Renovation & Design

ASK THE INSPECTOR: Beware of lifetime warranty on shingles

QUESTION: I am hoping you might be able to help me regarding roof shingles. I am in a custom-built house that was built in the fall of 1988. We moved into the house at the end of January 1989. We had the house shingled with 235-pound HD asphalt shingles.

In July 1996, a hailstorm went through Whyte Ridge and my home ended up being hit by hail severe enough the shingles and eavestroughs had to be replaced. The shingles were replaced in the summer of 1997 with IKO 25-year Skyline shingles.

What can you tell me about these shingles? From what I understand, IKO no longer makes them. They discontinued making them sometime after 2002 due to problems. The roof on my two-storey house is now 13 years old and the shingles are curling and shrinking quite badly. My neighbour, who didn't go with the 25-year shingles but cheaper ones, had his roof done by the same company prior to mine. The shingles on his house look 100 per cent better than mine and they are not curling at all.

Can you provide me with any information, suggestions or help as to what I should do? Are 235-pound, 25-year shingles not supposed to last 25 years? Were there defects with these shingles? Karen Kublick

ANSWER: This is a very good time of year to answer your question as many homeowners are venturing outside and looking at the exterior of their homes after the long, cold winter. Deterioration to roofing is often noticed after the snow has melted off the roof.

There are many types of asphalt shingles and warranties, but some have issues that cut into their life expectancy.

There are basically two types of asphalt-impregnated shingles available. The first has a paper base, often referred to as felt-based shingles, and the second has a fibreglass base. Both are used as a mat for impregnation with bitumen, which is topped by a coloured granular coating. The function of the base is to provide a substrate for the bitumen to adhere to and strengthen the shingle.

Some older, felt-based shingles had long warranties based on the thickness of the shingle. Thicker or heavier shingles normally last longer because they take longer to deteriorate from the elements. Thicker shingles resist normal shrinkage and curling caused by ultraviolet light and precipitation.

Unfortunately, with some types of roofing the added thickness did not translate into a longer life expectancy. Some types of IKO shingles, and other brands as well, have been known to deteriorate prematurely, and the shingles you have may be one of these.

Some experienced roofers have told me these shingles fail prematurely because of manufacturing or design defects -- specifically, types that have various fancy patterns or colours stamped into the surface. These patterns are done to imitate other styles of roofing, such as cedar shingles. The stamping or pattern design are the areas where the premature wear is seen.

Others, known as laminated shingles, have various layers or thicknesses, and older models have been known to crack, delaminate and deteriorate prematurely.

Many types of new, laminated shingles are fibreglass-based and have superior bonding between the layers, eliminating the previous problems with delamination. They also have stronger adhesives used for self-sealing between overlapping rows.

These two properties may eliminate future problems for newer roofing, but that does nothing for your home. Contacting the installer or manufacturer of the roofing on your home may provide some break in cost for replacement, but it's probably minimal. Most warranties are pro-rated, which means the replacement value decreases with age. With shingles over 15 years old, like on your home, the warranty coverage may not amount to much. But it still may be worth a couple of phone calls or emails to see if there is any special compensation if your shingles have been proven to be defective.

Two other factors that may affect the state of your home's roof relative to your neighbour's are the design of the roofing systems and proper insulation and ventilation. Roofs with vaulted ceilings, south- and west-facing sections with no shade, and inadequate insulation/ventilation are more prone to premature wear. An attic with blocked soffit vents or missing roof vents will cause shingle deterioration and curling within a few years after installation. The identical roof with better attic insulation and venting may not show severe wear until well into the second or third decade.

So, before jumping to any conclusions about your roof, check these areas to ensure they are not an issue.

As with most consumer products, warranties are only as good as the manufacturer of the products they make. If you read the documents that accompany these products, there may be severe limitations on the coverage of any warranties. While you would expect your shingles to last as long as the warranty coverage, that's often not the case. While good companies admit when their products are defective or found to be substandard, that is rarely the case with roofing manufacturers.

The interesting thing is that many shingle makers are now offering lifetime warranties on newly installed roofs. I can only imagine the restrictions in the documents for those shingles. Whose lifetime will be used to gauge the number of years these materials should last?

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and president of the Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors -- Manitoba ( Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at



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