The phone rings. A frantic homeowner is calling to let you know that the roof your company installed two years ago is leaking. Who fixes it?

These days manufacturers' products often carry a warranty, and good roofing companies also supply a workmanship warranty, guaranteeing the quality of the installation. Workmanship warranties typically range from one to five years, with some extending to 10 years. Joe Hall Roofing, in Arlington, Texas, for instance, offers a workmanship guarantee of three years. “If it doesn't leak in three years from workmanship, it's not going to leak,” president Brett Hall says. “I compete against guys offering 10 years, and that tells me they don't plan to be in business very long.”

NOW TO FOREVER But with manufactures having extended their warranties on products, some roofing contractors have followed suit. S&K Roofing, Siding and Windows, in Eldersburg, Md., for instance, provides shingle customers with a 10-year warranty; flat-roof customers (in the Washington, D.C., area) with a 20-year warranty. “We have to do the installation a little bit differently,” owner Don Katzenberger says, since the company is a certified Certainteed contractor, and that manufacturer, as well as some others, requires a third-party inspection.

In the Buffalo, N.Y., area, William Rott & Sons offers a 20-year warranty to residential customers. So does Franzoso Contracting, in Croton-on-Hudson, on the other side of the state. And Maggio Roofing, in Takoma Park, Md., tops them all. “We offer a lifetime warranty on every roof,” owner Scott Siegel says.

QUALITY CONTROL IS KEY Roofing contractors with lengthy warranties count on housing turnover. So do roofing manufacturers. Otherwise warranties become a service millstone. But such companies also either install with employee crews, and/or take steps — attic inspections, detailed specifications, checklists, digital photos (or videos) in the job file — to ensure that the job's done right and that supervisors sign off on it.

William Rott, for instance, conducts unannounced on-site inspections on 60% of its jobs, and if some detail — valley flashing is the example cited — isn't done correctly, “we're not averse to having them take it apart and redo it,” says vice president Gerald Rott. S&K has two full-time employees in quality control. “People ask: How can this be possible?” Siegel says. “It's pretty easy.” Essentially, the company is banking on the idea that the roof will last longer than the homeowner will stay in the house.