Not All Commercial Roof Warranties Are The Same—Read The Fine Print

In an earlier blog post we discussed why you need a premium warranty for your flat or low slope roof system.  Today we focus on what that warranty document should say.  This means reading the fine print. The title at the top of the warranty document can say just about anything.  Titles are worthless.  The fine print is where your warranty really lives.

The Truth about Most Warranties

Make sure to read through the details of each warranty so you know what will be covered.

You may think you have the roofing equivalent to a 20-year “bumper-to-bumper” warranty.  But if you haven’t specifically paid for a manufacturer’s total system warranty, odds are you just have a piece of paper (or a PDF) and a false sense of security.

Many of our customers believe that every roofing contractor’s warranty is in fact a guarantee that the roof won’t leak for the life of the warranty.  These customer’s believe that as long as they have a 20-year warranty, then they are protected no matter what roofing system they purchased and what price they paid.

Paying the Price for Not Having a Warranty

As a result of this belief, once the roofing contractor promises them a warranty, they focus on the price and nothing more. And most customers make this mental leap without ever seeing the warranty document before they make the purchase.

The truth is that roofing warranties (commonly called a guaranty, but we use the term interchangeably in this blog) come in many different forms and they vary wildly from manufacturer to manufacturer, contractor to contractor and system to system.

Some are outstanding and some are darn near fraudulent.  Some don’t pass the smell test.  For example, if a coating manufacturer offers a 50-year warranty, that sounds great.  But is that 50-year warranty really a guarantee of anything?  Is it even possible to make an inexpensive product for the hostile environment of your flat roof that lasts 50 years? It seems far-fetched.

Read the Fine Print

Look closely at the fine print in that “50-year warranty” and you may be shocked.  It might only guarantee that the product left the factory without defects.  It might exclude workmanship problems altogether. And it might cover only the replacement cost of the material (and no labor to investigate or fix) in the event of a defect in the material.  The truth is, it may cover nothing other than to say that the material was fine when we manufactured it.  This is not a warranty.

Good Warranties

A GOOD warranty has three main elements.  At minimum it covers (1)the material, (2) the workmanship of the installation, and (3) the labor and material needed to investigate and fix leaks.

Great Warranties

A GREAT warranty has those three elements plus three more: (4) it has no dollar limit on the cost to repair leaks individually or collectively over the life of the warranty; (5) it is issued only after the manufacturer has inspected the new roof and approved the contractor’s workmanship; and (6) it guarantees that the roof system is watertight for the life of the warranty.

What to Remember


Your new commercial roof can cost anywhere from $4 to $15 per square foot.  This is a huge investment.  To make sure your warranty is really a guaranty, read the fine print and make sure you are at least getting a good warranty.  For real peace of mind, pay a bit more and get a great warranty.  It is worth it.

Consult with a Roofing Contractor

For more information about commercial roofing warranties, please call a Reliable Roofing professional. We are available at (815) 981-9898 and serve the Greater Chicagoland Area and the city of Chicago, IL.

Roofing Warranty FAQ

Basic Warranty IssuesA Premium Major Manufacturer Guaranty should offer:
Does my warranty cover defects in the material, the labor to install it, neither or both?A strong warranty clearly covers defects in material AND workmanship.
What about ponding water?A weak warranty will expressly exclude it.  A better warranty will refer to “proper roofing drainage” and follows roofing industry standards for proper drainage—meaning the roof should dry on its own within 2 days of a storm.
Does the warranty specify the roofing materials covered?A strong total system warranty is specific and lists the roof system components such as screws, insulation, cover board.
What does the warranty say about leaks?A strong warranty mentions leaks and water tightness specifically and guarantees a watertight roof system.
What about normal wear and tear?A major purpose of a warranty is to assure that the roof is watertight in the face of normal wear and tear.  A good warranty expressly covers wear and tear.
Is there a dollar limit on the warranty?The best warranties have no dollar limit.  Read that fine print carefully here.  Many warranties have a maximum dollar limit on the manufacturer or contractor’s exposure.  A common one is that the maximum liability for the warranty shall not exceed the original cost of the materials.  Another common issue is that warranty obligation goes down as your roof system ages.