Invalid Roof Guarantees

50 year asphalt roof

Newer Installation of a ’50-Year’ Warranty Roof

Your roof is one of the most important systems of your home. It is your first line of defence against two natural enemies of your home… water and UV rays from the sun. So when you buy a house with a ‘newer’ roof listed with a 25, 30, 50 year, or even a ‘lifetime’ warranty you are protected for years to come… or are you…

Labour vs. Materials

Manufacturers of roofing materials are VERY specific about how there materials need to be installed. They specify what type of slope, underlayment, nailing methods, roof ventilation, and maintenance need to be done for the guarantee to be valid. As most home owners pay a roofing company to install the material, it is up to the roofing company to follow the manufacturer install specifications if the home owner can successfully claim a guarantee on the roof material.

Roof material guarantees also don’t cover installation costs. Many good roof installer companies offer labour coverage in conjunction with the roofing material coverage. Unfortunately, roof companies are notorious for having short business lives, and large numbers of roof material guarantees will be rendered invalid because they were installed incorrectly and you won’t be able to find the original installer years later for any recourse.

There are typically four types of roof installers:

  • High Quality and Service - These are the roofing companies that have been around for many years (even 3 or 4 generations) and advertise lifetime support and customer care. Typically, these companies are not the cheapest, but they will be there in 25 years if you need them and your guarantee will likely be valid.
  • Young Quality Companies - Like in any industry, there are very competent people with the best intentions on doing things well who start a new business. Roofing is a competitive business though and while a young company can do very good work, you don’t know if they will be around in 25 years. And as they need to be price competitive, they are harder to distinguish from some of the ‘bad’ installation companies that you want to avoid.
  • Fly-by-Night Operators - Many roof installers are numbered companies (or unregistered companies) that regularly close down and/or go bankrupt, often to avoid dealing with past clients. With these operators, you might not be able to get customer service a year after your roof is installed, never mind 25 years later. These operators know they won’t be there to support you later, so they will cut corners to save costs that may void your material guaranee.
  • Home Owner Install - If the home owner (or his buddies) installed a new roof one weekend, there is about a 99% chance your material guarantee won’t be worth the paper it is written on. Roof material manufactures design guarantee requirements to be hard to achieve, and amateur installers just can’t know how to execute all the details.

Is Your Roof Guarantee Transferable?

Roof warranties may not be transferable to a new owner. If they are transferable, there is often a substantial ‘administrative’ cost to transfer the guarantee to the new owner, an authorized inspection may be required, and there is a limited time period this can be done in. This can be trouble for a home buyer who thinks they are protected with a roof warranty.

Here is a direct quote from the guarantee certificate from GAF who claims to be North America’s largest manufacturer of roofing shingles and is currently sold at Home Depot:

This All-American PledgeRoof Guarantee may be transferred or assigned once to a subsequent owner of this building for the remaining term but only if: 1) the request is in writing within 60 days after transfer of ownership; 2) you make any repairs to your Roof Systems or other roofing or building components that are identified by GAF after an inspection as necessary to preserve the integrity of your Roof Systems; and 3) you pay an assignment fee of $500. This guarantee is NOT otherwise transferable or assignable by contract or by operation of law, either directly or indirectly.

So to paraphrase, unless you pay GAF $500 in 60-days from purchase, and have another GAF approved inspector check it first (which may find other problems need repairs), you have no guarantee on your roof.

Prorated Roof Guarantee

A 25-year roof guarantee does not mean what you think it means, and you have to read the details to know what it covers and for how long. Things like discolouration, wind resistance, and organic growth may only be covered for the first 50% of the guarantee period. 

There is also something called a ‘prorated’ period. Essentially, the amount of the guarantee declines over time. For example, if a 25 year roof failed at year 10, you may get 100% of the material costs to cover a new roof. If that same roof failed at year 15, you may get 70% back on material costs. If the roof fails at 24 years, you might only get 2% back of material costs. Notice too, the material manufacture won’t pay for labour.

In short, if you are 20 years into a 25 year guarantee, and you somehow manage to make a valid claim, your potential coverage will be only a small portion of the actual installation costs of a new roof.

Final Thoughts

It is quite unfortunate, but nearly all roof guarantees are invalid. As a home inspector, I’m constantly disappointed for my clients as home listings often talk about the ‘new’ roof and the guarantee period when I know fully this value does not pass to my client.

If you are buying a home with a ‘newer’ roof and want to be protected by the roof material guarantee, you need to do more than just get a receipt from the home seller. Call the roof install company and ask them if they back up their work and then call the material manufacturer and find out what it takes to have a valid warranty.

 By James Bell - Author | Owner/Operator of Solid State Inspections Inc