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Prefabricated Accessories: What Are the Warranty Implications?

Building owners have a reasonable expectation that a professional roofing contractor understands the roofing system manufacturer’s requirements when installing a roofing system which is to receive a No Dollar Limit Warranty (NDL).  Single Ply manufacturers require roofers to be approved to install their systems.  In order to gain this approval, the roofing applicator will require training to become qualified in the installation of the specific manufacturers roof system, and to understand the requirements for the system to receive a warranty.  Manufacturers invest heavily in their contractors to ensure quality installations that will provide building owners a long-term solution to their roofing needs.

NDL warranties for new and re-roofing projects provide peace of mind for building owners and offer the most comprehensive coverage available.  Even though it is called a No Dollar Limit warranty it is not, literally anyway.  The warrantor would pay to correct issues caused by defective material or improper installation but not for damages caused by ‘acts of God’ such as severe weather events including hurricanes, tornados, and larger hail.  Nevertheless, there is a substantial amount of liability assumed by the warrantor.

NDL warranties range in cost from $4/square to $20/square depending on a variety of factors such as length of warranty, thickness of membrane, size of job, etc.  Usually the manufacturer sells, the building owner buys, and the roofing contractor installs NDL warranted jobs.  The downside of these warranties for a manufacturer is that claims can be quite expensive and rarely, if ever, would the premium for the warranty cover the cost of a claim.

Given the potential for significant liability, manufacturers have established rules for contractors and distributors when installing and supplying materials for an NDL job.  These basic rules require contractors to purchase materials, including prefabricated accessories, from the roofing system manufacturer.  Additionally, manufacturers support their authorized applicators by hosting ongoing programs for contractors to become educated, trained, and approved.  For example, GAF has Master and Master Select Contractors; Carlisle has Authorized Applicators, ESP Applicators and Perfection Council Applicators; Versico has programs such as King’s Court and Excalibur Rewards; Johns Manville has Peak Advantage Contractors; and Firestone has Red Shield Contractors to name a few.  The contractor approval process helps roofing system manufactures limit their NDL warranty claims by ensuring the applicator understands the method to properly install the roofing system.

Standard and custom prefabricated accessories must be furnished by the manufacturer if the job is to qualify for an NDL warranty.  Usually prefabricated accessories for NDL jobs are sold to contractors through distribution.  The contractor should clearly inform the distributor supplying accessories that the parts are for use on a project to receive an NDL warranty, therefore, they must be supplied by the roofing system manufacturer issuing the warranty.  In other words, both the distributor and contractor should be on the same page, educated, and aware of these rules when supplying and installing an NDL job.  The bottom line is the contractor needs to clearly call out the brand of the prefabricated accessory needed for the NDL job.

Manufacturers attempt to enforce the rules, often after the fact, by having an identification mark on the prefabricated accessory.  The identification mark indicates the genesis of the accessory because it is unique to the manufacturer and is visible to the field inspector.  This also gives confidence to the manufacturer that the accessory was constructed using their membrane by one of their quality fabricators. Standard accessories are easier to control since they ship from the manufacturer’s plant but custom accessories present different challenges since they usually ship directly from the fabricator to the distributor, roofer, or jobsite.

Most manufacturers look to outside companies to make prefabricated accessories using their membrane for a variety of reasons including cost, complexity, and efficiency.  For most manufacturers getting accessories to the jobsite within a few days while keeping freight cost low is virtually impossible.  Smaller fabricators can focus their energies solely on producing accessories, and if geographically present in most parts of the county, they can efficiently reduce transit time and freight costs.

Manufacturers carefully select fabricators and provide quality guidelines and purchasing specifications for standard and custom prefabricated accessories to ensure the parts will function as intended.  Manufacturers expect their fabricators to play by the rules as well and not sell accessories for NDL jobs directly to distribution or contractors.  There is a common misconception by some in the industry that there is such a thing as an authorized or certified fabricator.  The only “authorized fabricator” is the roofing contractor installing a warranted system.  Manufacturers allow approved contractors to make their own accessories for their jobs as long as they use the manufacturer’s membrane and follow prescribed methods of fabrication and installation.  Therefore, in the eyes of the roofing system suppliers there is no such thing as “authorized fabricators”.

Building owners and manufacturers are the ones paying for and providing coverage for an NDL job, therefore, they are justified in having an expectation that the rules surrounding materials and installation are being followed.  The NDL rules are set by the manufacturers for good reason, they are liable for what is on the roof.  Manufacturers want the highest quality components used in conjunction with their roofing membrane in order to provide trouble-free roofing system for their customer, the building owner.  The NDL rules have been established for a reason and when roofers and fabricators follow them everyone wins.

Greg Morrow, President of FlashCo®