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Roofing Warranties: Straightening Out the Confusion

The term “warranty” may be used quite a bit in a roofing sale, but do homeowners actually understand what’s meant by it?

September 22, 2016
roof warranties—materials and installation

Photo: Pixabay

A new roof isn’t cheap these days, which is why many contractors increasingly see sticker shock reactions from homeowners to their roof-replacement proposals. No surprise. The cost of renovating a home always goes up, and roofing material costs have steadily risen through the past decade.

The fact that a roof is that much more expensive makes the warranty that contractors offer yet more meaningful and important to their customers—or it should. But homeowners often have the mistaken impression that the “30-year warranty” or “50-year warranty” that the contractor mentioned means that for just that long someone from his company will come right out to fix things, at no charge, should there be the slightest problem. That is, homeowners confuse the manufacturer warranty, on product, with the workmanship warranty offered by the roofing contractor—the warranty that promises service in the event that that problem is the result of installation error.

Null and Void

About roofing manufacturing warranties, it might be said that they’re all alike and no two are the same. Warranties vary greatly, and that makes sense. Thirty-year shingles are engineered to last that length of time, given certain conditions, ditto 25-year shingles, and so on. Generally, though, what the warranty promises is that the manufacturer will replace said product (usually for anywhere from 20 to 50 years), sometimes on a pro-rated basis, should the product prove to be defective. That means that if by some strange quirk those newly installed shingles simply disintegrate, the manufacturer would be obligated to provide new ones.

How to Gain A Better ROI on Warranty Issues

But the likelihood of the product actually failing is remote. Manufacturers and insurance companies know—and so do residential roofers—that when a roof fails, it’s almost always the result of construction defects, that is, installation. “The overwhelming majority of the issues are workmanship related,” observes Patrick Morin, of Roof Life of Oregon, on that company’s website. “Here’s why: Most roofing companies pay their installers for the speed of their installation and fail to provide proper on-site management of their crews. The resulting mistakes result in roofs being installed with problems that don’t show up until the 6th year. (This is the national average as reported by the National Roofing Contractor Association.)”

A homeowner with a failed roof, turning to the manufacturer for relief, would quickly find out that such mistakes void the product warranty. In addition, roofing manufacturers issue detailed installation instructions, and if the roof fails—in the first year, the sixth, or the 15th—and it can be demonstrated that those installation instructions weren’t followed, the product warranty is similarly voided.

Service Without Charge

This is why, if you were an informed homeowner, you’d be paying a lot more attention to the roofing contractor’s workmanship warranty. It’s where the rubber meets the roof, so to speak. If something goes wrong with the roof, the installer’s company is the one you would call. But the workmanship warranty offered by many roofing companies—which essentially promises service without charge for the stated period of coverage—typically doesn’t provide that for anywhere near the length of time you’d find in a manufacturer’s warranty. “Many contractors offer one year or two years of coverage,” notes blogger Jim Thomson, on the website of residential roofer Sully-Jones Roofing, in El Cajon, Calif.

What would a customer make of that: the manufacturer offering a 25-year or 50-year warranty on the product while the installing contractor offers a warranty of just one or two years on the installation of said product? (Sully-Jones Roofing offers workmanship warranties of “up to 20 years.”)

Seeing a marketing opportunity, more roofing contractors are extending their workmanship warranty, according to an article on consumer review site Angie’s List, which does a fairly good job of differentiating types of roofing warranties for its homeowner members. Typically, the author notes, roofers offer a one- or two-year workmanship warranty on a new roof, but with the stipulation that theirs must be the only company working on that roof.  

Some roofing companies attempt to clarify for website visitors how their workmanship warranty and the manufacturer warranty on product are different. Veritas Roofing, in western Massachusetts, offers three-, five-, and 10-year workmanship warranties, depending on whether the work is repair or roof replacement. “These are IN ADDITION to warranties offered by manufacturers and are given at NO EXTRA COST to you!” the company states on its website, since (clearly) homeowners confuse the two.

Companies offer warranties with the expectation, or at least the hope, that they will never have to honor one. A roofing warranty is a declaration of confidence and a promise, which says: Our (product) (installation) is so good that we will (replace) (fix) it if it fails.

That promise becomes an incentive not to fail. So more and more roofing contractors, such as Christian Brothers Roofing & Exteriors, in Kansas City, Kan., have gone to the 10-year workmanship warranty. “Because we hire the best roofing installers in the area, we guarantee our workmanship,” the company's website says, adding: “We are confident in our quality control systems, materials and processes and offer a 10-year warranty on all roofs we install. (Did we mention our owner personally visits each job site?) We stand behind our work immediately after it’s finished … and for the decade to come.”

