In my 20 years in this industry, I’ve talked and listened to literally thousands of roofing contractors throughout the U.S. and Canada. And, I’ve heard it all, some of which isn’t fit for print. In all seriousness, I’m very proud that in our industry people are not afraid to speak their minds, especially on issues that affect safety, productivity, profitability and overall business success.

In the past few years one issue you’ve been extremely vocal about is warranties. It is a little crazy out there with almost everything being “lifetime.” Then you add in extended warranties, proration, what’s covered and what’s not, and the situation gets even more confusing.

Consider this: I recently talked with our warranty department and asked them, “What is the oldest roof you recently handled a claim for?” The answer was 29 years and the issue was a manufacturing defect that led to excessive granule loss. I then asked the team, “What was the homeowner’s expectation in terms of warranty coverage?” The answer, “Full replacement—tear-off, new material, labor, disposal.” The reality is that the homeowner was eligible for new material only and only a portion based on proration. My point is this — many times there’s a huge gap between what a homeowner expects a warranty to cover and the reality of what it really covers. And then the fingers start pointing. Sound familiar?

My goal over the next few weeks is to help you navigate the confusion and bridge that gap. In the long run, you’ll gain street cred for your knowledge, honesty and transparency and when/if the time comes to handle a warranty claim, you and the homeowner will be more closely aligned on what’s covered. Warranties can be tough to explain and for a homeowner investing thousands of dollars on a major home improvement, the details are a bit overwhelming. Let’s change that.

Before we start, I want to hear from you! Please take this short survey and let me know your thoughts on warranties… who does it right, wrong? What can be improved? Is there a magic bullet to fix it all?

Ok, let’s get started.

A lifetime warranty is a good thing—Right? And that’s where the confusion begins.
When it comes to warranties and explaining them to homeowners, let’s deal with the elephant in the room: shingles with lifetime warranties sound really strong, but what does that actually mean? In my travels this year, I’ve thrown that question out to contractors, and as expected, the answers are all over the map.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not believe contractors are trying to mislead homeowners. There is just genuine confusion out there as to what lifetime means and hence, it’s difficult to explain to prospective customers. In fact, one contractor recently told me this when asked what he liked about our warranties: “Everything is lifetime and that’s where the confusion begins.” Not a resounding vote of confidence! Sure, we all simplified warranties…. or did we?

Two issues bubble to the surface. What does lifetime really mean? And, how can you differentiate products and your business if the lifetime warranties are all the same?

Understanding What is Covered by a Lifetime Roofing Warranty
understanding what is covered by a roofing warranty
Nothing symbolizes security quite like a roof over your head. Which might explain why there is so much angst when something goes wrong.

In the shingle world, lifetime simply means “as long as that homeowner owns that house.” It doesn’t mean the life of the home or that the shingles will last a lifetime. And, once the shingles are installed, manufacturers include a “full coverage” period, which varies by company, to cover manufacturing defects during the early years after installation. Typically, that period is ten years and covers tear off, disposal, new material and installation. Again, this varies by company, but you get the idea.

Once that initial “full coverage” period is over, you get into proration. This is where a homeowner’s eyes start to glaze over. In year 11 and for as long as the homeowner owns that home, only the shingles are covered. And, as the roof gets older, the “payout” gradually decreases each month. The homeowner is on the hook for the rest. This is where the homeowners’ expectations crash with the reality of the warranty coverage.

Extended Lifetime Warranties Can Mean Peace of Mind for You and Your Customers
Here’s how you can avoid the collision. Simply build into your proposal an extended warranty which can take that initial 10-year full coverage period and extend it up to 50 years. That’s 50 years of full coverage for labor, tear-off, material and disposal—peace of mind to the homeowner.

That peace of mind also helps differentiate your proposal from that of the other guy. Say something does go wrong and it’s determined it’s a manufacturing defect. If you dig into the fine print of manufacturers’ warranties, you’ll discover that all but one company covers defects if the roof leaks. CertainTeed covers those defects even if the roof isn’t leaking. A key differentiation point when you’re selling against your competition and a sign of confidence that CertainTeed will back you. – peace of mind for you.

Making sense? We’re just scratching the surface here. More to come next week! Let me know what you think about shingle warranties. Take our brief survey and tell me what you think!

Be Safe, Be Different and Be Profitable


Jay Butch joined CertainTeed Roofing in 1998 and is responsible for all contractor programs and marketing. By developing the Shingle Master credential, an enhanced SureStart PLUS warranty and Roofers’ Rewards, he strengthened the Contractor’s EDGE offering. Jay adds valuable insight from his extensive.