Alice in Warranty Land Revisited

In 2011 Mr. Richard Fricklas, one of the roofing industry’s most respected experts, published a short article titled Alice in Warranty Land.  In the article Mr. Fricklas outlined the misconceptions that the various stakeholders had with regard to commercial roofing warranties.  Alice was confused to say the least.  "How can this be”” cried Alice when confronted with the various expectations regarding exactly what is covered in the warranty.

Things haven’t changed and today designers and owners still think that the warranty is some kind of insurance policy against all kinds of environmental adversity.  If you just read the opening paragraph of the warranty you’ll find the single statement with regard to the manufacturer’s liability; “will repair leaks”.  There’s not a manufacturer in the business that guarantees that the roof will not leak.  And after 40-years on the industry the one thing I can guarantee is that roofs leak and they do so for a variety of reasons.  The reputation of the manufacturer and the product will determine the effectiveness of any warranty.  And, the best warranty is the one you never have to use.

Too much emphasis is given to the tenure of the warranty without regard to the product’s life cycle history.  Today you can find manufacturer’s offering 20-year and longer warranties for product formulations that have been on the market for less than a couple of years.  Is it any wonder Alice is confused.

The manufacturer typically states that coverage includes materials provided by the manufacturer and the labor provided by the authorized roofing contractor.  That’s fine and dandy and reasonable considering the investment being made on the part of the owner.  However, the balance of the verbiage after the opening paragraph goes on to tell the owner / consumer what is NOT covered in the “will repair leaks” statement.

Yesterday I saw a commercial warranty from a manufacturer professing to use KEE in their vinyl formulation.  That’s not unusual as today the market is filled with FiberTite “Knock Offs” but what was disturbing was the exclusions listed in the terms and conditions.  They included the following with regard to the performance of the roof system:

“is damaged as a result of attack by roof top contaminants such as solvents, petroleum, oil products, acids, or other harmful chemicals;”

Seaman Corporation pioneered the use of KEE in 1974 and created the most chemical resistant vinyl membrane available.  Exclusion for “roof top contaminants” and “other harmful chemicals” are such overly broad statements and are not open ended exclusions found in the FiberTite Commercial warranty.  This should be a red flag for any designer or owner when selecting a “KEE” professed roof system solely based on the historical track record of FiberTite’s coat tails.  If you tell Seaman Corporation the potential chemical exposure it can be evaluated based upon their 40-years of KEE experience and even included in the warranty coverage.

Ultimately there’s no substitute for high quality materials, design and workmanship to ensure roof top performance.  A piece of paper cannot keep water out of your building.  Do your homework and look for evidence of performance before making a decision.  Read the warranty and don’t assume that you’ve bought an extended insurance policy to cover your decision or you’ll end up with Alice chasing white rabbits.

Comments

I've been installing FiberTite roof systems for over 15 years now and I have installed 200,000 + square feet of product with various different applications. I've never once needed to use their warranty. The product is top of the line, I'd have to say it is my favorite single ply roof system to install and have done so with a 100% success rate. My father has installed probably triple or quadruple the amount I have and Fibertite remains his preferred single ply system.

Thanks for the testimony Brandon.  

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About Mr FiberTite

After 10-years in Local 88 out of Canton Ohio, the opportunity to drink the FiberTite Kool Aid came in 1984.  Since then I've been a student as well as a teacher in all manner of roofing with a focus on the engineering, design and installation of thermoplastic single ply roofing systems.  The industry is growing in complexity so there's plenty of opportunity to learn and sharpen your skills no matter who you are.  Hence, one of the most important things I've learned is that "to sharpen the blade, you have to rub steel with steel".

Disclaimer

FiberTite® is a Registered Trademark of Seaman Corporation.  The views and opinions expressed on this site are not necessarily those of Seaman Corporation.

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