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Metal Deck/Membrane Roofs Now Come with Single-source Warranties

September 01, 2008 |
By controlling the manufacture of the entire metal deck and roof membrane system, manufacturers like Firestone can offer 15- and 20-year no-dollar-limit warranty on their systems.

Take a metal deck roof, which many specifiers like for its strength, light weight, economy, and ease of installation, and combine it with a waterproof membrane, such as PVC, SBS, TPO, or EPDM to protect it from weather and UV radiation, and you have a roofing system that many architects, contractors, and building owners find very appropriate for many of their projects.

But until fairly recently, roofing supply manufacturers were wary of offering a warranty that would cover both a metal deck and the membrane that seals it. Owners would often have to go through costly litigation when membrane and metal deck manufacturers pointed fingers at each other over who was responsible for a failed membrane/metal roof.

“When there are two different entities involved, offering different warranties can cause problems,” said Todd Jackson, chief legal counsel at Soprema North America, Wadsworth, Ohio, a manufacturer of styrene butadiene styrene-engineered asphaltic roof membranes.

Most roof warranties are essentially an agreement between the manufacturer and the contractor. For the first two years the contractor typically assumes responsibility for roof problems caused by poor installation. After that initial period, and for the rest of the term of the warranty, the manufacturer takes over responsibility for roofing problems.

Roof warranties come in three basic types: 1) materials only, 2) materials and labor on a pro-rated basis, and 3) so-called no-dollar-limit. Materials-only warranties have limited value because roof replacement projects that turn out badly are almost always caused by improper installation or poor design (or both), not defective materials. A pro-rated labor-and-materials warranty covers poor workmanship, but for a declining amount with each passing year. Toward the end of the term in a pro-rated warranty, a building owner would receive only a fraction of the replacement cost for a new roof. With different suppliers providing the metal roof itself, and the waterproofing membrane covering it, warranties would often clash.

That all changed in 2005 when Indianapolis-based Firestone Building Products acquired Copper Sales Inc., a manufacturer of metal roofing products. Firestone, which previously had produced only rubber and asphalt-based membranes, began selling a full line of metal roofing products under the UNA-CLAD roofing name, all with a single-source, no-dollar-limit warranty.

Firestone purchased Copper Sales to control the manufacturing and sale of a single roof system, according to Firestone marketing director Kelly Barrett. Most warranties usually include the roof itself, the membrane, and the base flashing. By controlling the manufacture of the entire metal/membrane product, Firestone felt comfortable offering a 15- and 20-year no-dollar-limit warranty.

Since then, other metal deck and membrane manufacturers have been offering similar warranties. In February, Soprema, one of the largest producers of roofing and waterproofing products (including SBS-modified and liquid roof membranes), and metal roofing supplier Englert, Perth Amboy, N.J., formed an alliance to sell their products under a single warranty.

Soprema's Jackson said Englert and his company worked out the details of a 20-year no-dollar-limit warranty last summer, and the first Englert/Soprema single-source warranty roofs have already been installed.
Tips for a good roof warranty
• Read the fine print for exclusions: Even comprehensive warranties covering materials and installation limit the manufacturer to repairing leaks resulting from specific causes identified by the contract's limitations and exclusions. Common exclusions include ponding water, excessive traffic, natural disasters, failure of building components, and wind. Make sure that wind damage definitions are specific to the region the roof is in and its type.

• Reasonable care: The warranty might be voided if the owner fails to use “reasonable care in maintaining the roof system.” Manufacturers should outline the care and maintenance requirements of the specific roof type when issuing their warranties.

• Unauthorized changes: A warranty might be voided if the customer makes alterations, modifications, or repairs to the roof without properly notifying and obtaining written authorization from the manufacturer. Not using a qualified contractor can lead to the same result. Placing structures, fixtures, utilities, or equipment on the roof without first receiving written permission from the manufacturer may void the warranty.

• Notify your manufacturer immediately of leaks: Owners and managers must provide written notice within a prescribed time of discovery of any leak or roof problem. Most roof warranties require notification within 30 days. This clause aims to protect manufacturers from a prolonged roof leak that goes unreported and leads to far greater and more costly damage that could have been prevented by reporting it in timely fashion.
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