If you are thinking about replacing the roof on your home, there are many things you need to think about. Which brand of shingle to use, what style, what color, which contractor to hire to do the job, whether or not to replace fascia, install gutters, etc. One thing you must understand before you tackle this big project is what your new asphalt shingle roof’s warranty will cover.
Most companies have switched to a Lifetime warranty, but what does that mean? If you look up any companies warranty you are going to run into a lot of fine print stuffed into a page or a small booklet (like the one on the right), all in legal-speak that is hard to understand. Like most warranties, there is lots of fine print to protect the company selling you the shingles, not to protect you. I’m going to walk you through an asphalt shingle lifetime warranty and explain it in easy to understand terms so you know what you’re getting when you replace your roof.
What Does A Lifetime Shingle Warranty Cover?
Let’s clear something up right off the bat, the lifetime warranty I’m talking about covers the shingle only. It does not cover the installation at all. So if you have a leak caused by an incompetent installer, this will not cover that.
That said, the lifetime warranty will protect you against defects in the shingle installed. This includes the ridge cap, starter shingle, and architectural shingle itself if it was all the same brand. Obviously if you put IKO ridge cap on a GAF shingle roof, GAF will not cover failure in the ridge cap shingles, but IKO should.
Another thing to note in the fine print are key phrases that come after the coverage stated. Like this statement in IKO’s warranty:
It says coverage is only provided “for a manufacturing defect that result in leaks.”
This small phrase is key to know what is covered. The only way they will cover a defect is if it has already resulted in a leak! In other words, you need to have water coming into your home before they will fix your roof. Even if you saw the defect earlier!
Other companies have phrases similar to this as well, Owens Corning and GAF both say they will cover defects that “adversely affect their performance” for the first ten years, then it moves to defects “that cause leaks” for the remainder of the warranty.
Pabco is very similar to these two but without the downgrade to “defects that cause leaks only” after ten years.
This means if your shingle’s discolor in an ugly way, or start losing granules far too early, it won’t be covered by the warranty. You’ll just have to live with it and “stick it out” until it either causes a leak and damages your home or “adversely affects performance.”
In my opinion this is ridiculous. The whole purpose of a roof is to keep water out and protect your home. If your warranty only covers defects if they result in water pouring into your home it’s too late! You’ll already have interior damage that you’ll have to deal with.
Of all the major brands of shingles, CertainTeed is the only one that states their shingles will be “free from manufacturing defects.” No qualifiers or additional stipulations. If the shingle is not standing up to the weather and performing as promised, it falls under the warranty. Even defects in coloring are covered.
This is one of the big reasons we chose to install CertainTeed over the other brands of shingle. We offer the longest warranties around on the roofs we install and we want to back our work up 100%. It’s just too risky to do if the shingles we install don’t carry their weight.
How Much Does A Lifetime Roof Warranty Cover?
Unfortunately if you do experience a defect that triggers the lifetime warranty on your roof it’s not as simple as getting your entire roof replaced for free. Only a certain amount is covered and only for so long. I’ll give you the 10,000 foot view so it’s simple and makes sense. If you want the nitty gritty details you’re welcome to read the full warranties for each manufacturer, which I’ll link at the bottom.
After grinding through all the fine print, they all basically say the same thing, and it’s pretty simple. Here’s the rundown:
Most shingles have a “SureStart” period, where they offer enhanced protection at the beginning of the warranty period. For most manufacturers it’s 10 years. During this period the warranty will cover 100% of the cost of materials and labor to replace the roof with a like shingle. While this sounds really good, it’s actually only about 60-80% of the cost of the entire roof.
Because it does not include the costs associated with tear-off, disposal, replacing any flashings, vents, metal work, or any damage caused by the defective shingles.
After the “SureStart” period, the lifetime warranty gets chopped down again, only covering materials. So anytime after the initial period of protection you’ll be responsible for labor as well, plus all the previous mentioned items. Plus it starts getting pro-rated down, at approximately 2% per year (from the install date) until year 40 when it stops at 20%.
What this means in the real world is: Just 1 day after your “SureStart” period is over, your lifetime roof warranty will cover only approximately 26% of the cost of replacing your roof.
I’m sure you’d agree this doesn’t quite seem “fair.”
But this is what is actually covered by a regular asphalt shingle lifetime warranty.
The good news? If you want better protection, you can find it. Most companies offer a credential program that allows certain contractors to offer much better warranties on their shingles, some that even cover everything 100% for 50 years. These are the programs that allow companies like ours to offer 100% leak-free protection for the life of the roof.
But remember, this only covers the material side of it. If you want the workmanship to be covered it’s up to you to find a contractor that will provide one.