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INSIGHTS | December 10, 2021

5 Key Considerations to Getting the Right Roof Warranty

When installing or replacing a new roof, your system selection and design have a lot to do with the types and amount of warranty coverage available to you. Generally, the better the roof system, the more warranty coverage you get and the lower your financial risk which can very likely lead to a lower total cost of ownership for that asset in the long run.

You’ll also want to consider how you care for that roof during its life and what limitations your warranty places on your organization.

So, what exactly should you consider when it’s time for a new roof? I’ve listed a few insights below but you will want to discuss your organizational needs with your roof consultant or design firm before you make any decisions.

5 Ways to Maximize Roof Warranty Coverage

How wind speed impacts roof warranties

 From state to state and jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the risk of and regulations surrounding wind speed can vary greatly.

In Boulder, CO, for example, roofs on the west side of Broadway have a required rating of 120mph while on the east side, it’s 130mph. While that may sound like a lot, Miami-Dade County, FL has the strictest wind rating requirements in the US at 146mph. Understanding your local requirements is a first step toward maximizing warranty coverage and compliance. A roof consultant with a national presence will have insight into these requirements for any geographically dispersed portfolio of buildings.

Making the wrong choice on a roof system wind rating can have big consequences. Recently we discovered one client had purchased a spec building, in this case, a cookie-cutter core-and-shell design,  and installed a 45mil mechanically attached TPO membrane with no cover board which only qualifies that roof for a 55mph wind warranty in a jurisdiction with risk of much higher wind speeds. So, what do they do in a windstorm? Well, if it’s above 55mph, they lose their roof as the warranty isn’t going to cover a brand new one.

So, what are the cost considerations here? Generally, a fully-adhered roof membrane is going to cost more than a mechanically attached one—initially about 15-25% more—but it will result in a more comprehensive warranty.

The same goes for flashing. Prefabricated flashing metal could garner you a 30year, 120mph warranty. A shop-fabricated alternative will save you some at installation but only garner a 20-year, 90mph guarantee. If you’re playing the long game with your buildings, that’s a lot of risk to assume later in a roof’s life.

The risk of puncture is another factor that affects a roof warranty

As with wind speed, the inherent risk of puncture in your roof system can have a big impact on your warranty.

Accidental puncture is not eligible on ballasted roofing. Often need to have membrane >80mil to get that item covered. Accidental puncture coverage will provide a maximum number of “repair” hours per year. 

60 mil membranes can meet 1” hail. If your site is in a very severe hail area, consider upgrading membrane thickness for higher hail coverage. 

Felt-backed membranes have higher wind and hail impact ratings because they are fully embedded and provide extra puncture resistance. Even felt-backed membranes that are mechanically attached (as a cheaper solution to fully adhered) are an option for higher warranty coverages.  

Duration of a roof warranty can affect coverage

 Generally, longer warranties reduce overall risk. If a century storm happens one year after your 20-year warranty, you’ll wish you’d gotten the 30-year instead. Penny-pinching during system selection might keep one budget year intact but it’s best to play the long game when you’re considering investing in an expensive asset with a decades-long lifespan.

Repairs and upgrades will impact roof warranty coverage as well

When your roof is damaged, or you’re having additional work such as rooftop HVAC repair performed, ensuring you’ve picked a warranty-conscious contractor or have secured independent third-party construction quality assurance can significantly mitigate risk for your warranty.

Using non-manufacturer-certified contractors to perform repairs can void your warranty. It’s good practice to educate tenants about coordinating the requirements for the installation of new HVAC equipment and to use approved contractors for membrane flashing tie-ins.

Manufacturer reps can provide assembly letters stating what warranty could be provided for a specified design. This is typically necessary when doing a re-cover to verify the warranty requirements over existing substrates and materials. A qualified roofing professional can work with manufacturers to verify the roof assembly.

Many construction professionals are conscious of the other building systems in the area when they’re performing work but it’s not unheard of to see a wrench dropped or a footpath ignored when a repair person comes to service an HVAC unit or other rooftop equipment.

Third-party construction quality assurance observation can mitigate these risks altogether, making sure your contractors are performing work that’s of the highest quality and safety standards. It may cost a little more up-front but can keep small problems that go unnoticed from turning into warranty-busting big problems down the road.

Administrative best practices will impact roof warranties

There’s a lot you can do administratively to avoid nullifying your warranty. Leveraging a consultant who uses each manufacturer’s approved application and upkeep methods will set you off to a good start. 

Some key terms to be on the lookout for when reviewing your warranty documentation include:

  • Full System or No Dollar Limit (NDL) Warranty – These warranties provide a no-dollar limit for labor and materials to fix roof leaks if they are warranty-related.
  • Edge-to-Edge – These warranties include all copings, flashing, and perimeter considerations while a basic warranty is for the roof assembly alone.

Manufacturers’ warranties will cover the basic materials used. Contractor warranties cover the install and maybe one year, two years, or five years. Keep in mind, though, that even basic repair work out of warranty may be covered by a minimum-year contractor’s workmanship guarantee. A roof consultant like those on staff with Mantis’ Facilities Management Solutions team, who services clients with national footprints will be cognizant of these details no matter the jurisdiction.

About Julie McDonald

 Julie McDonald joined Mantis Innovation in 2021 with over 15 years of experience in the built environment. In her current role as Director of Design and Client Success Manager, Julie oversees roof and façade design for nationwide multi-building portfolio owners. In addition to design services, McDonald specializes in design peer review and consulting, façade and roof condition assessments, forensic investigation, and building enclosure commissioning (BECx). Her background in construction management provides a unique perspective on the successful execution of restoration and renovation projects.

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