Shingle Warranties: The Truth Is In The Fine Print

From my experience, shingle warranties have caused more disappointments and mis-trust between contractors, manufacturers and homeowners than any other aspect of this industry. Many homeowners hear terms like “25 Year Shingle” or “Lifetime Warranty” and conclude that they will have that roof thing covered for a long, long time. Maybe not quite 25 years, but it should be pretty close…right? Not necessarily. When you start reading the fine print on shingle warranties, you will discover that there a lot of conditions and criteria that need to be met before your shingle warranty is actually valid. Furthermore, you may be quite surprised as to what you are entitled to regarding compensation. Today’s read will cover the gist of shingle manufacturerer’s warranties and what the expectations should be if you need to make a claim.
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Limited Warranties

A limited shingle warranty is the warranty that the shingle manufacturer offers any homeowner who has had their product correctly installed on the customer’s home. Outside of extended warranties, this is shingle warranty that most homeowners have in place.

The first point that needs clarification is that the term written on the package is the full duration of the LIMITED warranty. It is not the length of the term where you are fully covered from performance issues. As an example, if I purchase 30 year shingles, I am receiving a product that has a warranty with the potential to last, in one form or another, 30 years. It does not mean I have a 30 year warranty where I am fully covered from defects or performance failures. The “fully covered” term is what is often referred to as the non-prorated period of your warranty. The non-prorated period is the period where you are best covered, and entitled to the greatest compensation. This non-prorated period is typically 10-15 years, depending on the shingle. The remaining balance or prorated portion of the warranty is considerably less in coverage compared to the non-prorated portion of the warranty. This is how shingle manufacturers are able to offer 40 Year, 50 Year and Lifetime warranties on a product that will never last that long without performance issues.

Non-Prorated Coverage

Now that we’ve clarified how shingle warranties generally work, let’s look at the best part of your warranty, the non-prorated portion. Many homeowners who do their research discover that shingles have a non-prorated and a prorated portion in their warranties. They realize the best part will be in the first 10-15 years where the shingle is non-prorated. What they do not realize is that even in the non-prorated warranty period, coverage can be limited to less than they think.

Most shingle manufacturers have names for the non-prorated portion of their warranties (CertainTeed Sure Start, GAF Smart Choice, Owens Corning Tru Protection etc…) This is where you need to look to see what is covered and what your compensation entitlement is. You will discover that most (if not all) manufacturer warranties will cover material and labour ONLY when offering compensation. They will not cover other costs such as vents, flashings, tear-off costs or disposal fees. This can reduce the expected compensation from 100% to as low as 25%. Furthermore, there is one popular manufacturer who has in their non-prorated warranty that the manufacturer’s maximum monetary compensation is $40 per square, while the average cost to replace a roof in Southern Ontario is $250 per square*. That’s on average, only 18% of the cost to have the roof replaced!

*There are too many variables to be able to accurately state what the true average cost would be (region, product roof layout)  The $250/square figure is based on our average cost and that of our most common competitors.

You will also discover when reading the non-prorated portions that the manufacturer has the final say in how the deficient roof is corrected. They can either award you monetary compensation based on industry pricing for the service required to fix the roof or they could just hire a contractor themselves to fix the roof as they deem required. Using wind damage as an example, most manufacturers have the option to only reseal broken sealant strips as opposed to replacing the failed shingles. This is also true in some of the premium extended warranties that are available.

Wind Resistance Portion Of Warranties

The recent increase in wind storms have lead many homeowners in Southern Ontario to look at better wind resistance shingles and warranties. Just like with the limited warranty term written on the shingle package, wind warranty terms can be misleading if you look at the rating by wind speed only. The five top brands in Southern Ontario have wind ratings between 110-135 MPH. What’s often overlooked is what is required to get these wind warranties. Some manufacturers such as CertainTeed with their Landmark shingle will offer 110 MPH wind rating “out of the box” with no need for special application instructions or supplemental products. Other manufacturers require 6 nails per shingle with each roof edge sealed down in roofing cement and/or the application of synthetic underlayment, even on steep pitches to achieve the same warranted rating.

Some shingle warranties will not cover wind damage if the sealant strips have not had ample time and proper conditions to activate. In other words, the will not honour wind warranties for winter or cold weather installs. There are also some stipulations on certain brands where the installer has to ensure the environment during the installation is free of dust and debris or the wind warranty may be voided due to the sealant strip being compromised. The shingle brands used at Logik Roofing have no such stipulations.

GAF has an interesting approach to their wind warranty for the Timberline HD shingle. While the sealant strip not activating could void the wind aspect of the warranty, you will receive an additional “Failure To Seal” warranty. This bridge approach to the wind warranty protects homeowners from sealant strips that do not seal for the first 5 years. If you put in a claim in the first 5 years and it is deemed that the sealant strip did not activate, GAF will replace damaged shingles as required and cover the labour cost to hand seal any non activated shingles.

