By Mike Wiener, Marketing Manager, QuickBOLT
Shingle roofs are reliable and a roofing classic, but that doesn’t mean they are a flawless solution. Their installation allows for and often requires more roof penetrations compared to other roofing materials like tile or metal roofing. Despite all those nails and staples in the mix, shingles do their part in keeping the surfaces underneath them dry.
Solar mounting manufacturers often hear the question, “What about the roof warranty?” Most installers are just covering their bases, seeing what assurances they can get beyond their own quality of labor. What seems to trip everyone up is that most roof warranties are only assurance for the quality of manufacturing; assurance that the product was manufactured to the standard the manufacturer intended. So where do the lines get blurred?
To provide insight into the issue, we gathered warranty documentation from the nation’s most popular shingle manufacturers. First we will dive into common types of warranties.
Types of warranties
Any supplier worth its salt will offer a manufacturing or product warranty, ideally for a period matching how long it’s been in business; anything longer and the warranty period length is speculation. Most solar mounting manufacturers offer a 25-year warranty on their mounting solutions — this means they will replace products with defects attributed to the manufacturing process for up to 25 years past the manufacturing date.
A Service Warranty is a different type of offering that covers forms of labor. Truck rolls, crew size and subsequent warranty coverage are each a common components of service warranties. It’s rare to see a manufacturer offer a service warranty. That’s left to the secondary market full of insurance/solar warranty providers (like SolarInsure) who cover parts and labor on warranty claims.
Now we’ll run through some manufacturers alphabetically and break down their warranties. Anyone not listed either could not be reached, does not provide explicit documentation addressing the question or fell outside the scope of our search.
Atlas Roofing seems to be the first roofing company to address the issue of solar installations and roofing warranties. The company published an article in 2014 explaining how its warranty is impacted by solar installations.
Atlas recommended homeowners check with its home insurance providers to see if solar is covered, and for installers to offer a third-party warranty/insurance plan.
CertainTeed is the rare case that offers a combined manufacturing/service warranty – under the right conditions. Its warranty coverage is tied into its credentialed installer program by benefitting contractors with two levels of coverage. When installed by “Credentialed” or “Master Installers,” Certainteed’s warranty covers any manufacturing defects and defects in workmanship for 15 or 25 years respectively. This makes for a very flexible offering only if you are a credentialed installer.
GAF warranties will remain in place if a solar system is installed over its roofing products. GAF released a technical bulletin a few years ago detailing the coverage and its limitations: If you need to remove the solar system for GAF to inspect the defective shingles, that cost is not covered by its warranty.
Malarkey Roofing Products
Malarkey offers a straightforward breakdown of its manufacturer warranty in a handy technical bulletin. Solar installations are allowed on Malarkey roofing and do not void its manufacturer warranty. But the bulletin states that “damage resulting from the installation of a solar/PV system does not constitute a manufacturing defect and is not covered by the warranty.”
Owens Corning’s warranty is simple— the shingle warranties remain in place even when a solar system is installed. That warranty only covers manufacturing defects in Owen Corning’s own products, and the standard warranty doesn’t cover other manufacturers’ products.
Like GAF disclaimed, Owens will not cover the cost of removing a solar system to replace a defective roofing product covered by their standard warranty.
TAMKO doesn’t have any documentation addressing solar installation, but its technical team’s answer over a phone call was, “The roof warranty will remain intact” if PV is installed.
So, will your solar installation void the roof warranty?
Most likely, no, but that warranty never protected you or the homeowner from anything other than a defective roof product. At the end of the day, manufacturing warranties are not nearly as important as the quality of your own labor.
If you come prepared for the roof, then you can increase your chances of getting it right the first time. Taking direction from manufacturers is key to successfully using their products and installing a cohesive solar system. If you think you’ve got a better method, then let them know so they can develop a better product or adjust their instructions using your field experience.
Other ways to plan for a successful installation are by taking advantage of innovative mounting solutions — solutions that work with the roof and not against it. QuickBOLT has produced minimally invasive mounting solutions for a decade, and most of our peers in the mounting industry now offer their own top-mounted solutions.
The last three years have seen a major boon to over-the-shingle, top-mounted solar attachments which work to decrease the impact to the roofing materials beneath them. The fewer penetrations you make in the roof and the less you lift shingles, the better the roof integrity remains.
Someday soon we will witness the rapid decline of ripping up shingles, destroying the roof’s existing integrity and forcing installers to wonder with a pry bar in their hand, “Will this void the roof warranty?”