Watch Out for the Roofing Shell Game

By Tiffany Lacey


After spending thousands of dollars on a new roofing system with a 20 year warranty, you feel pretty secure. Sounds great, right? The operative word here is sounds. There is a possibility you've been caught in "a shell game". This means, the warranty is offered, to create a false sense of security and only the material is covered by the warranty, not the entire installation. Many assume the only recourse for an aging roof is to replace it outright but, RAM USA Aerial Infrared Roof Scans research has shown that 50 percent of roofs being replaced don't actually need replacement. The roofing industry has problems, and some continue to get worse.

In the past, there was more brick and concrete construction, which gave buildings stability. Over time building trends have been to use more structural metal, which lends itself to movement and stress on the building. Also, more equipment has been put on the roof and there seems to be more foot traffic.

This is accompanied by a growth in the number of manufacturers, and different types of roof systems which with their various associations, makes them very powerful. At one time, the contractor and the consumer determined the roof system for their building. Now it’s the manufacturer and/or contractor.

The Result? Roofing has become very problematic for a lot of companies because their roofing projects are always put out to bid. Many times public entities get trapped in the "low-bid pitfall" without a true warranty, and have found that roofs on their facilities are lasting a mere five to seven years. Decades ago, the National Roofing Contractor Association found that the average longevity for a roof was 20 years. It doesn't help a consumer to have a "30 year warranty" for a single-ply roof system, if the roof won't last 10 years.

The largest single factor related to warranties is that they are typically filled with exclusions, and they usually can move the shell of responsibility away from the manufacturer and contractor. The main problems with roof system installations are actually not typically found in the materials, but in the application. This critical labor factor is usually not covered in the warranty. Nor, is flashing, and approximately 90 percent of roof leakage occurs through the flashings. Another issue, not usually covered, is movement of the building. The fact is...A piece of paper will never keep a roof system performing, and water tight.


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