Once in a Lifetime

Some shingle manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty on their best products. It’s a powerful marketing message because it implies that the purchaser will never have to worry about the roof failing. But even while some roofers are extending their workmanship warranties to five years, 10 years, or 20 years, few would offer a lifetime warranty on workmanship. What, exactly, does "lifetime" mean? All the minutes you ever live? Actually, it can mean, for the purposes of a warranty, whatever it is defined as meaning. It could mean, for instance, the length of time the homeowner who bought the product lives in the house. Or, lifetime could mean the lifetime of the actual product, regardless of who the homeowner is.

But either may be somewhat less than the length of time that the roofing company that installed the product is going to be in business, as Roof Life of Oregon’s CEO Patrick Morin points out on the company's website: “The sad part of most workmanship warranties is that they will only last as long as the company which makes them. The National Roofing Contractor Association also reports that 70% of all roofing contractors are out of business in 2 years with 90% of them failing in 7 years. A high number of disgruntled technicians who start their own contracting companies seem to be the main reason for this alarming statistic.”

Tie Product Warranty to Workmanship

Blogger Van Starling at Consolidated Roofing Systems, in North Carolina, advises that “… not all roofing companies are created equal. As a homeowner looking to replace their roof, always ask questions about installation practices, materials used and check local references.”

Others advise that the first and best question a homeowner should ask is about workmanship warranties. When it comes to that, the best of the best will match their workmanship warranty to the manufacturer’s warranty on product. On its website, Woodberg Roofing, in Denver, explains this in a way the head-scratching homeowner can comprehend: “While most Denver roofing contractors keep their workmanship warranties short in length (1-5 years), Woodberg Roofing guarantees our workmanship for any defect in installation for the LIFETIME of the product. That’s right, any defect in your new roof installation and/or workmanship will be repaired or replaced by Woodberg Roofing at ZERO cost to you! This protects you, the consumer against potential labor costs associated with any defect or issues with your new roof installation. Whether you choose Woodberg Roofing or another Denver roofing contractor, be sure to ask how long they guarantee their workmanship—if it’s not for the lifetime of the new roof, then you should seriously consider Woodberg Roofing for your new roofing project!”

About the Author

About the Author

Philadelphia-based writer Jim Cory is a senior contributing editor to Professional Remodeler who specializes in covering the remodeling and home improvement industry. Reach him at coryjim@earthlink.net.



We had a completely new roof installed in 2012 by Squires Roofing, Westlake, Ohio. Gave a 10 year warranty on workmanship. Roof continually leaked. They continually "repaired". Finally in 2016 the roof leaks in the crawlspace (which we didn't see previously) damaged the ceilings in living area badly. We called, they said they closed their doors and voided all warranties. We found out they put an arbitration clause in the contract (lawyer read contract) and our attorney said arbitration is VERY expensive for the consumer. Squires is now with Franciscus Roofing. Found that Squires lied about their subcontractors, lied about being certified by Certainteed, lied about being a member of NRA, etc. etc. BBB and Ohio Attorney General ratings mean NOTHING and neither agency was any help to us. City roofing inspectors do not inspect anything. Hired a new local roofer. New roofer said they never saw a shoddier installation. They ended up having to remove siding, install ice guard and remove shingles from two levels of roofing from our home. Squires did not install the ice guard properly, had gaps in the felt, used tar to patch areas that shingles didn't cover, etc. Roof was a mess. Maybe you should write an article about arbitration clauses( the cost to the consumer) , worthless warranties (when companies decide to "close their doors" and "partner" with someone else), and how to verify who is actually installing the roof!

We just moved into a home at the beginning of 2017, and it had a new roof put on near the end of 2015. Well we came back from a visit in another state for a few days and found a leak in our ceiling... apparently where the shingles meet the rubber the rubber wasn't sealed. Roofer said they don't work with rubber.. erm okay. He did seal it though.

2 weeks later a huge storm comes through , rains all day, all night. Found a leak in another room. The guy was scheduled to come in and look at the roof . He calls to cancel cause he's going to the hospital/health issues.

What are suppose to do? Looks like we're f'ed in our 10 year workmanship warranty.

We’ve had our home for two months. A new roof, chimney flashing, and Sherwood was installed with 5 year workmanship warranty. A big storm came through 2 weeks ago and we noticed leaking in our living room. I called the company to have them come out, they didn’t show for the initial appointment, then told me they did come by later while I wasn’t home and it appears to be a problem with our chimney that would be fixed by having the chimney sealed. We had the chimney sealed two days after we purchased the house. And now they won’t answer when I call or return my calls, I’ve left several messages. Any help here would be greatly appreciated!!!

