The Inside Outside Guys: How Long is my Warranty?
By Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein
DETROIT, March 3, 2022 ~ You hear us say it all the time: The company you hire and the name on the product they install is second to the written warranty they provide.
We are a couple of years into a very busy construction economy. As we sadly predicted a few years ago, we are now starting to hear from listeners who hired a contractor who is not honoring their work and provided either no long-term written warranty with the original contract or provided some vague warranty language that capped any responsibility at one year from job completion.
So, what happens when that expensive new roof begins to fail after five years or that beautiful new concrete driveway spalls and cracks after the first winter?
Unless you have a written warranty that speaks to the issue at hand, you may be out of luck.
Contrary to popular belief, even in the construction industry, the state of Michigan does not impose a specific mandatory warranty on construction related product.
There is a common, and misplaced, belief that a licensee is bound for 18 months after completion of a project.
This is based on language in the builder’s license law that states, to the effect, a buyer has up to 18 months after completion, sale or occupancy, whichever occurs last, to file a complaint against the contractor’s license. But that is not a warranty.
There is also language in the consumer protection laws to the effect that a product must function to its intended purpose, but it is vague and subject to interpretation.
If a foundation wall fails a year after the home is built, a buyer might be able to get legal satisfaction through the courts or even the state licensing board based on the presumption a foundation wall should not fail after a year.
But if a roof system fails after a decade or a furnace stops functioning after five years, you likely have little recourse other than to replace them.
New home builders were encouraged many years ago to incorporate a written warranty into their contract that included time frames, procedures and performance guidelines as a way to limit potential long-term liability.
Without such written warranty, consumers are often bearing the brunt of mediocre work performed by generalists who are the proverbial “jack of all trades, master of none.”
The industry today demands knowledge regarding not only the product and its proper application, but also the building science behind it.
For instance, your roofer must understand the critical aspects of the roof deck, attic ventilation, eaves and valley flashing, and proper flashing at and around roof penetrations. The shingles they apply are only a part of the roofing system.
As the industry has moved toward narrow fields of specialization, we have begun to see a trend that favors the consumer.
Quality companies are now routinely offering variations of written “lifetime” warranty.
A legitimate specialist can do this because they are supported by a product manufacturer that provides installation guidelines and training to employees. Company performance is tracked by manufacturer’s who will not even sell product to those who are noncompliant with policies and procedures dictated by them.
In some cases, third-party agencies will even provide additional warranty support for installed product.
Good companies will then adopt internal policies that parallel and expand on the product supplier’s requirements.
Bottom line for the consumer?
If you deal with the right company, you might avoid the nightmare of trying to get a product serviced after you have paid the installing contractor.
You will find most all the firms we refer are specialists dealing with a limited range of product.
And nearly all of them provide long-term labor and material written warranty on which you can depend. How can they afford to guarantee your roof will not leak or your windows will not rot?
By knowing how to do it right the first time and doing all they can to assure their employees carry this knowledge to the jobsite.
Most of these company’s reward job performance based, not on the number of jobs completed, but on the quality of the work performed and the level of customer satisfaction achieved.
The next time you hire any contractor, do so from the list provided at InsideOutsideGuys.com and ask about written warranty.
You’ll be glad you did.
For housing advice and more, listen to “The Inside Outside Guys” every Saturday and Sunday on 760 WJR, from 10 a.m. to noon or contact us at InsideOutsideGuys.com.