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commercial roof warranty explained

Commercial Roof Warranties Explained

Commercial Roof Warranties Explained

Warranty’s are an important part of any large purchase. Deciphering the language and understanding the terms and conditions can be frustrating. This brief article will help you understand what commercial roof warranties can cover and what you should look for when getting one for your new roof.

“20 Year Manufacturer’s Warranty”

·         This is a very common and very basic warranty.  This warranty is free and only covers manufacturing defects.  It does not cover any issues related to the contractor’s workmanship.  It does not cover damage from winds or storms.  It does not cover most of the important accessories utilized in the installation such as edge metals and drains.

Labor & Material Warranty – Provided By The Roofing Contractor

·         A labor and material warranty covers much more than factory manufacturing defects.  It covers repairs or replacement of your roof if there are issues with the materials or contractor’s workmanship.

·         The building owner assumes increased risks with a contractor-backed warranty. 

1.      If the contractor were to go out of business or be acquired by another company, the warranty would be nullified.

2.      No independent expert will carefully and very thoroughly inspect your roof to ensure that no shortcuts have been taken and that all the flashing details are correct. 

Labor & Material Warranty – Provided By The Manufacturer

·         A manufacturer labor warranty provides far more coverage than one only covering manufacturing defects.  It covers the workmanship and is backed by the manufacturer.

·         Most issues with a roof are attributed to workmanship and improper flashing details at pipes, penetrations, curbs, walls or edge metals, these issues would be covered with a labor warranty.

·         A huge benefit (and we can’t stress this strongly enough) of a manufacturer-backed warranty is that a manufacturer-trained inspector will very carefully and very thoroughly inspect your roof to ensure that no shortcuts have been taken and that all the flashing details are correct.  This is NOT something you get with a contractor-backed labor warranty.

·         The inspector is hired by the manufacturer to ensure that the system was installed correctly minimizing the risks of the manufacturer having to pay out on claims; providing the building owner with a high level of assurance that the roof was installed correctly and will be trouble free.

·         This type of commercial roof warranty is what we recommend.  It typically only costs $0.20 cents per square foot of roof.

 About Manufacturer’s Material & Labor Warranties

      The wording used in commercial roof warranties will greatly affect the coverage you will receive.  Here are some basics:

1.      Dollar Value coverage: 

A.      Limited:  The maximum payout on these types of warranties are typically limited to the original cost of materials and labor.  Ten, fifteen or twenty years down the road that will not be enough to cover repair or replacement costs.

B.      NDL Warranty:  NDL stands for No Dollar Limit, this is the wording you want to see.  Applicable roof repairs or replacement would be covered no matter the costs.

2.      Prorated / Non-Prorated: 

A.      The warranty coverage will be prorated relative to the length of the warranty.  Simply put, the percentage of the covered costs of repairs or replacement will decrease with each year that passes.

B.      Non-Prorated:  Warrantied costs of repairs or replacement will be covered at 100% from the date of acceptance till the very last day the warranty is in effect.

3.      Wind Speeds: 

A.      A standard manufacturer material & labor warranty comes with a 55 MPH wind speed rider. 

B.      A 72 MPH wind speed rider is what we recommend.  This is typically a very inexpensive warranty upgrade (sometimes even free).  Damage from winds & storms exceeding 72 MPH would be excluded from the roofing manufacturer’s warranty coverage, however damage from storms of that caliber would likely be covered by your building insurance policy. 

C.      A 90 MPH wind speed rider is also available.  90 MPH warranties typically have significantly increased engineering requirements for fastening and securement that can add 25% to the costs of your roofing project.

4.      Commercial Roof Warranty Duration: 

Warranties are available ranging from 10 years to 30 years.

A.      10 to 15 Year warranties:  If you are looking for a long-term investment we absolutely do not recommend these.  Warranties with short durations often allow the use of very thin membranes and less robust flashing details.  Keep in mind that the vast majority of failures are related to roof flashings and detail work.

B.      20 Year warranties:  20 year warranties are the most popular option providing both high levels of quality assurance and value; 90% of our projects receive 20 year warranties.

C.      30 Year warranties:  30 Year commercial roof warranties are available for most roof systems.  Much like the 90MPH wind speed warranties, they typically have significantly increased engineering requirements such as membrane thickness, membrane securement and more complicated flashing details.  Because these upgrades can add 30% to the costs of your roofing project 90MPH warranties are rarely selected.

5.      Commercial Roof Warranty Coverage:

No, not all components of your new roof will be covered unless they are specifically stated as being covered in your quote and warranty.

Warranty coverage for materials or workmanship is limited to the materials supplied by the membrane manufacturer.  This may only be a small portion of the materials purchased for the project.  Warrantied items nearly always include the membrane, pipe boots, caulks and fasteners.  Most other items could be excluded from your warranty:  

A.      Insulation: Your new roof likely includes 3” to 6” of new substrates (insulation, coverboard, fasteners and adhesives), these will only be covered under the warranty and replaced if they are supplied by the manufacturer.  A small cost savings can be obtained by using generic materials so check the wording of the quotes you have received.

If the root cause of a leak or system failure is attributed to non-covered substrates then warranty coverage would not apply.

B.      Edge Metals:  Edge Metals are very rarely covered by roofing warranties unless specifically spelled out in the quote and sample warranty.

·    Edge metals typically include the metal trim around the entire perimeter of your building such as copings, drip edges, fascia and wall flashings. 

·   Keep in mind that Edge Metals are a critical component of your new roof system.  For the next 30 years of windstorms, they will commonly be the only thing holding the first six feet of your roof new roof in place. 

·   If edge metals are not included as part of the roofing membrane manufacturer’s warranty, then any failure related to edge metal will have zero coverage.

C.      Drains & Accessories:  Drains are in areas where water tends to collect and pond.  These are among the first places a roof starts to fail as it ages.   The costs to include accessories such as drains in your warranty are negligible compared to the overall project cost.  We recommend that you ensure that they are supplied and warrantied by the membrane manufacturer.

Summary & Recommendations:

 Warranty Wording

For most projects our recommendation is to seek a quote and commercial roof warranties with the following wording:

·         20 Year Manufacturer’s Labor & Material Warranty

·         Edge to Edge Warranty (This Includes Edge Metals)

·         Single Source Warranty (This means that ALL materials used on this project will be supplied and warranted by a single manufacturer).

·         72MPH wind speed coverage

·         No Dollar Limit Warranty


A.      Prior to signing the contract with your roofing contractor ask them to provide a sample copy of the commercial roofing manufacturer’s warranty and read through it.

B.      Prior to signing the contract with your roofing contractor ask them to provide an “Assembly Letter”.  This is a document created by the engineering department of the roofing manufacturer and will be on their official letterhead. 

o   The assembly letter will be specific to your project listing your building’s roof size, address and roof heights.

o   The assembly letter will spell out very specifically what materials are to be used and how they must be secured.

o   Lastly, the letter will state the type of warranty and wind speed rating the system will qualify for if installed per specifications.

C.      Prior to providing final payment to the contractor have them supply you with copies of all the material shipping tickets showing what brand materials were used.  This is a common practice and one that any reputable contractor will be familiar with.

D.     Prior to providing final payment to the contractor have them supply you with a copy of the warranty and a copy of the final inspection report provided by the roofing manufacturer.

Now that you have familiarized yourself with the ins and outs of commercial roof warranties you should be better able to interpret quotes and successfully purchase a trouble-free roof. Your roofing contractor should be able to answer any other questions you might have on your warranty and can help you cater it to your facilities needs.