CeretainTeed will honour their wind warranty on the Landmark shingle, regardless if the sealant strip had activated or not.

Workmanship Warranty

Outside of a few extended warranty options, the workmanship warranty is what the installer offers a homeowner as a warranty against installation deficiencies. This warranty is independent and not supported by the shingle manufacturer (again, there are a few extended warranties that will cover workmanship but generally the contractor is responsible for workmanship)

Most contractors offer homeowners a 5-10 year workmanship warranty. There are a few companies that offer 15 years as well. The value of a workmanship warranty and the extent of it’s coverage will  largely depend on the contractor or company you are dealing with. A company with a good reputation and a proven track record with years of service are generally going to offer the best workmanship warranties. Unlike manufacturer warranties,  workmanship warranties are not normally laid out in a legal “black and white” format. They are typically not documented and more at the discretion of the contractor.

Extended Warranties

All five of the top shingle brands used in Southern Ontario offer extended manufacturer warranties. They all require specific installation practices from certified contractors and the use of specific products in order to qualify for extended warranties. Once those measures are in place, there is typically a registration fee required from the manufacturer. While I can appreciate the peace of mind that comes with some of these extended warranties, I think it’s important to know that extended warranties are very profitable for shingle manufacturers. The often specify additional components within their product line be part of the roof system and charge you a registration fee. I also think it’s important to understand that, if you have a claim, even with the extended warranties, the manufacturer is still likely going to repair or replace the affected area in the most cost effective means possible. Much like insurance companies, shingle manufacturers are looking for max profits to sell a warranty, and optimal cost management when paying out compensation.


Shingle manufacturers will also require adequate attic ventilation for both extended warranties and limited warranties. The rule of thumb for building code standards and also for most shingle manufacturers is to have:

  • A balanced venting system where an equal amount of air enters the lower roof area (intake) and an equal amount exits the upper roof (exhaust)
  • An adequate amount of air flow is achieved. The adequate amount is 1 sq ft of venting for every 300 sq ft of attic space.

Most homes under 30 years old have both of these elements in place, and therefore, have no concern with compromising shingle warranties. In older homes without adequate ventilation, your entire warranty could be reduced to ten (10) years with no non-prorated coverage in place.

Ice Dams

Ice dams normally occur when the attic temperature is warmer than freezing, while the outside temperature is below freezing. The air inside the attic warms the underside of the roof deck, causing snow and ice to melt. The melted snow and ice then runs over the roof’s soffit over- hang section, where it re-freezes. This becomes an accumulative effect and ice will begin to build up at the roof’s edge. If it builds up enough, it will create a level plane on your roof, which can direct water back towards and under your shingles, causing leaks.

Ice dams are considered an Act Of God and are not warranted by any shingle manufacturers or contractors. While there are many articles on the internet that claim techniques or products that will prevent or at least mitigate ice dams, the most effective measure from my experience is upgrading the attic insulation. Even newer homes can be affected if the winter season brings consistently cold days. For best results in preventing ice dams, ensure your attic insulation is topped up to R60.


In closing, I’d like to offer some advice for homeowners regarding shingle warranties:

  • Avoid winter installations. You may be noticing a pattern here if you’ve read some of the earlier articles. Winter installations can compromise the quality of the finished roof assembly. If you install shingles during winter months, you run the risk of delaying the sealant strips from activating, which can increase the chance of a shingle blow off and void your wind warranty with some shingle brands. Some shingles, such as CertainTeed’s Landmark, have no stipulations regarding sealant strip activation and their wind warranty. However, most brands do.
  • Use a certified installer. All manufacturers will require installation from a certified contractor in order to be eligible for extended warranties. For basic warranty protection, manufacturers also require the product be installed in accordance with their installation instructions. Homeowners can best assure this happens by hiring a certified installer. From my experience, manufacturers also seem to give priority to warranty claims where a certified contractor was used.
  • Read the fine print. I often hear customers tell me that they received a 50 year warranty from a company. I usually tell them they need to ask for the specific details and read it carefully so they understand what exactly is covered and what compensation entitlement is available.
  • Find a reputable contractor. When it comes to workmanship warranties, the companies with the best reputations typically have the best coverage. Rather than assume a company who offers 15 years workmanship has better coverage, check the reviews from past customers to see if they were happy with the company’s efforts to make the roof right again.
  • A shingle upgrade can be a cost effective way to enhance your warranty. As mentioned earlier, most base-line architectural shingles have a 10-15 year non-prorated period in the warranty. This non-prorated period often covers material and labour costs but does not include tear-off and disposal costs. In some brands, the coverage is even less. A shingle upgrade can often improve this coverage. As an example, upgrading from Landmark to Landmark Pro, will give you a full 10 year non-prorated warranty period that fully covers material, labour, tear-off and disposal.

For more information on shingle warranties or other aspects of roofing, please contact our office.

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