks, it becomes the building owner’s expense.
The upfront protection warranty coverage (i.e. the first five to 10 years) has specific limitations when it comes to reimbursement, as seen from this hypothetical example of a manufacturer’s warranty.
In the upfront coverage period, if water leakage occurs and is a result from a manufacturing defect as reflected in the limited warranty coverage, the manufacturer has two options:
(a) Replace or repair, at its expense, the defective shingles using identical or manufacturer shingles. This includes the cost of labour to install these shingles, but it does not cover other expenses such as flashings, vents, metal work, and tear-off and disposal of the shingles replaced.
(b) The building owner will be compensated for the total charges incurred with replacement or repair of the defective shingles with either identical or similar manufacturer shingles, including the cost of labour to install them. However, this compensation does not include other costs and expenses (such as metal work, flashings, vents, and tear-off and disposal of the products replaced), and is in accordance with the manufacturer’s reasonable estimate at the time of the claim, but not exceeding the total cost of the original labour and shingles.
After the upfront protection period has passed, the warranty could stipulate:
Depending on the conditions and limitations listed within…this limited warranty begins after installation is complete and will run for the length of time identified for the particular shingle.
After 10 years, the upfront protection period has passed and the warranty becomes retroactive and depreciates every month from the date of installation:
Coverage may be offered based on the prorated value of the maximum liability per square shown in the information tables. Costs not included are labour, tear-off and disposal of the existing shingles, flashings, metal work, vents, or repair of any other damages.
Figure 1 shows a chart indicative of a warranty used today.
Breakdown of a typical manufacturing warranty
Manufacturer’s prorated warranties can be confusing when calculating what would be left on the warranty and payable to the building owner. Here are a few examples.
This example is based on a 25-year prorated warranty, after 18 years. It is March 2030 and a manufacturing defect has led to a leak. Shingles were purchased in March 2012 with a typical 25-year limited warranty, and only 18 years have elapsed since their purchase. The manufacturer’s warranty obligation will be reduced as follows:
180/225 (reduction calculation for the first 180 months)
= 0.80 + 36/600 (reduction figure for balance of period)
= 0.06 for a total of 0.86
The manufacturer’s maximum obligation would be approximately 14 per cent (100 – 86) of the cost of the replacement shingles.
An important piece of the warranty buyers should be aware of is if the 14 per cent paid out by the manufacturer is on the cost of the shingles. Expenses not covered include:
“Considering shingle material purchases add up to 15 per cent of the overall price, this is a miniscule amount of what it will cost to fix the roof,” says Meltz. “If you purchased a $6000 roof, your shingles amount to approximately $900 of that overall expense. Under warranty, in the example above, you will receive approximately $126 worth of shingles. Again, this does not cover the removal and disposal of old shingles, underlayments, flashings, ventilation, fasteners, sealants, and labour. With inflation, you are likely to double the original cost of your roof in repairs.”
One can apply the same calculation using a 50-year warrantied shingle with 10-year upfront protection. If the original replacement price was $10,000, and the shingles were 20 per cent of that cost, using calculations based on the warranty chart, the shingle reimbursement would be $1107.67 after 12 years. The out-of-pocket expense would be close to $9000 without considering inflation.
Two other common limitations that void the warranty for most manufacturers today involve the contractor.
The contractor must adhere to the complete set of specifications as written by the manufacturer. This includes:
These are the most common factors behind a roof’s demise––not the shingles themselves. Unfortunately, if the contractor does not have his own separate guarantee or warranty on the labour, the building owner is left with the entire expense of a new roof.
Therefore, when building a roof, it is important to research the correct shingle type to use, based on climate, slope of roof, and product warranty (one should read the warranty in its entirety). It is equally important to ensure the hired contractor is certified by the manufacturer.
According to Meltz, a successful roofing project includes:
There are manufacturers that will stand behind their certified contractors whose warranties are not prorated and will cover labour, material and disposal, workmanship, esthetic flaws, are transferable, and are not just leak warranties. However, not all shingles and warranties are created equal. (Some asphalt shingles are provided with ‘self-sealing tabs,’ with the thought the tabs will ‘self-seal’ in warm weather. In some Atlantic provinces, cases have been found where the tabs have not been fused or the contractor has not properly glued or asphalted the shingles down. It is important to watch out for this).
Jennifer Wanzel has a certificate in digital marketing with the Canadian Marketing Association. She is a digital content and social media writer, and a freelance writer. Wanzel can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.
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