(UPDATED) Do you know what kind of commercial roof warranty you have?
Understanding the type of roof warranty product you own or are buying is an important part of understanding and managing your roof asset and budget. It also gives you insight into the quality of your roofing system. Typically, the better the warranty the better the roofing system — a high-quality warranty on a low-quality roof would be very expensive if available at all.
While most property owners and managers focus primarily on the length of the warranty, there’s a lot more to it than that. The small print will tell you what, exactly, is and is not covered. You may be surprised by what’s excluded and what requires an extra fee.
Who is providing the warranty?
The most important differentiation between commercial roof warranties is who is providing the guarantee. Your warranty is provided by one of two entities:
- The materials manufacturer: This is a written guarantee from the manufacturer of a roofing product ensuring that the manufacturer will cover the repair or replacement of its product within a specific time period and if necessary. There are several different types of manufacturer warranties.
- The roof installer (or contractor): This is a written guarantee from the product installer ensuring that the installer will correct or replace problems related to workmanship (or defective products that the installer has supplied) within a certain time period and if necessary.
You can be as confident in your warranty as you are in the company providing it. The better the track record and longevity of the issuing company, the more likely it is they’ll stand by their products and workmanship.
Warranties from the manufacturer
These are the three most common types of manufacturer’s warranties:
1. Manufacturer’s NDL Warranty
NDL stands for “no dollar limit.” This warranty is the best warranty you can buy.
A manufacturer’s NDL warranty is a full-system warranty. It guarantees the manufacturer will fully cover its defective products or the failure of its products under proper use during the warranty period regardless of repair or replacement costs. To earn this warranty, roof installation must follow the manufacturer’s technical specifications from start to finish and then pass an inspection or a series of inspections at each phase of the installation process. If the inspector finds problems, the problems will need to be corrected and re-inspected before the warranty will be issued.
NDL warranties are typically offered for 10 to 30 years, depending on the type of roofing system installed. The fee for an NDL warranty is based on the square footage and varies by manufacturer.
2. Manufacturer’s Material Warranty
This type of limited commercial roof warranty guarantees that the manufacturer’s products won’t fail within a certain period of time (e.g., 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, etc.) — typically, this means the materials are covered for defects and premature aging.
This type of warranty is the most popular because it’s usually free or available at a very low fee. It does not cover accessories like flashings, edges, and adhesives or any material not made by the manufacturer that your contractor uses to install the roof. It also does not cover the cost of labor to make repairs or replacements. A “membrane-only” manufacturer’s material warranty covers exactly what it says.
3. Manufacturer Labor and Material Warranty
This limited warranty covers defects in both materials and labor but, unlike an NDL warranty, it also includes maximum limits for manufacturer responsibilities. Because this type of warranty is also often prorated, the coverage limit for repairing or replacing defective components depends on when the defects occur — the older the roof, the lower the coverage. Leaks may or may not be covered under this warranty.
Warranty from the Roofing Contractor
The warranty from your roofing contractor covers workmanship performed to install roofing products. Most also include the products the contractor supplied outside of those provided by the materials manufacturer. Most roofing contractor warranties don’t exceed five years, and some are as short as one year. However, the fact that they cover both defective workmanship and defective products makes them highly valuable while they remain in effect.
If your contractor does not warranty its work, consider looking elsewhere. Contractors who are certified by manufacturers to install their products are your best bet when it comes to standing by their workmanship.
What’s probably not covered
These circumstances are probably not covered by your warranty. Some may be added for a fee:
- Neglect: Problems caused by lack of maintenance or excessive foot traffic are not likely to be covered and may in fact void your warranty.
- Leak repair: Leaks that result from physical damage to the roofing products, or that are caused by a failing non-warranted component of the building, such as a wall surface above the roof line, or leaks through HVAC unit cabinetry, are not covered.
- Roof modifications or repairs: Roofing system problems caused by improper or unauthorized modifications to your roof, such as adding or servicing rooftop equipment, won’t be covered. Neither will repairs that don’t follow the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Acts of God: Damage or leaks caused by lightning, extremely high winds, fire, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters typically are not covered. Hail damage may or may not be covered, depending on the product.
Examine the warranty product before you buy
At first glance, commercial roof warranties may seem to be designed to favor building owners, but the opposite is often true. Warranties are commonly created by attorneys to protect the financial interests of the manufacturer and the roof installer.
Review warranties in their entirety, including whether or not the warranties are transferable to a new owner, so you understand the full value and related costs and responsibilities. For assistance reviewing commercial roof warranty products, consider consulting with a commercial real estate attorney. Or get advice from an experienced commercial roof contractor like as Sentry Roof Services — we’re happy to help.
This post is part of our series about commercial roofing warranties. See also A Manufacturer’s Commercial Roof Warranty Isn’t Insurance! and Commercial Roof Warranties: Which Party Is Responsible for What? as well as our Guide To Commercial Roof Warranties.