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The All-Important Roof Warranty

A building’s roof offers many opportunities, but its physical condition is often its Achilles’ heel. A roof that was recently replaced or that’s way past its prime is a no-brainer: You leave the former alone, and you replace the latter before installing amenities. But it’s the in-between roof that presents a quandary: Does it make sense to install solar panels or other amenities on a roof that will need to be replaced in five, 10 or 15 years?

The Parkchester South condominium in the Bronx, eager to install solar panels, may have found an answer to that question: Get someone to examine your existing roofs, recondition them as necessary, and then extend the roof warranty for the lifetime of the amenity. In the case of solar panels, that’s usually about 20 years.

The company providing this service to Parkchester is Denver-based Fortis, which performs a thorough analysis of existing roofs, oversees necessary reconditioning and then offers a simple one-page warranty, backed by Lloyd’s of London, promising that the roof will perform for the life of the contract. 

The Parkchester South job is the company’s first in New York City, and it’s still in the preliminary stages. But it’s huge. The condo has a total of 761,000 square feet of roof space, enough to accommodate 13,000 solar panels. Those roofs range from 1 year to 22 years old, with an average of about 7 years. Fortis has conducted preliminary examinations that reveal the roofing material is high quality, the installer was reputable and the roofs have performed well. “Those roofs have good bones,” says David Schupmann, the chief operating officer at Fortis. 

More rigorous testing is in the works, including a visual inspection and infrared testing to detect differences in temperature that indicate likely collections of moisture. Once it’s determined that a project is viable, a Fortis project manager oversees vetted local contractors who perform the necessary reconditioning. 

If the roofs fail, Fortis is on the hook. The company’s warranty even covers faulty workmanship and normal wear and tear, which are frequently excluded from roof warranties.

And here’s what may be the best news of all: While a roof replacement usually costs $15 to $20 per square foot, it’s possible to get a Fortis roof performance program for roughly one-third of that cost, depending on the roof’s condition, the length of the contract and other factors. 

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