Warranty Wars: Who Pays?

Remodeling magazine May 2002

Publication date: May 3, 2002

Writer: Matthew LeFaivre

A few years ago, Michael Gervais, owner of Prime Construction in Burlington, Vt., was putting an addition on a house and was trying to match the color of the shingles for the new roof. It just so happened that the homeowner had saved half a bundle when the house had been roofed, eight years before. Odd, though, that the stored shingles were blue. The shingles on the roof were gray.

Not only were they gray, but they were decomposing and falling off. Gervais found out that the shingle had been taken off the market due to continuous problems. Yet, when he sought to have the faulty product replaced under warranty, the manufacturer refused, citing flawed installation. "If you don't follow their [installation] guidelines to the penny, they won't make good on the warranty," notes Gervais, who did not install the original roof.

Limited Wrranties

Manufacturers of asphalt shingles offer various levels of warranty, from 20 years to so-called lifetime warranties. But what does that mean?

Essentially, it means that manufacturers will replace their product if it's proven defective and if the defect is in no way traceable to faulty installation. And even when they stand by the warranty, they often pay for just the product, not the new installation.

"Most companies will not pay for the labor," says Matt LeFaivre of J.R. LeFaivre Construction Co. in Taneytown, Md. "They'll either do it themselves, or give you the materials and expect you to install it."

A little more than four years ago, LeFaivre's company installed shingles as part of an addition and two years after that the contractor got a call. The shingles -- which carried a 25-year warranty -- were curling. "To this day, we don't know what it was or why they did that," LeFaivre says.

In this case, the manufacturer replaced the shingles, installing the replacement product with its own reps. LeFaivre says that, worst case scenario, he would have replaced the shingles himself because, apart from manufacturer-supplied warranties on products such as appliances, his company guarantees its work for five years.

What's Covered?

Most of the asphalt shingles Jim Lydon, of Lydon and Son on Nantucket, Mass., installs carry a 25 or 30 year warranty. The warranty covers defective product, but not the effect of natural disasters such as, for instance, a hurricane. So, in inclement weather, "if the shingle company plays hardball, they won't cover the wind damage," Lydon says. "They tell you to go to the homeowners." They, in turn, go to their insurers. "All bets are off when the wind is blowing at 54 mph or higher," says Lydon.