roof and pavement consultants

Commercial Roof Warranties: Installment 2 of 3

By Curt Liscum, RRC, RRO
Senior Consultant

This is the second installment in a three-part series about commercial roof warranties.  The first installment can be found at Benchmark, Inc. 1 of 3, and provide guidance in identifying who the warrantor is, as well as discussed warranty definitions, history, types, and typical warranty coverage.  In this installment we will discuss typical warranty exclusions/limitations, remedies, addenda/riders, building owner responsibilities, and warranty durations and forms.  In the third and final installment, we will discuss warranty transfers, the relationship between the roofing material manufacturer/authorized contractor, typical installing contractor warranties, warranty fees, and a warranty strategy for building owners.

All this to help understand the complex world of commercial roof warranties; are they fact or fiction, are they good or bad, and more importantly, are they even worth the paper they are printed on?  Are commercial roof warranties just “marketing tools” offered by roofing material manufacturers or installing roofing contractors to sell roofing products and roofing projects, or are they an essential part of a roofing project?


All warranties are different and, as previously discussed, contractual terms may be negotiated.  This section will discuss some of the common exclusions and limitations of commercial roof warranties.  The list is not intended to be all inclusive and is representative of common exclusions and limitations in most commercial roof warranties on the market today.

Roof design and installation – warranties only cover properly designed and installed systems in accordance with the roofing material manufacturer’s applicable instructions, details, specifications, and approvals (UL, FMG RoofNAV, etc.).  The system must meet all applicable building codes.  A commercial roof warranty does not include design or design related activities such as wind up-lift or drainage calculations.

Installing contractor workmanship – commercial roof warranties generally cover proper workmanship on the part of the installing contractor.  Workmanship that does not meet industry standards or is contrary to the roofing material manufacturer’s published requirements would not be covered.

Catastrophic events – unless added by an addendum or rider, leaks caused by lightning, fire, flood, acid rain (air pollution), thermal shock, explosions, hail, seismic events, hurricanes, tornados, or microbursts are beyond the scope of warranty coverage.  Generally, these events are covered by property insurance.

Damage – leaks caused by damage from abuse, negligence, falling or wind-borne objects (icicles), building movement or structural defects, metal movement, substrate conditions, rooftop equipment discharge, building or equipment vibration, plants, animals or insects, excessive roof traffic, and poor maintenance or cleaning are beyond the scope of warranty coverage.

Moisture intrusion other than a leak – warranties cover leaks through the covered roof components so moisture intrusion into the roof system or building caused by construction, condensation, interior humidity, walls, equipment, or any source of water entry other than the roofing membrane would not be covered.

Incompatible materials or substances – leaks caused by roof deterioration from incompatible materials or substances are beyond coverage of a typical warranty.  This could include rooftop unit discharge, airborne jet fuel, and process line breakage.

Change in building occupancy – changing the building occupancy may render leaks caused by the new occupancy to be beyond the scope of warranty coverage.  For example, a warehouse building is converted to an enclosed fitness area with a pool and the pool humidity damages the existing roof system.  Or, this same warehouse is retrofitted as a manufacturing space with overhead conveyors that causes vibrational damage to the roof system.

Repairs or modifications – leaks caused by inappropriate repairs or unauthorized modifications are not covered.  Additionally, any repairs or modification to the roof must be accomplished by a roofing material manufacturer’s authorized contractor.  (Note: We will discuss proper procedures for repair and modification of a warranted roof in the Owner’s Responsibility Section.)

Lack of positive drainage – positive drainage is generally a requirement of the building codes (there are a few exceptions for reroofing projects or building restoration projects).  Generally, commercial roof warranties covering asphaltic based materials exclude leaks caused by standing water or a lack of positive drainage.  Most single-ply warranties are absent in this discussion; however, they do require the roof to be installed in accordance with applicable codes.  Additionally, the term “standing water” is subjective and environmentally dependent.  I have seen small bird bath sized areas that hold water for less than 48 hours in southern climates that cause significant membrane damage to both asphaltic based products and single-ply membranes.


A commercial roof warranty will stipulate exactly what remedies a building owner is entitled to if a covered event occurs and will include the statement that “the stated remedy is your sole and exclusive remedy” for the covered claim.  Warranties cover leaks so therefore the common remedy is to repair the covered component (roof and flashing membrane) to stop the leak.  Warranties will not replace the roof because it leaks and may not even repair damaged materials from the leak.  Warranties are reactive in nature and are not required to repair defects that are not yet leaking.  Some manufacturers have been known to bill an owner for the leak investigation if the leak is determined not to be a covered condition.

Like any business transaction, relationships and customer loyalty play significant roles in any matter.  Being a loyal supporter and frequent user of a roof material manufacturer’s products or installing roofing contractor’s services may have a bigger impact on a remedy than the actual terms of the commercial roof warranty.


As previously discussed, warranty terms are negotiable.  Commercial roof warranties can be modified using addenda or riders.  Adding addenda or riders to a warranty may require changing the roof components such as selecting thicker membranes, durable cover boards, additional membrane plies or increased attachment.  Most addenda or riders not only have an increased material and installation cost, but may include an increased warranty fee.  A few of the common addenda or riders are as follows.

