What Commercial Roof Warranty Types Are Available?

  • March 14, 2023
  • Joel
  • Minute Read

    Note: This post is not intended to provide you with an exhaustive list of all the warranty types available in the commercial roofing industry. But it does highlight the warranties that you are most likely to encounter.

    Even for those warranty types not listed, the ones explained below will allow you to look at any type of warranty with a more critical eye, as many warranties with different names still contain much of the same verbiage.

    Keep in mind that most commercial roofing warranties are designed to protect the manufacturer, not you. So, be sure to read the fine print, as well as the inclusions and exclusions of that specific warranty.

    Of course, RTN Roofing is always available to help you with any commercial roof warranty considerations.

    Labor-Only Warranties

    A labor-only commercial roof warranty is one where the terms and coverage are restricted to the labor required to address the defect. There is no coverage for product failures. Any additional materials, supplies, and/or accessories needed to address the defect are not provided for under this kind of warranty. These warranties are usually offered by the installer and generally have shorter terms than Material-Only or Labor and Material warranties.

    Material-Only Warranties

    This is the exact reverse of a Labor-Only Warranty. A material-only commercial roof warranty is one where the terms and coverage are restricted to the materials required to address the defect. There is no coverage for installation mistakes, i.e., labor. The labor needed to address the defect is not provided for under this kind of warranty. These warranties are usually offered by the manufacturer and generally have longer terms than Labor-Only warranties.

    Labor and Materials Warranties

    A commercial roof warranty that covers both the labor and the materials needed to address the defect is known as a labor and materials warranty. With this kind of warranty, there may or may not be workmanship coverage. (For a description of the differences between labor coverage and workmanship coverage, see the section "The Difference Between Workmanship and Labor Coverage”) These warranties are usually offered by the manufacturer and often have many exclusions. The terms are often comparable to those of Material-Only warranties.

    No-Dollar-Limit (NDL) Warranties

    Whereas some warranties are prorated or simply limited to the original cost of installation, an NDL warranty does not have this monetary limitation. NDL stands for No-Dollar-Limit, meaning that there is no cost limitation to a covered warranty claim. Most NDL warranties cover both labor and material defects. Some also cover workmanship. (See section “The Difference Between Workmanship and Labor Coverage”) But it is possible to have an NDL Material-Only warranty, too. So be sure to check the fine print.

    Prorated Warranties

    A prorated commercial roof warranty can come in many different “flavors.” But what they all have in common is that the warranty does not cover 100% of the monetary costs to fix defects in the roof throughout the entire warranty term.

    Some prorated warranties are hybrids that include NDL coverage for a portion of the warranty term and then switch to prorated coverage throughout the remaining term. For example, a 20-year prorated warranty may offer 100% NDL coverage for the first 10 years. However, at year 11, the coverage may drop to 80%; in year 12 to 60%; in year 13 to only 40%, and so on. Some prorated warranties are prorated from year one. This means that even if you were given a 40-year warranty, at year 5 you will have already lost significant coverage.

    Generally speaking, a shorter term NDL warranty is almost always better than a longer term prorated warranty. Many long-term warranties are prorated and easily fool people into thinking they are getting better coverage than they actually are.

    The Difference Between Workmanship and Labor Coverage

    There is an inherent difference between workmanship coverage and labor coverage. Workmanship coverage relates directly to rectifying defects in a roofing system that can be attributed to installation failures. Labor coverage relates to the costs of the labor required to repair or replace a defective roof that is covered under the warranty claim.

    Most warranties have labor coverage, meaning that if a defective roof is found to be covered under the warranty, it will cover the labor to fix it. But if the defect was in the installation and not in the product itself, then there would be no coverage provided, unless that particular warranty also had workmanship coverage.

    Making sure a warranty includes workmanship coverage ensures that whether the defect is in the product or in the installation (workmanship), the entire cost to rectify that defect – labor and materials – would be covered under the warranty.

    Including workmanship coverage in a labor and material NDL (No-Dollar-Limit) warranty is usually the best of all worlds.

    Residential-Only Warranties

    These are warranties that are only written for places of residences. They usually do not cover labor, at least with commercial roofing manufacturers. Often, residential warranties are tantamount to a Material-Only warranty.

    Note: Most residential warranties in the US are for shingles. While there are also many residential flat roofs that require a product often associated with commercial roofs, the associated warranty is usually severely limited as compared to its commercial roof warranty counterpart. Labor coverage is often negotiated with the installer, independent of the roof product manufacturer, and that coverage is usually a shorter term or at an increased cost (or both) of that of the coverage on the product warranty issued by the manufacturer.


    These types of warranties are usually added as riders to another warranty as specified above. They cover so-called “Acts of God,” like hail or high-wind. Coverage is usually very specific with extensive exclusions. They are often at an additional cost.

    Some manufacturers provide hail or high-wind warranties only to satisfy an architect’s specification or simply to offer what their competition does. But just because you get a ‘hail warranty,’ for example, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting significant hail protection coverage. You always need to read the inclusions and exclusions.

    That's Not All Folks

    There is a lot more to warranties, though, than simply specifying their generic type. To be able to answer the following questions, please view our Not All Warranties Are Created Equal newsletter article (coming soon).

    1. What type of warranty is it?
    2. What does the warranty really cover?
    3. What are the owner’s responsibilities as it relates to the warranty coverage?
    4. What is the real warranty term?
    5. What does the warranty not cover?

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