Twelve years ago Paul and Andrea Kershaw renovated their Pitt Meadows home. One of the most expensive items was putting on a new roof but it came with a 30-year limited warranty, so they thought they were covered if anything went wrong.

Something did go wrong and the roof started to leak, so they filed a claim only to learn the manufacturer would only cover a fraction of the cost to replace the roof.

“We felt we’d been burned,” Paul said.

They had paid $6,000 for the roof. However, it was going to cost $10,000 to replace and their warranty would only pay US$618 (about C$810).

“The thing people need to know is they are a product warranty from the manufacturer,” explained Hamish Matheson of the Roofing Contractors Association of British Columbia.

The Kershaws’ warranty would only cover the remaining life left on the shingles – in their case, 60 per cent of the original manufacturer’s product cost. It would not pay for labour to remove or replace the old shingles or pay for disposal.

“Each manufacturer structures it differently,” Matheson said.

If they Kershaws’ roof had failed within the first three years they would have been fully covered for replacement cost, but after that, the prorated formula kicked in.

“Just say it’s a three-year warranty,” said Paul.

The RCABC offers its own RoofStar guarantee to offer full coverage if anything goes wrong. The association vets the products to ensure they meet standards, trains the contractors to ensure they are proficient, ensures only ticketed roofers install your new roof and follows up with inspections to make sure it’s done right.

The association offers a warranty up to 10 years to residential homeowners for about $1,000. For bigger jobs, the cost of the warranty is about five per cent of the total job.

Roofing product manufacturers also offer all-inclusive warranties that cover labour and disposal costs. Matheson points out that those types of warranties cost a premium but can give you peace of mind if something goes wrong.

If you’re installing a new roof, make sure to ask a lot of questions and read all the fine print in the brochures. Dig a little deeper and go to the manufacturer’s website to read more about the warranties to find out what is covered and what is excluded.

Often, in order for the warranty to be valid, you need to use a manufacturer approved installer because roof failures are often the result of poor workmanship.

“It’s critical. It doesn’t matter how good the product is - if it’s not installed correctly, it’s not going to perform,” explained Matheson.

The Kershaws went ahead with a new roof with a different company and now have a 50 year warranty that covers everything. They were handed information up front that details all the coverages and they asked a lot of questions.

“It’s not leaking any longer so that’s what makes us really excited,” Paul said.