UNDERSTANDING FLAT ROOF WARRANTIES – Understanding the Protection You’re Getting

For a commercial building owner having a new flat roof installed the warranty often plays an important role in evaluating the bids. Whether it is an EPDM roof, modified bitumen, TPO roof, or a PVC roof all warranties share the same basic terms. Owners should be aware of what they are getting. Please note – NONE of these warranties will typically cover what is known as “consequential damages”. That is damages resulting from a failure of the roof system. That is covered by the owners property insurance.

Material Only Warranties –

This type of warranty only covers the cost of materials that suffer from a manufacturing defect. These warranties are often pro-rated, meaning the value decreases every year. The manufacturer will cover the cost of, or a portion of the cost, of replacement materials, typically with a credit at a roofing supply house. The older the flat roof gets, the less you get and the cost of the labor to install the new materials is not covered. Very often the contractor does not even need to be an “approved installer” certified by the manufacturer to install their roof systems. They only need to show proof of purchase for the materials. If a contractor is not an “approved installer” you should consider this a red flag!

Labor And Material Warranties –

These get more complicated and require a little more due diligence on the part of the commercial building owner. Some of the basics that an owner should be aware of are;

– The contractor must be approved by the flat roof system manufacturer

– There are several different lengths of warranties – 10 year, 15 year, 20 year, 25 year, and even 30 year warranties are available

– The manufacturers charge for these warranties and the contractor builds the cost of the warranty into the bid

– The longer the warranty the higher the charge! Not just the charge for the warranty but for the system itself as the manufacturer will require additional work on the system to qualify for the longer warranty. This can include stronger or duplicitous flashings, additional plies of membrane, greater minimal insulation requirements, better and/or wider seam technology, and heavier roof membranes.

– Some of these longer warranties are what is known as a “Total System Warranty”, these require that all of the materials for the flat roof system be from the manufacturer. This will include the insulation, insulation fasteners, and even the roof edgings such as copings, edge metal, or gravel stops

This type of warranty involves a contractual agreement between the contractor and the manufacturer. The contractor must have specialized training from the manufacturer and the agreement stipulates that the contractor is fully responsible for any leaks or failures during the first two years of the warranty period. The reason for this is that if there any problems due to workmanship (poor installation not related to material quality) they will most likely show during this period.

After the initial two years the manufacturer becomes financially responsible for any failures. This means that if there is a problem, the manufacturer will actually pay the contractor to fix it. Even if the original contractor is no longer around, they will hire another contractor to take care of your problem.

Contractor Warranties –

A contractor warranty is quite simply a promise from the contractor that they will fix a problem should one occur. The length, type of coverage, and amount of coverage will vary from one contractor to another depending on what they are comfortable with. OWNERS BEWARE! Unless you are very familiar with the contractor or have known them for a long time this is at best risky. Some contractors will come back once or twice if there is a problem and then simply stop taking your calls. Other contractors have been known for low-balling the cost of the contract to get the job, performing shoddy or sub-par work and then just disappearing only to start up again using a different name.

Over the years I am sad to say that this is not an uncommon occurrence.

In the end it is up to the building owner to perform their due diligence when getting a new flat roof system be that an EPDM roof, a TPO roof, or even a modified bitumen roof system. Always request a sample of the actual warranty and read it thoroughly.

Always remember “CAVEAT EMPTOR” (buyer beware)

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