Q: I got a 25-year warranty on my roof when it was installed in 1995, then with all the rain in 2005 my insurance company inspected the roof and advised I needed a replacement. When I called the roofing company that had installed the roof, it had gone out of business, and the referral phone number went to another company.

When I showed the new roofer my warranty, he said it could be honored only by the installer. He would give me a new warranty with the installation of a new roof. I said OK.

The original company was in business for at least 25 years. This new company has been in business 20 years. So what is a warranty good for if the company that installs the roof goes belly-up? Was I taken a second time?

A: We don’t think you were taken for a second time. But we suggest you bone up on the most recent warranty and determine what it does and doesn’t cover and for how long.

In a recent column a reader asked for our support in persuading her husband and their builder to install a concrete tile roof instead of composition shingles on her just-being-built retirement home.

We couldn’t help her out. We agreed with her husband and the builder. Although we have no experience with concrete tile, a number of other readers have expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of their concrete roofs. We’ve asked for opinions from roofing contractors, but so far to no avail.

We do have quite a bit of experience with composition shingles. Modern-day comp shingles are not the white-bread, three-tab models of years ago. Today, composition roofs come in multiple styles and textures and are warranted by the manufacturer for 20 to 50 years.

We think a properly installed, 40-year warranted, architectural-grade composition roof would look good on our reader’s Tudor design and would last through her sunset years.

We’re a bit puzzled why your roof lasted only 10 years. Even the flimsy three-tab shingles carry a 20-year warranty. When properly installed under normal conditions, they should last at least that long. Your 25-year shingles should have given you more service.

One of the major causes of premature roof failure is faulty ventilation. For every 300 square feet of attic, 1 square foot of ventilation should be provided. Sixty percent of the vent area should be at the soffit, and 40 percent should be at the ridge. Gable vents at each end can substitute for ridge vents and provide cross-ventilation.

Attic ventilation reduces the temperature difference between the roof covering and the attic. Without ventilation, the shingles bake in the summer sun, leading to premature failure. We suggest you ask the new roofing contractor if you have adequate attic ventilation. If not, consider adding some.

Warranties are tricky. You get a 25-year warranty and the roof should last that long, right? Not necessarily.

Roof warranties come from two places: the roofing contractor and the roofing material manufacturer. Typically a reputable roofing contractor will warranty workmanship for two to 10 years. It should cover leaks due to faulty installation of roof covering or metalwork such as flashing. As you’ve found out, the warranty is as good as the business issuing it. If the company goes out of business, the warranty goes with it.

While you may not have recourse against the original roofing contractor, we suggest you contact the material manufacturer on the off chance you got a defective product.

The roofing manufacturer also provides a warranty against manufacturing defects. Generally this is a limited warranty.

Two major manufacturers, GAF/Elk and Certainteed, provide warranties that cover most of the replacement cost of materials and labor for a period of time. After that time expires, reimbursement is prorated over the remaining useful life of the roof for materials only. However, there are a number of conditions that may void the warranty, one of which is the aforementioned substandard ventilation.


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