30 Years to Life: Understanding Lifetime Limited Asphalt Shingle Warranties

November 02, 2011

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Earlier this year, asphalt shingle manufacturers significantly increased the duration of warranty coverage for the most popular segment of the asphalt shingle roofing product market: laminated asphalt single products.  Asphalt shingle manufacturers have replaced their  "30 -year laminated shingles" designation with a "lifetime shingles" designation in their updated shingle product warranties.  GAF Materials Corp. released an announcement stating all GAF Materials laminated shingles installed after Jan. 1st automatically are covered by a lifetime limited warranty.  Similar announcements from other asphalt shingle manufacturers followed, with a few exceptions.

However, when a company markets a warranty as a "lifetime" warranty, it does not necessarily guarantee satisfactory performance.  It is important to consider why companies decide to extend warranties and whether a product's performance history is adequate.

Example of a Shingle Warranty

Changing the Rules

Before the recently announced changes, many asphalt shingle manufacturers provided lifetime warranties only for their top-of-the line products; top-of-the-line asphalt shingles typically use more raw materials, resulting in greater applied product weight and higher product prices.  The updated warranties expand the range of products offered with limited lifetime warranties- almost industry wide to include top-selling laminated shingles.  Additionally, the warranties extend top-selling laminated shingles' nonprorated coverage and raise maximum wind speed limits for wind damage coverage. (During a nonprorated warranty period, the customer receives the full value of the shingles' cost.  During a prorated period, the customer receives only a portion of the shingles' cost.)

Limited Shingle Warranties

A manufacturer typically makes available one limited shingle warranty document that provides warranty terms for its entire shingle product portfolio, including products rebranded as "lifetime shingles."  It is important to read the warranty document carefully to identify the specific provisions applicable to the product being specified.  All asphalt shingle warranties for products sold in the U.S. and Canada are limited warranties.  A limited warranty is any warranty that is not a "full warranty."  With a full warranty, if the product is defective, a consumer can go back at any time and replace the product at any expense. A limited warranty restricts the remedy a consumer can receive.  A limited warranty also can provide for limits on warranty transfers; a manufacturers prerogative  to choose between a refund or product replacement; and exclusions from warranty coverage.

An asphalt shingle manufacturer's product warranty is available at no additional cost to a consumer who buys a new asphalt shingle roof system.

An asphalt single warranty document includes a description of the warranty claim process. To register a valid warranty claim, customers are expected to follow specific instructions, which typically require submitting a proof of purchase, warranty claim form, photos and shingle samples to the manufacturer.  (Which is why we provide and highly suggest everyone keep a "roof records" book).  Defects in application labor are not covered by warranties.  Asphalt shingles typically are understood to perform adequately if they do not leak and they resist wind-uplift forces within the warranty's specified wind speed limit.   Warranties typically provide separate definitions of coverage and remedy for different performance issue categories.

Most Roofing Systems Offer a "good, better, best" product


During the initial warranty period, full cost of replacement shingles and installation labor (for re-cover installations only) typically are covered.  Asphalt shingle manufacturers typically designate the nonprorated warranty period by their own marketing designations.  Underlayment and flahsing materials' costs are not covered.

Coverage for the remainder of a warranty's length is limited to the cost of replacement shingles prorated by the amount of use received.  It is important to be aware that costs to remove existing shingles and install new shingles are not included.  Manufacturers provide product-specific proration formulas and dollar amount limits.

In addition to providing coverage for manufacturing defects, shingle warranties typically include separate terms pertaining to wind-resistance that do not mirror the coverage for manufacturing defects.  For example, shingles' warranty against manufacturing defects may last for the original owner's life, subject to a proration schedule; however, the warranty against wind damage may be in effect for only 10 years.

If an asphalt shingle is marketed as "algae-resistant," the warranty also will include specific provisions pertaining to resistance to algae staining.  Warranty coverage for algae discoloration may be the shingles' replacement cost or limited to the cost of cleaning the affected shingles.

A significant amount of an asphalt shingle warranty's text is allocated for an "exclusions" or "limitations" section, which typically provides considerable detail about conditions or types of damage the warranty does not cover.  Additionally, shingle warranties significantly may limit the length or scope of coverage applicable to shingles installed where specific roof system construction features are present; for example, non-ventilated roof decks, roof slopes less than 4:12 (18 degrees) or geodesic dome deck construction.

In our next post we'll discuss Who is Covered, What a Nonprorated Period is, Wind Resistance Coverage and Concerns