A leaking roof will announce itself, sooner or later, with splotches and stains on the ceilings and walls below. By the time this damage becomes visible, there’s a good chance of more extensive damage to the attic framing and insulation. The typical cause is a roof that is at the end of its serviceable life and is due to be replaced. But what if the roof is new, or just a few years old?

Roofing materials should come with a manufacturer’s warranty against defects in the materials. If the materials wear out too fast, or develop other flaws, the homeowner can be reimbursed for some or all of the costs of replacing the bad materials. This holds true for any type of roofing. There are, however, some very important things to keep in mind when you file a warranty claim.

Shingle roof with black streaks, leaking roof

The shingles on this roof had a manufacturing defect that would have given the homeowner a full replacement under the warranty. Too bad that warranty expired before the owner knew that.

Keep all paperwork

Any warranty claim will require proof that the materials were installed properly. This will only be possible if you hang on to every scrap of information about the roof: when it was installed, who installed it, labels from the product, and, if at all possible, pictures taken before, during, and after the install.

A critical component of this paper trail is the installer. Most manufacturers will only honor a warranty claim if the materials were installed by a factory-authorized contractor. Installations done by the homeowner, or a handyman, will typically not be covered under a standard warranty.

Read the manual

The roofing company should provide you with documentation about the materials installed on the roof. This will include important information about how to maintain the roof. Many people are surprised that roofs do, indeed, require maintenance. Some materials, such as slate, should be inspected every year or two to spot and fix small problems before they become big ones. This maintenance should also be done by a manufacturer-authorized contractor. Add these maintenance records to your documentation file.

Shingle roof edge with damage

These extra-thick shingles will protect the roof for many years… unless they are damaged. Even something small like this can let water in.

Look for problems

We tell our clients that they should make a habit of scanning their roof surfaces on a regular basis. The easiest way to do this is make it a part of your arrival routine: as you drive up to the house, stop and look at the roof. You aren’t looking for anything in particular; rather, you want to become familiar with how it looks so you can immediately spot when something has changed, like a missing shingle or an unusual stain.

Don’t make assumptions

Just because a roof is expensive, or brand new, or looks really pretty, doesn’t mean it can’t have problems. If something looks odd, it should be inspected by the installer to determine if it is a minor flaw, or signs of a significant defect. Failing to do proper maintenance on the roof can cost a huge amount of money.

In my next post, I will present a cautionary tale about how neglecting these points could cost one homeowner upwards of $150,000 to replace a roof that should have been under warranty. Stay tuned!

If you have any roofing questions, or want to schedule a home inspection, contact us!