Wind – most warranties cover leaks caused by wind speeds less than a defined limit (typically around 70 mph).  To obtain coverage for greater wind speeds, an addendum or rider may be issued.  Even with the addendum or rider, the warranty may not cover hurricanes, tornados, derechos, or microbursts.  Wind damage (leaking or not) is commonly a property insurance claim.

Hail – most warranties exclude leaks caused by hail.  To obtain an addendum or rider to cover leaks caused by hail (hail size limit will be specified), the system will most likely require an increased membrane thickness or additional membrane plies, and inclusion of a more robust cover board.  These addenda or riders cover the repair of leaks from specified hail size limits; however, they do not cover aesthetic or surface damage caused by hail damage that does not leak.  Hail damage (leaking or not) is most likely a property insurance claim.

Total system – previously we discussed that the standard watertightness warranty only includes the waterproofing roof and flashing membrane.  Occasionally an owner requests all components used in the roof assembly to be included in the warranty.  This can be accomplished by adding those components to the warranty with an addendum or rider.  This may require that all components be purchased from the roofing material manufacturer and will likely cause an increase in material cost and significant increase in warranty fee.  However, the warranty still only covers leaks, and the remedy is to stop the leak and not to restore the roof to its “like new” condition.


Commercial roof warranties may require that the owner perform several functions to maintain the validity of the warranty.  Some of these include the following:

Payment – the owner is required to fully pay for all costs of roof installation, both installing contractor labor and materials.

Warranty execution – the owner may be required to acknowledge, sign, and return a copy of the warranty to the roofing material manufacturer within a specified time period.

Contractor – the owner is required to use a contractor authorized by the roofing material manufacturer for initial roof installation, repairs, and modifications.  Due to the relationship between the roofing material manufacturer and contractor (to be discussed in the final installment) the original installing contractor may be required to perform repair or modification work for the initial warranty period.

Repairs – under the warranty the owner has the right to make temporary emergency repairs using any contractor they desire.  However, it is the owner’s responsibility to pay the cost of removing any excessive repair or repair performed by an unauthorized contractor prior to permanent warrantable repairs being accomplished.  As an example, this can be the case when bentonite pourable sealers are used to stop leaks.

Modifications – the owner is required to obtain written acceptance from the roofing material manufacturer of any roof modifications to be performed by an authorized contractor prior to performance of the modification project.

Leaks – under the terms of most commercial roof warranties the owner is required to notify the roofing material manufacturer within 30 days of a reported leak.  This can usually be done in writing, through an online system, or by phone.  Delayed notification may cause increased damage and may limit the remedy.

Maintenance – most warranties require that the owner perform and document periodic roof maintenance, and that the maintenance be accomplished in accordance with the roofing material manufacturer’s published guidelines.  It is industry common knowledge that periodic roof maintenance is paramount to roof performance and longevity.  Roofing material manufacturer warranties are generally not specific on who performs the maintenance evaluations, but do require that an authorized contractor complete any repairs.  Some long-term contractor warranties may require that the owner retain the contractor to perform maintenance inspections and repairs.  As warranties provide reactive leak repair remedies, costs associated with required periodic maintenance would be at the owner’s expense.

Roof access – under the terms of most warranties the owner is required to allow the warrantor free, unlimited, and unscheduled access to the roof during normal business hours.  This includes a ladder, if necessary, to access the roof.  The thought here is if the owner does not have readily available access, how can he perform the required preventive maintenance and periodic roof inspections?


There are several durations and forms of warranty available on the market today and they are changing constantly.  Following is a discussion of the various forms and monetary limitations available:

A material warranty provides a remedy for a leak caused by a product manufacturing defect and generally only includes the waterproofing membrane.  Likely, the burden of proof for the defect would be up to the owner.  The remedy may include only materials needed to repair the leak caused by a manufacturing defect or may provide materials and contractor labor necessary to repair the leak.

More common is the standard labor and material warranty.  This warranty will provide a remedy to repair a leak caused by a covered event.  This form of warranty commonly covers the waterproofing membrane but can also include other components if included by addendum or rider.  This warranty covers leaks caused by product manufacturing defects and contractor workmanship.  The remedy commonly includes the material and contractor labor necessary to repair the leak.  This is the most common warranty found in the industry today.

The most common warranty today has an NDL (no-dollar-limit) monetary limitation.  This implies that the warrantor has no monetary limit on the cost of the remedy for the repair of a leak by a covered event.  Contrarily, warranties can include monetary limitations or penal sum limitations.  These limitations can be set to the cost of materials or dollars per square foot and may be prorated for the “used” amount of the roof performance period.  These monetary limitations can be applied to both material only as well as labor and material commercial roof warranties.

Warranty durations vary by roof system type, roof components, and market requirements.  Typical durations are from 5 to 20 years with some roofing material manufacturers offering warranties with durations in excess of 25 years.  The most common warranty duration from a roofing material manufacturer is 20 years.  Installing roofing contractor warranties are commonly for 2 years, with some offerings of 5 to 10 years.  Some owners and public entities require contractor warranties in the 5- to 10-year range.  Warranty duration is not an indication of roof performance but is a form of limited insurance for a covered roof leak.

In the third and final installment we will discuss warranty transfers, the relationship between the roofing material manufacturer, authorized contractor, typical installing contractor warranties, warranty fees, and a warranty strategy for building owners.

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