If you're getting a new roof, the workmanship warranty is the 2nd thing to ask about. The 1st thing to ask is how long have they been in business. Then check if how long they tell you is correct by looking up their business license. Tons of roofers go out of business after a couple of years to avoid warranty claims. They pay another $50 and get a new license and you're screwed.

So, Long Roofing came to my home and presented that their roofing products have a life time warranty. I believed their verbal articulation about this warranty and signed the contract. Later reviewing the contract, I learned that it read, 50 warranty guaranteed . I called to inquire and they explained that legally they can not guarantee life time building products and that 50 years warranty is a lifetime. Gee, I fell confident about my intelligent, but "50 years and life time" has two different meanings to me. They even told me that if I were to sell my home that the "life time warranty" would carry over to the new homeowners. So, of course, this expensive home repair, which they presented to cost over $22,000, at the thought of having a "life time warranty", well I felt good about it. The thought that if my home was passed on to my children, I could tell them the roof has a life time warranty was also a motivation to selecting Long Roofing. But, as my story goes, . . not such a happy ending.

I found this to make me feel alot better about my own roof as I was reading, as I guess I got one of the better types of warranties, wanted to learn what was the norm out there. Thanks! I recently replaced my roof shingles and I'm not prone to making investments on the house I'm mortgaging, but oh well. I suppose I'll have to get the silly thing cleaned soon. I just came back to finish my comment after finding these guys https://www.portlandmossremoval.com/ They make it sound like I don't even need a warranty by how clean they'll keep my roof. Anyways, thanks again for taking the time to talk about the most boring subject in the world. It's not boring for us who worry about our roof tiles flying off.

We just found many nail pop ups. We tried contacting roofing company. Mc artur roofing. There website says permanently closed. Can anyone advise me what to do?

Roofing warranties are hard to explain. Over the last decade, they have become disconnected from reality.

30-year shingles have become 50-year shingles and roofing installers all over the country are complaining about the decrease in quality, not the increase.

Shingles are reportedly becoming lighter for many brands but warranties increasing.

Dmitry Lipinskiy speculates that asphalt shingle warranty got a jump not because of its connection to better products but as an attempt to compete with other roofing products on the market mainly metal and stone products. Most metal roofs have lifetime 50-year warranty products and we find it very reasonable.

Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about asphalt shingles which have an average life expectancy of about 18 to 25 years depending on region, product, and research. For example, asphalt shingles life expectancy in Minnesota is about 18 years.

Below are 5 key points to look in every roofing warranty

Blow off coverage

Very important. Lots of shingles offer 130 miles wind warranty but have blown off exclusions just after first few years.


How much does it cost to transfer a “lifetime warranty”? Lifetime simply means they owe to it the person who bought the roof. It is not the statement that roof expected to last that period.

Non prorated and prorated coverage period

This one will differ a lot. Some will give you 5 years not prorated and some will give you 15. After that, it drops like a rock. For example IKO entire liability for most products is tops at $40. Here is an example of a warranty.

Algae warranty

Very important or maybe even most important if you live next to big trees. Some will replace the entire roof and some will limit their liability to $15 per square. Best algae warranties coming from Atlas And Malarkey.

Leaks VS performance coverage

Understand what covers and when. Some manufacturers will not cover anything unless you have real leaks. Cosmetics are not included even if your roof is discolored and looks like it has been there for 20 years just after two years.


Warranties are great and we need them but product is more important. Don’t go with best warranty, do your research and go with the best product. The best product will have the best coverage. Would you rather drive a reliable car with 60,000 miles warranty or shitty car with 80,000 miles warranty hoping it will be covered? You get the point.

Based on quality and warranties after reviewing hundreds of roofs every year we highly recommend top 3: Atlas, Owens Corning, CertainTeed, and also Malarkey roofing products stand out from the competition.

If I can give you one last tip it would be: read the fine print and don’t trust sales rep if you are not convinced with the presentation of the product or have your concerns!

As you said there is a difference between manufacturers warranty and roofers warranty. People who didn't understand this concept should get clarification after reading this blog. <a href="https://builders-roofing.com/">Roofing contractors</a> will fix the problem if the problem is in the installation. I liked the article and expecting more from you.
Thank you

This is excellent information and hopefully, it will spare many homeowners from thinking every part of their roof is under warranty for the next few decades. Thanks for sharing!

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