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Types of Commercial Roof System Warranties

Many property managers, owners and operators believe the Serviceable Life of a roof system is directly linked to the warranty. Nothing could be further from reality.
Achieving the maximum serviceable life (ie: ROI) has less to do with warranties and more about the quality of workmanship during installation, said Dale Rowe, a journeyman of thirty four years and Certified by the Roof Consultants Institute (RCI) as a Registered Roof Observer (RRO).
There are three primary types of warranties.
  • Manufacturer's NDL Warranty
  • Material Warranty
  • Labor Warranty
  • Manufacturer's NDL Warranty

  • No Dollar Limit (NDL) Warranties are offered directly from manufacturers of the roofing material selected for your project. Each manufacturer offers warranty products that are unique to the type of material and method of application. These rules also vary by geographical location and usually carry certain prerequisites.

    Regardless of the manufacturer, an NDL warranty will usually require an on-site inspector or as they are officially called "Registered Roof Observer". Manufacturer's require RRO's because they understand the Serviceable Life of a Roof System is directly related to the quality of workmanship during installation.

  • Material Warranties

  • A material warranty only guarantees the material will not fail in a certain period of time - usually 10, 15 or 20 years. Indeed, manufacturers offer varying degrees of material warranties - at ever increasing cost.

  • Labor Warranty

  • Labor is probably your most important warranty and the most difficult to enforce. States generally require that contractors offer a minimum Labor Warranty contract. In California, it's a 2 Year Warranty on labor.

  • Best Warranty

  • The warranty you never have to use.
Be Alert To…
There are important distinctions between NDL, Material and Labor Warranty's. Property owners also need to understand the scope of how one affects the other. More importantly, how labor can void the material or NDL warranty.

The difficulty of enforcing a Labor Warranty arises when a Project Manager is not on site to document potential future deficiencies that result from errors during installation. In this context, the Project Manager is a buyers' advocate, not a contractor's project manager who is on-site to snap the whip at laborers.

An Independent Roof Observer representing the buyer is looking at everything from how the underlayment is attached to the deck to membrane thickness or quality of welds on sealing single-ply panels. Once the cap-sheet or single-ply is laid down or sealed and the roof system looks great, deficiencies that will later cause you headaches has been covered up.

Of course, a brand new top layer requires little effort to make it pretty. In comparison, the quality of the underlayments, insulation and interply membrane which is waterproofing layer is more important.

Choosing the Material Warranty
Materials typically do not fail. Manufacturers will tell you this and they are correct!

Manufacturers offer higher Material Warranties (ie: 30, 40 and 50 years) but all they do is increase the price of the material. Three approaches to selecting a material warranty: 1making sure the installation uses best practices (from start to finish) or 2 reviewing replacement statistics for a particular region and 3 the number of interply felt layers used in building the membrane.

Roof systems in Northern California have a statistical replacement cycle between twelve (12) and sixteen (16) years. Knowing this, why should a buyer shell out money for a forty (40) year warranty on the material if the life cycle of a roof falls short of its anticipated serviceable life of twenty (20) years?

Instead of paying for a cosmetic material warranty or No-Dollar-Limit manufacturer's extended warranty that requires the presence of a Roof Observer during the installation, CRS recommends engaging a Roofing Inspector.

Sure, it may sound self serving for CRS to recommend hiring a Project Manager for your roof, but manufacturers' also mandate independent observers for an NDL warranty to assure quality. Johns Manville (one of the top material manufacturers' recently acquired by Berkshire Hathaway) recently engaged an Independent Roofing Inspector for the San Jose Airport project.

Reducing the material cost, annual maintenance expenses and achieving greater than 20 years on a new roof all offset the price of the Professional Roofing Project Manager.

Also see, "Achieving a Great Serviceable Life for Your Roof" for more information on how material selection impacts serviceable life and the roof warranty.

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1361 Winchester Blvd, Suite 207
San Jose, CA 95128
(408) 871-9296 • (408) 871-9295 fax
Member of Silicon Valley BOMA