How To Understand What A Lifetime Roof Warranty Is

The recent hit movie, “Don’t Look Up,” introduced the brontaroc, a creature unknown to everyone in the film until the final credits rolled. So when Meryl Streep’s character asked, “What is a brontaroc?” nobody knew. When you ask, “What is a lifetime shingle warranty?” the answers can also be confusing. Your roofer can help!

I Think I Know

Entire books are written about “facts” people get wrong. A lot of people think they know what a “lifetime shingle warranty” means without actually knowing.

The main misunderstanding is the word “lifetime.” Whose? Homeowners assume the warranty refers to their own lifetimes, so they conclude their new shingle roof will never wear out. Those shingles you had installed when you were 28 should still be there when you are 78, right? 

Some homeowners are equally certain the warranty means all the later owners of the home each get full coverage, far into the future. Somehow the one warranty will cover the original homeowner and the next seven or eleven occupants. 


Everything wears out. Steps of ancient churches; bridges and tunnels; your elderly aunt’s knees. They all wear down, and so do shingle roofs. Eventually everything must be replaced. Shingles are never manufactured to last 100 years, or even half that.

Regarding transfer of a warranty, sometimes warranties on a roof’s materials remain with only the original owner. They cannot be transferred to new owners. Sometimes one transfer — you selling to a homebuyer — is permitted, but no transfers of the roof warranty beyond that. 

It Really Means

Manufacturers of roofing materials are free to offer “lifetime” warranties because of a little scrap of federal law, 16 CFR § 239.4, that states: 

If an advertisement uses “lifetime,” “life,” or similar representations to describe the duration of a warranty or guarantee, then the advertisement should disclose, with such clarity and prominence as will be noticed and understood by prospective purchasers, the life to which the representation refers.

Every time you see “lifetime” in a warranty, the life it refers to is the life of the shingle, not a person’s life or the life of the home it protects. 

In addition, that “life” of the shingle is based on research estimates, not an actual real-world number. Your “lifetime” shingle could last 10 years or 20; But, that is the “life” of the shingle, and when the shingle fails, it has reached the end of its life. For additional peace of mind, you may find it worthwhile to spend a little extra money for an extended warranty.

Upping the Average

So if a “lifetime” shingle is not good for your life as the homeowner, or the lives of the next 20 homeowners of your house, how can you get a real “lifetime” of service out of it?

Let’s take a look first at how your “lifetime” shingle could face an early demise: 

  • Poor or faulty installation — Some warranties do protect against installer error, so read your warranty carefully
  • Freak weather events — Every shingle has a wind rating, beyond which it cannot be guaranteed to work, so a hurricane, tornado, or even just high shear force winds could wreck your roof
  • Neglect — This is the most common reason for a roof to fail before its average life

Now let’s take a look at what you can do to extend the “lifetime” of your new shingle roof:

  • Use a well-known, highly respected shingle manufacturer — Brands like Owens Corning have stood the test of time and are on thousands of homes across America
  • Select a light color for Florida’s sunny climate — Reflective, light-colored shingles turn back infrared radiation, keeping the roof cooler than darker colors
  • Have your full roof replacement performed by a highly qualified, local roofer — Easily half of the success formula for a Florida residential roof is the right contractor 
  • Have your roofer perform annual inspections — Nothing saves a roof and extends its life better than annual inspection and spot repair by trained roofers
  • Have damage repaired promptly — No roof heals itself and ignoring a small leak or roofing problem will only cause the problem to worsen

Who Can Help?

You may still feel confused about your existing roof warranty and the choices available when you need a full roof replacement. You have an ally in tackling your roofing dilemma. Your local, professional roofing contractor can help you understand the fine print of any roofing manufacturer’s warranty.

When you sit down with a representative of your neighborhood residential roofer, you can learn what each term means, how long the warranty is in force, and what kinds of things keep it in force. Contact us at Alan’s Roofing today to find out all you need to know about roof warranties. Learn about all the services we can provide your central Florida home. We repair and replace all types of residential roofs, including metal, low-slope, concrete tile, and shingle roofs.