Home Improvement: Enigmatic Warranties

Home Improvement: Enigmatic Warranties


Did you know if you use a method other than steam cleaning for your carpet, your warranty may be voided? What about applying tinted film to your windows? This usually voids the warranty as well.


Let’s look at the home warranty provided with your home purchase. What about that "lifetime warranty" the contractor included in his sales pitch to close the deal? It’s important to sort out the fact from the fiction.


Let’s start by dealing with the "lifetime warranty." First of all, I coach the contractors in my network to not offer lifetime warranties, because they represent an indeterminately long time to stand behind their work. Providing the legal maximum, I believe 10 years should be sufficient. Too many factors come into play over a lifetime over which they have no control. Think about it – the term is frequently used by companies, but there is no standard definition. That works for the marketers exploiting the term, but not for you, the consumer.


A good place to start is looking at what lifetime the warranty covers. Is it the purchaser’s lifetime? The manufacturer’s? The product’s? The answer is that it depends. The duration and applicability of a lifetime warranty depends solely upon the person or company who is offering the warranty. A consumer’s expectation of that warranty is completely irrelevant.


Home warranties can be tricky as well. Usually now, one is included in the transaction of purchasing a home. It usually has a deductible for each claim as well as limitations on what will be replaced and usually requires specific service people to do the work, not the people you might want.


Make sure you read the fine print to know if an item’s replacement value is depreciated over the normal useful life of an item. That several thousand dollar furnace may not be covered if it is beyond its useful life. My mother has a warranty service for her retirement home at the cost of several hundred dollars per year. It gave her peace of mind, but when her refrigerator needed to be replaced, they only provide a white appliance. She needed stainless steel for which she had to pay extra.


Economically, it made more sense to save the annual premium and purchase new items when they fail. A home warranty may be right for you. Just make sure you read all the fine print before signing.


Product warranties can be just as tricky. They usually stipulate how something must be maintained to be covered. So, how does the average homeowner know what to do? The key is to purchase quality items from reputable businesses so as to minimize the possibility of a warranty claim. If a claim does need to be filed, a reputable business will usually stand behind its work because its reputation is important. Remember the old saying, "You get what you pay for." Shopping purely on price usually brings problems.


Our local business called Home Services Link screens contractors for homeowners, checking background, insurance and monitors performance over many jobs to establish a longer term performance trend, increasing your probability of a quality job. This is not to say that just by using quality people you won’t have a punch list or a follow-up item or two, but a quality contractor will be there to take care of it. Feel free to give us a call or send us an email with any questions or home improvement and repair needs you might have.