Since 1979, I’ve been witnessing the amazing evolution of the commercial roof warranty. However, what once was a gesture of reliability between roofing contractor and building owner, has become a crutch that clouds what’s really important – the quality of your roofing system itself.
The forerunner of today’s commercial roof warranty was the roof bond. Many building owners incorrectly thought the roof bond was a warranty or guarantee, but, instead, it was basically a document that stated the roofing manufacturer would cover the cost of specific necessary repairs up to a fixed amount (i.e., the dollar value of the bond). Needless to say, if a building owner didn’t know what they were getting with the bond, they quickly found out if and when the necessary roof repairs exceeded the value of the bond. These situations would lead unsuspecting building owners to become distrustful of roofing contractors and roofing manufacturers. However, had they read the roof bond in the first place, they would have had an understanding of what they were buying and its value.
While some people may have a different perspective, today’s commercial roof warranty seemed to have originated with the introduction of the single-ply roofing membrane in the late 1970s. Early manufacturers of single-ply roofing membranes were quite confident that their products, when installed per their instructions and regularly inspected by their own personnel, would perform for 10 years. And if there was a roof leak that was covered by the warranty, they would fix it. This approach made the building owner confident that their roof would be problem-free, long-lasting and, if necessary, repaired at no cost to them. In the early days of commercial roof warranties, it’s possible that building owners began to think of them as being more forthright and reliable than roof bonds.
Over the next 35-plus years, commercial roof warranties evolved and grew in popularity. Today, every manufacturer has a version of a roof warranty, complete with a plethora of coverage options, acronyms, disclaimers, costs and exclusions. You couldn’t find two similar warranty programs if you tried. But do these warranties help a building owner understand what they bought and its value?
One of the most interesting observations I have today is that many commercial roofing salespeople are selling warranties as opposed to what they should be selling – commercial roofing products and systems. This sales approach is logical when looked at one way: If you have a roof leak, you need to know what your warranty does and does not cover.
But let’s look at this another way: A warranty never stopped a roof leak, and the absolute best warranty out there is the one you never have to use. To put it in other terms, your roofing system needs to perform and do what it’s supposed to do, period. Because if it does, then it doesn’t leak and you don’t have to use your warranty. Now that’s value.