By Robert Anderson
Just as there is a roofing system to meet the distinct needs of each building, there is a warranty for every roofing structure, system, and budget. The terms of a warranty can range depending on the commercial roofing system, and there are certainly many factors to consider. But what questions should be top-of-mind for facility professionals? Identify warranty priorities for a given roofing system project by asking yourself the following questions.
What kind of roofing system coverage do I really want?
Offered warranties can run the gamut, but a common delineation among them is whether a given warranty exclusively covers material, or both labor and materials. Material-only warranties back just that: materials supplied by the manufacturer. They protect facility managers and owners against any manufacturing defects that may cause leaks. However, these do not back the roofing system’s installation. These warranties typically don’t include any on-site inspections, and their remedy provision generally involves sending out a patch kit or replacement material.
Labor and materials warranties not only cover the products themselves, but their installation. They require total system installation by a licensed or approved contractor as well as inspection by the manufacturer’s technical representative. Remedies vary; but generally, repairing defective workmanship or replacing leak causing materials is included. If you want the most cost-effective, comprehensive warranty solution, be sure to consider only those covering both labor and materials.
No dollar limit, original cost or prorated?
A “no dollar limit” warranty assures that a manufacturer will spend whatever it costs to repair a roofing system leak. With an “original cost” warranty, the manufacturer is only obligated to repair leaks costing up to the total of the original roofing purchase. Prorated warranties diminish in value over their lifespan. The best coverage will be one categorized as “no dollar limit.” It will also be a non-prorated warranty.
If the roof leaks, will I actually use a warranty or file an insurance claim?
As previously noted, a manufacturer’s warranty will cover leak repairs. It will not cover consequential damages. If a leaky roof causes damage to interior materials or property, the facility may be filing an insurance claim to cover those items. It’s important to note that roofing warranties do have exclusions. For instance, they are generally limited to leaks caused by storms incurring winds up to a certain speed. It is not reasonable to think a roofing warranty will cover damages during a Category 5 hurricane. If the coverage includes damages caused by up to 55 mph wind speeds, but a leak is the result of a Category 1 hurricane—sustained winds of 74 to 95 mph—the roofing manufacturer will not be obligated to fix any leaks. Therefore, facility professionals may be filing an insurance claim when leaks occur for reasons that are excluded from warranty coverage.
Who is backing the warranty?
Make sure that you’ve got a manufacturer’s warranty, not simply a contractor’s warranty. Generally speaking, one can count on a manufacturer to have the financial wherewithal and longevity to be there should a leak claim arise. Beyond that, make sure to deal with a quality manufacturer that has been in the business for a while—one you trust. Ask yourself: If something goes wrong, would I rather be dealing with “XYZ Roofers” or a manufacturer with many square feet under warranty?
Which warranty will make the roof last the longest?
That’s a trick question. Roofing systems don’t last a long time because they come with a warranty. Generally, their longevity is dependent on the following components: quality design, materials, installation and routine maintenance. The performance of any building component or system—good or bad—depends on those four things.
And don’t forget about maintenance! If there is not a maintenance plan, a warranty cannot be expected to be a panacea. How many things can you leave outside, exposed to the elements for 20 years or more and expect them to last without maintenance? Not many. Something as simple as monitoring who has access to a rooftop can be very effective in preventing damage. And staff can walk the roof after a storm to make sure any debris is removed and all drains are unclogged. Caulks and sealants should also be routinely inspected and replaced as needed. In developing the warranty plan, make sure the routine maintenance plan complements it appropriately.
If facility professionals approach their roofing projects and the related warranty with realistic expectations, a trusted manufacturer and contractor, and a preventive maintenance plan, they are taking the correct steps to protect this investment.
Anderson is the building envelope solutions manager for the North Central Region at Firestone Building Products. In this role, he is responsible for promoting the Firestone Building Products metal wall cladding, cavity wall and premium roofing system offerings. He has a B.S. in Finance from Northern Illinois University and is a member the Construction Specifications Institute and the Building Enclosure Council. Visit the Firestone Building Products Knowledge Channel on FacilityExecutive.com.