Rich Ligotino

Rich Ligotino

Founder at ToolBelt USA
I have been in the home-improvement industry since 2003. I don't always have the answers, but I will get them for you!
Rich Ligotino

Many home products carry a “lifetime warranty”, but quite often that warranty isn’t all that it’s cut out to be.

Bren­da Sor­renti­no signed a con­tract that was very clear. There was a life­time war­ran­ty on the new vinyl replace­ment win­dows she pur­chased.  A life­time war­ran­ty on the frame and sash.  Life­time war­ran­ty on the glass.  The bal­ances, locks and all the mov­ing parts ; all with a life­time warranty.

Her prob­lems began just a few years after she pur­chased her win­dows.  Many of her win­dows were drafty and not oper­at­ing prop­er­ly.  The exte­ri­or brown fin­ish on all of her win­dows was bad­ly fad­ed.  The fin­ish went from an orig­i­nal “dark choco­late” to a “light caramel” color.

I fig­ured I had a war­ran­ty, so I real­ly have noth­ing to wor­ry about”, thought Brenda.

It turned out, Bren­da was wrong.

She imme­di­ate­ly called the con­trac­tor who sold and installed her win­dows, only to find out they were out of busi­ness.  Then Bren­da dug up her con­tract along with a man­u­fac­tur­er brochure that was giv­en to her at the time of her pur­chase.  She found the name of the win­dow man­u­fac­tur­er, a com­pa­ny locat­ed in Pitts­burgh, PA, and prompt­ly con­tact­ed them.  Bren­da thought she was mak­ing progress, but things were only get­ting pro­gres­sive­ly worse !

Relat­ed Arti­cle : “How to Find the Right Contractor”

The war­ran­ty depart­ment informed Bren­da that the win­dow man­u­fac­tur­er had been bought out by a new com­pa­ny and that they were no longer hon­or­ing war­ranties for win­dows pur­chased pri­or to 2007 (Bren­da pur­chased her win­dows in 2006).  They fur­ther informed her that their win­dows had been com­plete­ly redesigned and that they no longer had an inven­to­ry of any of the old­er parts.

Brenda’s com­plaint was even­tu­al­ly for­ward­ed to a man­ag­er.  That con­ver­sa­tion didn’t go so well either.  The only option she was left with was to take legal action.  Bren­da could’ve hired an attor­ney to sue the com­pa­ny, but she couldn’t afford one.

Sad­ly, Bren­da even­tu­al­ly gave up on her efforts. She set­tled for bad, drafty win­dows that were rapid­ly deteriorating.

So what does lifetime warranty really mean ?

Most con­sumers see life­time war­ran­ty to mean one of three things. 1) The owner’s life­time or the time he/she owns the prod­uct.  2) The life­time of the prod­uct itself.   3) The life­time of the manufacturer.

It turns out, there is no pre­cise mean­ing to the word life­time. In fact, a life­time can mean what­ev­er the com­pa­ny wants it to mean — as long as they tell you.

In Brenda’s case, it turned out to be the life­time of the win­dow man­u­fac­tur­er.  The man­u­fac­tur­er filed for bank­rupt­cy sev­er­al years ear­li­er then sold the com­pa­ny short­ly after.  This left Bren­da with a war­ran­ty that was unen­force­able, and basi­cal­ly useless.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, we hear sto­ries sim­i­lar to Brenda’s quite too often.  In order to avoid this very com­mon pit­fall, you should have a fun­da­men­tal under­stand­ing of how war­ranties work.

Here are a few examples of the more common warranties in the home-improvement industry.

Prod­uct Only War­ran­ty — This type of war­ran­ty does not cov­er any labor, this is where your contractor’s war­ran­ty comes into play.  If your con­trac­tor goes out of busi­ness, there goes your warranty !

Non-Trans­ferrable War­ran­ty — This means that the war­ran­ty cov­ers the orig­i­nal homeowner/purchaser only.  A sec­ond home­own­er would not be covered.

Pro-Rat­ed War­ran­ty — This type of war­ran­ty is very com­mon.  I will use an unnamed man­u­fac­tur­er of roof shin­gles as an exam­ple.  In this case, “life­time” is defined as fifty (50) years.  The man­u­fac­tur­er cov­ers prod­uct, labor and dump­ster costs for a peri­od of ten (10) years.  After ten (10) years, the war­ran­ty is reduced to prod­uct only (no labor or dump­ster).  In addi­tion, the war­ran­ty begins to pro-rate (or dimin­ish) by 10%, year after year, for the remain­ing forty (40) years.

So what is the bottom line here ?

Thor­ough­ly read any life­time war­ran­ty, no mat­ter what you’re told.  Don’t take any­thing for grant­ed and ask ques­tions.  Request a copy of the war­ran­ty cer­tifi­cate from your con­trac­tor or supplier.

The Bet­ter Busi­ness Bureau advis­es us to make sure that every detail is clear and unam­bigu­ous.  There should be no con­fu­sion at all.  And ask who will ser­vice the war­ran­ty should the con­trac­tor go out of busi­ness before the war­ran­ty expires.

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