Wind: it’s a serious threat that can destroy roofs and severely damage the properties in a building or infrastructure portfolio. Many building owners and facilities managers believe that a manufacturer’s warranty will cover most, if not all, wind damage. However, they should familiarize themselves with the details, clauses, and limitations of their warranties to avoid unexpected – and costly – expenses after a major windstorm. To choose the right level of protection, owners and managers must assess the environmental risk to the buildings in their portfolio and choose appropriate coverage.
Assessing Risk: Examine Geography and Building Type
To invest in worthwhile coverage, building owners and managers should first gauge the likelihood of wind damage to their structures. The types of buildings in the portfolio, as well as their geographic locations, can help managers and owners assess the level of risk – and therefore the necessary coverage. For instance, coastal areas such as the Gulf States face a greater threat from wind than inland locations.
However, tall buildings with large openings (e.g. airplane hangars), risk wind damage no matter they are because their structural makeup allows wind to enter the building and push up on the roof structure from underneath.
Owners of high-risk buildings or properties in high-risk areas in particular need to have a thorough understanding of their coverage.
What Will a Manufacturer’s Warranty Cover?
Membrane manufacturers’ warranties provide recourse for owners against failures in the roofing materials, workmanship, or assembly – such as material or design defects.
Every warranty carries with it a wind speed rating – a threshold above which the membrane manufacturer will not cover wind related roof failure. The standard wind rating covers a roof assembly up to 55 mph winds; for added protection, owners can upgrade the coverage to 72 mph.
Considering the value of the roof, the 72 mph wind rating is a wise investment; it provides coverage for damage from higher wind speeds at a marginal cost increase.
Some manufacturers will offer wind warranties up to 100 mph and greater. These warranty “riders”, as they are called, are expensive and include high fees. In addition, only roof systems that are significantly enhanced to perform in high wind conditions qualify for these warranties. However, even the enhanced warranty does not cover all possible damage.
Limitations of a Manufacturer’s Warranty
Most warranties are either 55 or 72 mph, however during natural disasters wind speed can easily reach 100+ mph. No matter the wind speed rating, warranties do not cover “acts of God,” such as hurricanes and tornadoes. In addition, they do not cover impact from flying debris, (common in severe storms), or issues with a compromised building envelope.
Owners and managers whose buildings are in hurricane- and tornado-prone locations must purchase building insurance to protect against these risks. The membrane manufacturer’s warranty simply won’t cover it.
Insurance: The Only Coverage Against Severe Wind Damage
A common misconception in the industry is that roof warranties match the requirements of local building codes. However, building codes can dictate the roof assembly, but not any warranty provisions, which manufacturers set independently. When it comes to damage caused by high winds, neither local codes nor manufacturer’s warranties will protect the buildings in the portfolio. Building insurance serves as the only coverage against most of the severe damage a roof may suffer.
Even properly installed roofs made from high quality materials are at risk of wind damage, especially during extreme weather. For most owners and property managers, investing in the 72 mph wind speed rating on the manufacturer’s warranty is a worthwhile, relatively minor additional investment. Higher wind speed ratings, on the other hand, rarely cover the damage the roof system is likely to experience during a severe storm. If damage from excessive wind speed is of particular concern, owners should consider enhancing the roof attachment itself, seek out the advice of a knowledgeable roofer, and purchase adequate insurance.