The majority of roofing contractors at any given time will not be in business 10 to 15 years down the road. When they go out of business, so does your warranty. When considering a contractor for your next roofing project, please do not select a contractor based on their workmanship warranty. Ten and fifteen year warranties are sales gimmicks. Period. How many storms do you think may bombard your home in 10 – 15 years? It will be difficult to prove future problems are solely related to workmanship.
I first started roofing in the early nineties. At that time, most roofers offered one or two year warranties. After starting my company in 1999, I began offering a 5-year workmanship warranty – much longer, but I felt still reasonable. Today, 10 and 15-year warranties are commonplace. A line has been crossed; marketing has replaced reality.
Interestingly, shingle manufactures have also crossed a line to the land of meaninglessness… a land of empty words. Shingles that were once sold as 25-year dimensional shingles were soon marketed as 30-year, while similar shingles were sold as 35-year shingles. Then the whole market went to Wonderland after GAF (the largest shingle manufacturer) decided to cut the weight of their shingles and market a lighter shingle as a Lifetime material warranty. Other manufacturers soon followed with their own Lifetime warranties. Are the shingles lasting any longer? Absolutely not. How do they get away with this? All of the warranties are limited warranties laced in legalese. Basically, after about 10 years they have very little value.
What are we to do? As a roofing contractor, I buy the best quality shingle available and I tell my customers the realistic life expectancy in each shingle class. As for workmanship warranties, I recommend you largely ignore the workmanship warranty. Instead, consider the source of excellent workmanship:
“Would you consider pride a fault or a virtue?” asks Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Darcy wisely does not give an answer. However, at least when it comes to roofing workmanship — pride is clearly a virtue. I have repaired countless roofs and I have often marveled at the shoddy, even flagrant disregard of workmanship. Roofing can be tough, humbling work, why not take pride in a job done well? A little pride could remedy a lot of roofing malaise, but pride is not the only thing missing…
“My people perish for lack of knowledge” Hosea 4:6. Ignorance may be the most common reason workmanship suffers so pervasively. People in general, and roofers in particular, are ignorant. Only ignorance can explain box vents installed up side down or nails placed in valleys. Many roofing crews are comprised of the “blind leading the blind”. They learned from a lousy roofer and do not realize just how lousy their workmanship truly is.
Ignorance is usually innocent, but a significant contributor to poor workmanship that is not innocent is poor character…
Some people are just plain rotten. They either cannot recognize right from wrong, good from evil, or they are entirely indifferent. Their path is the easy path. Unfortunately, the easy path where roofing is concerned is almost always the wrong path. I see roofs without any underlayment, rotten decking that has been roofed over, and counter flashing that was never actually counter flashed. I see old vents reinstalled, new bundles dumped at the landfill (literally disposing of the evidence as they over charge some contractor), and pushing new roofs when a roof replacement is simply not necessary.
Their word, including their workmanship warranties, has no value.
I was twenty when I started my roofing company. I had been roofing since I was fourteen and I was very capable of excellent work. I often, as now, gave bids and completed jobs without actually meeting the customer. I can still remember the comments of one customer I had just met for payment on a roof in Murfreesboro, TN she owned. The first thing she said to me was “If I had known you were so young I would not have hired you.” I do not recall, but likely I was referred to this lady. Her only wise decision was in getting a referral. Besides not knowing anything about me (such as my character, roofing knowledge, pride of workmanship, or experience) she also makes a common mistake in equating experience with age. Roofing experience has more to do with the breath of work seen and done than the years on the job. I have worked with older roofers that knew nothing about commercial roofing, or new construction specialist to be completely ignorant of roofing repair, or shingle roofers to be entirely ignorant of metal roofing, … or slate, or copper, or clay tiles, or wood shakes etc. etc. Roofing is far more varied than most people realize. The roof you envision should align with your roofer’s experience, not his age. Lastly, experience is a tricky beast. If your intent on excellent workmanship, you’ll find no better friend. If you just want to turn a buck, experience will only inspire corner cutting.
In summary, a roofing warranty is a fickle friend. Investigate deeper. Get referrals. Know the company; better yet, know the man. Glad to have met. Joseph Dowell.
About the author, Joseph Dowell has operated a roofing company based out of Murfreesboro, TN for over twenty years. Dowell Roofing services Rutherford County (including Murfreesboro, Smyrna, and Lavergne) as well as surrounding Middle Tennessee counties. To learn more visit DowellroofingTN.com.