Specialty Roofing Systems: Does Your Overburden Policy Hold Up?

a rooftop patio with furniture on it

With the steep increase in real estate over the last 30 years in Canada, many buildings have started using their roof as a space as a location for greenery, rooftop patios, greenhouses, solar PV arrays, and other amenities/equipment that increase the usable space of the premises. In the roofing industry, anything outside of traditional roofing materials and structures (HVAC systems, skylights, roof membrane and insulation, etc.) are referred to as overburden designs and additions. Most green roof and roof terrace installers offer overburden warranties that are independent of the roof membrane and its associated warranties.

Issues can arise when there is damage to the roof membrane that requires the removal and re-installation of overburden items. There is also a potential issue with the removal of these items in the colder winter season due to weather limitations that might affect the ability to complete urgent roof repairs on a timely basis. The questions range from who is responsible to remove and re-install the overburden items and whether this is an extra cost at the time or something that can be pre-planned and covered by warranty.

Building owners could get stuck with two warranty providers who refuse to pay out, blaming the other for negligence or damage. In order to avoid this, we’ve found that having a single warranty provider helps to maintain excellent coverage for your building, and any additions that will be added to your roof. There are several options for single-source overburden warranties, and it could be advantageous for your roof.

Why Regular Warranties Don’t Cover Overburden 
Roof overburden designs, and specifically green roofs, mean that there’s going to be a lot more traffic on your roof. It’s likely that the roof warranty will only cover repairs for damage that occurs outside of the overburden additions to the space. If the overburden is deemed to be the cause of the roofing problem then your warranty claim will most likely be denied.

Why Multiple Source Warranties Are Problematic 
In the event of a leak, it can be difficult to source where it came from or what caused it when there are overburden materials. According to Chris Kann, product manager at Carlisle Syntec;

“Many manufacturers of green roof and paver products offer their own overburden warranties, which are not tied to the roof membrane manufacturer or membrane warranty. The issue with this type of overburden warranty is that finger-pointing can and will occur in the event of a roof leak, sometimes leading to litigation.”

green roof with skylights

An example of a green roof

The Single-Source Warranty Solution
The easiest solution to ensure your coverage is to source rooftop amenity products that are compatible and warrantable with the current membrane on your roof. Single-Source warranties are a hybrid that protects you when membrane or overburden elements are damaged. This is beneficial not only from a claims perspective but also from a material cohesiveness standpoint. When using separate contractors who don’t know how to ensure symbiosis of membrane and overburden materials, you could end up with materials that cause further damage. Working with a roofing contractor who has had experience with membranes that are compatible with green roofs and other overburden items is essential.

Membrane manufacturers may consider adding single-source coverage on a case- by-case basis.  When overburden removal coverage is not available from a membrane manufacturer, LiveRoof offers an overburden removal warranty that is available and may be purchased for terms of 10, 15, or 20 years.  This warranty provides coverage for the costs to remove the green roof and to replace it after the leak has been serviced.  Only Diamond level Certified Installers, such as Elite Roofing, are authorized to offer these warranties.

Are Green Roofs Worth The Warranty Hassle? 
Yes, green roofs come with their own set of issues, but they can also be extremely beneficial for your roof, improve the value of your buildings, ensure compliance with local green roof bylaws – such as the one in the City of Toronto and/or provide amenity space that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.  In a previous article, we detailed the benefits of green roofs, but don’t just take our word for it. The New York Times estimates that the use of green roofs in North America has shot up 15% since 2013, and that number will only continue to rise.

If you’re considering a green roof, but have concerns about maintenance and coverage, get in touch with us here. Our team is here to ensure that your roof is protected from start to finish. That’s the Elite Advantage.