A new roof is a big investment. If something goes wrong, you don’t want to hand over thousands of dollars for repairs. Understand the warranty coverage that comes with your roofing materials and installation before you scratch a check to your roofer.

Roofing warranty basics

Roof warranties usually provide coverage from defect in materials or workmanship. If the materials fail prematurely, or your roof was installed incorrectly, the manufacturer and the installer, respectively, should be responsible for solving the problem.

With that in mind, however, warranties are going to vary from situation to situation because each product and installation scenario is unique. Your roofing contractor should provide you with all of the product warranty information during the sales process, including all relevant warranty info for both the materials and the installation. You can often research the material warranties at the manufacturer websites, too.

Material warranties

Shingles: Asphalt shingle manufacturer warranties range from 20 years to life, depending on the grade of shingle used. Basic strip shingles may have a weaker warranty, while higher-quality laminated dimensional shingles could be guaranteed for the life of the roof. The warranty, and the quality of the product, can making spending more for a better shingle worth the additional cost in the long run.

Underlayment: Fiberglass underlayment can be warrantied to protect your roof deck for up to 50 years. The warranty may be conditional, requiring a clean roof deck (an industry standard) or manual installation over an additional base layer. This means that a person has to literally drive each nail with a hammer. Manual installation is often a requirement in particularly windy regions of the country.

Vents: Most ridge and intake vents are made from tough plastic and carry lifetime warranties. Other options, like power vents, have limited, short-term warranties because of the risk of mechanical failure. That doesn’t mean you should avoid power vents — they may be necessary when your attic needs extra ventilation help, and an unventilated attic can lead to all sorts of moisture problems for your roof.

Installation: Installation warranties can be a little trickier. Important note: each material product warranty has installation requirements. If the material is installed improperly, the warranty can be voided. Ask your contractor if the roofing warranty includes the replacement of warranted materials, because a good roofer will be confident about standing behind the work.

When does my roof warranty expire?

Every roofing warranty has different expiration date.  It depends on the company that installed the roof and what roof materials were used.

A manufacturer’s warranty will often vary between 20- and 30-year shingles. If you buy a lifetime warranty, ask what is considered a “lifetime.” A lifetime, by warranty terms, may only be 30 years.

You will also want to ask if there is proration — exponential decrease in value of an object over time —  associated with your roof warranty.

A prorated roofing warranty means that the value of your roof decreases over time — for example, the warrantor might only cover 60% of the associated costs of repair after 10 years, even if the need for the repair is the warrantor’s fault.

Who is entitled to the benefits of my roofing warranty?

This seems like a silly question at the outset — of course you, the homeowner, gets to use the warranty. If you sell the house, though, does the new homeowner get to use your warranty? Yes, if you have a transferrable warranty.

Most companies only allow a one-time transfer. If the new homeowner sells the home, even within the warranty period, the warranty will not transfer to the newest owner. The warranty company should also be notified of the change in ownership within a certain timeframe as soon as possible after the sale, because there may be a transfer window.

Sometimes there may be a transfer fee to cover administrative costs, because of course there is.

Are there exceptions to my roofing warranty?

Maybe. There can be exceptions to your warranty based on where you live, or who installed your roof. If you live in tornado country, for example, a manufacturer might only warranty a certain type of shingle and a specific installation style. Your roofing contractor will be able to discuss these details with you. So ask!

Warranties are only valuable when you follow all of the rules. Read the fine print, pepper your contractor with questions and do your homework before you sign up for roof replacement. Make sure you’re protected today and into the future.