“The Contractor shall guarantee that the Work shall be free from any defects in workmanship and materials for a period of not less than one (1) year from the date of completion thereof.”

What is a Construction Warranty?

A warranty in a construction contract is designed to insure that both the property owner and the contractor are protected from legal action regarding future product defects or workmanship issues. Unfortunately, it is the most complex and misunderstood subject of construction-related paperwork. Furthermore, many homeowners assume that they are fully covered by a warranty that was signed at the start of their project, only to discover that there are limitations.

Not all contractors offer warranties, so it is important to be diligent in understanding what your contractor is offering when the term “warranty” is bandied about. Here are six tips to making sure that your warranty is worth the paper on which it is printed.

1. Get Your Warranty in Writing

At the time of contract signing make sure that you receive the written warranty, signed and dated by your contractor or his representative. Another helpful tip is to take a screenshot of your contractor’s warranty page from his website and save it as a PDF or image file or printed hardcopy. This way, you have proof, should the company’s information change later, that you were covered during the period of your renovation contract.

2. Understand Your Obligations to the Warranty

Be careful not to invalidate your warranty. Read the document carefully to insure that you understand the tenets of what may or may not invalidate the agreement. Never self-perform fixes or hire another contractor or handyman before reaching out to the contractor, as this may invalidate your claim. Have a lawyer review any disclaimers or paragraphs that are difficult to decipher. If the contract is unclear, offer to re-write the warranty so that it is in language that you understand.

3. Read and Understand the Warranty Before Signing

Before signing, make sure that you understand the fine print in the warranty. Will the contractor charge you a “service fee” to come out to look at the problem, as part of this agreement? For example, if you are in the warranty period and experience a failure of some kind with an installation, will the contractor charge you a $75 “trip fee”? If so, will he still cover the labor and parts to repair the problem for “free”? A fair warranty should explicitly waive any type of “visit fee” for at least a brief period after completion of work (e.g. 30 to 90 days), as this is when faulty workmanship is typically discovered.

4. Know What the Warranty Really Covers

Oftentimes the warranty is merely an extension of the product manufacturer’s guarantee against defects. This can give a misleading sense of security as many warranties will only cover the material’s failure and not the workmanship and labor necessary to fully correct the defect. For example a roofer who uses XYZ Tiles, may offer a warranty that only covers failure of the tiles. However, if the defect you experience is due to poor workmanship by the roofer, your warranty may be invalid. Make sure that your warranty covers both parts and labor for the specified period of coverage.

5. Include “At No Additional Cost to You” Clause

An important phrasing to a good warranty is “at no additional cost to you”. Make sure that this phrase appears in the warranty to protect you from additional charges and surcharges. Without this clause, contractors will have creative means to recoup expenses caused by their own shoddy workmanship.

6. Be Skeptical of Lifetime Warranties

Sadly, a warranty is only as good as the company that stands behind it. In the case of “Lifetime Warranties” be extra skeptical. First of all, whose lifetime does the agreement actually reference? Companies who offer Lifetime Warranties for products that end up failing can merely close their doors, invalidating any future claims. If you suspect that this may happen and you own the property with another person, make sure that only one of you signs the agreement. In this way, should the company go out of business, the other homeowner may be able to file a personal suit against any responsible individuals for any damages incurred.

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