In Washington State, many lenders require that the roof on a home being financed will last at least 5 more years from the date of sale. While we would like to think that the lenders require certs to protect their clients, they may also be concerned with their own interests:

  1. In the event of foreclosure and repossession, lenders do not want to have to replace the roof in order to sell the home.
  2. Lenders may not want their new clients (the buyer) to face any large unforeseen home improvement expenses in the first few years (presumably after making a substantial down payment), which might impede their ability to make their monthly payments on time.
  3. From a financial perspective, the 5 year certification requirement may also create additional business for the lenders since the cost of replacing the roof is often included in the sale price of the home, resulting in more volume. While we are occasionally asked for two or three year certs, the norm is 5 years.

What is a Roof Certification?

A roof certification is a professional roofer’s best estimate and opinion about the life expectancy of a roof. Technically, a roofer is not able to determine absolutely if a roof has been installed properly. While the flashings may appear to have been installed correctly, the course pattern fine, and the condition of the shingles good, there is no way for example, that he can determine whether the correct number of nails have been used in each shingle or shake without damaging the roof.

Consequently, it is not reasonable to expect the roofer who certifies a roof to “Guarantee” someone else’s workmanship which he cannot evaluate conclusively. If he does this he opens himself up to tremendous liability.

While inspecting the roof, the certifier should determine if there are any possible problems which should be addressed or fixed to insure that the roof will last. The certifier should guarantee the roof against leaks and be prepared to repair any leaks during that 5 year period, free of charge. The contractor who certifies a roof should also take full responsibiIity for any work done by others as a result of his inspection and recommendation. He needs to put himself on the line. If the contractor doesn’t have anything to loose by certifying a roof, the cert is meaningless.

A roof certification should not involve any form of “risk management” where the roofer accepts liability based upon the size of the job and his potential liability. After an inspection and repairs have been completed, the roof either certifies or it doesn’t. Period. If the contractor feels uneasy about certifying a roof after repairs have been performed, then he needs to do additional repairs to get the roof to a level where he feels comfortable providing a certification. The certification is simply a piece of paper. Any substantial money spent on the roof should be allocated for repairs or replacement—not toward an insurance policy against future leaks. If you are paying more than $400 for a roof certification, you are paying too much.

The contractor asked to inspect a roof should do so with as much objectivity as possible. Siding with either the buyer or the seller will eventually create conflicts and will cause the contractor to loose credibility. He should simply call it like it is. While many factors come into play during a roof inspection, the bottom line is whether or not the roof will last another 5years without leaking. A composition roof installed by a homeowner might not have the proper or recommended pattern, but it might be perfectly adequate in terms of keeping the home waterproof for 5 more years.