The High and Dry Blog
Toronto’s structural clarity in a sea of confusion.
Is A Lifetime Warranty Misleading?
February 06, 2023
"A lifetime warranty, whose life? The contractor, the product manufacturer, the business, the client, the house, the Queen of England?!"
We get it, the promise of a lifetime warranty on any home service repair can be quite an alluring proposition but more often than not these warranty claims are only as good as their fine print. When it comes to basement waterproofing many unsuspecting consumers are drawn in by the phrase ‘lifetime’ and we admit the statement is difficult to pass up! So, what’s the catch? Really, the more you think about what a ‘lifetime’ actually means in a warranty context, the more confusing the statement actually becomes. So while the promise of a lifetime basement waterproofing warranty may sound attractive the truth is that there are several reasons why a lifetime basement waterproofing warranty just isn’t feasible from a technical and materials perspective.
In this article, we will discuss the reality of basement waterproofing and basement crack repair warranty programs and what is truly considered to realistic in the industry.
So let’s just stop here for just a moment and think about the word ‘lifetime’. How would you define it? Now think about the words ‘lifetime warranty.’ If something has a lifetime warranty, how long do you expect it to be covered? As long as you live? As long as the company is in business? As long as the repair products are made by the manufacturer? Our founder, John MacRae, had a famous saying back in the 1980’s when he was asked about the idea of lifetime warranties.
His reply would always be the same: “A lifetime warranty, whose life? The contractor, the product manufacturer, the business, the client, the house, the Queen of England?!”
Johns reasoning still rings true today and from a legal perspective according to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and the Canadian Consumer Protection Act there is no absolute definition that specifies how long a ‘lifetime’ warranty must last.
So, defining the term ‘lifetime warranty’ is a lot more subjective and interpretative than a consumer may realize. Yes, lifetime doesn’t actually mean an entire lifetime. Unfortunately, we have seen many clients misinterpret these types of statements only to find their basements are still leaking after a repair and the company that issued the ‘lifetime warranty’ is simply not honoring it.
Why Using the Term ‘Lifetime’ Is a Misnomer
From a technical and material perspective, the conclusion is quite simple. Materials that are constantly exposed to the elements simply break down over time. Vehicles and equipment rust, roofing shingles burn out and require replacement, decks and fences rot and even copper eavestroughs and slate roofing deteriorates! No building material is safe from the long term exposure of the environment and basement waterproofing materials are no different. The fact of the matter is that all high quality rubberized basement waterproofing membranes available on the market today are only guaranteed by their respective manufacturers for a maximum of 15 years for below-grade use. No other reliable, high quality waterproofing products available on the market exceed this rating, period. Any statements otherwise are simply disingenuous and quite frankly misleading. Another similar industry with a direct parallel to basement waterproofing is the commercial roofing industry. Similar product chemistries used in basement waterproofing membranes are also used in the commercial roofing world and these asphaltic/petrochemical based rubberized membrane products in the commercial roofing world never exceed a 15 year warranty either, and no honest roofer would tell you otherwise.
Building and repair products simply have a lifespan, and no repair is realistically considered by any professionals to be lifetime.
Additionally, what makes high quality basement waterproofing membranes even more time-tested beyond what commercial roofing applications demand of them is their end destination. Roofing materials are exposed to the atmosphere, direct heat, cold, wind and the elements continuously whereas basement waterproofing membranes are nearly always located below the ground. Interestingly enough, in Southern Ontario our native soils generally contain a unique “acidic soil atmosphere” that consists of water moisture, oxygen, nitrogen, bacteria and dissolved salts. Although this may be a great combination for the wheat and the worms this soil combination is considered to be an extreme environment and wreaks havoc on low quality rubberized basement waterproofing membranes such as Aqua-Bloc, Bakor, Hydro Guard, Blueskin and others. Although some materials involved in high quality basement waterproofing repairs such as modern perforated weeping tiles and modern Delta/Platon dimple boards do indeed have a long lifespan underground even they slowly suffer from decay and sediment infiltration over time.
Hidden Loopholes of Foundation Repair?
We all want to believe that lifetime warranties can exist in the real world and even though basement waterproofing, basement crack repair and foundation repair are all important factors in keeping your home safe from water damage this type of repair work simply cannot be warrantied for a ‘lifetime’. Any statements otherwise are simply too good to be true. Basement waterproofing, basement crack repair and basement foundation repair is just that – a repair. Merriam-Webster tells us the definition of a repair is “to restore by replacing a part or putting together what is torn or broken”. If a foundation wall has cracked (or been torn) through an event generally the wall itself is not replaced unless major structural damage has occurred. In the realm of basement waterproofing, crack repair and weeping tile repair particular materials are applied to an already damaged structure to either stop or slow its deterioration and just as the shingles on a roof have a lifespan specified by the manufacturer so to do basement waterproofing membranes. Soil is quite acidic and almost every material that resides underground is relentlessly targeted by moisture, soil acidity, soil movement and large temperature swings. This makes the survivability of below-grade basement waterproofing membranes impossible to truly warranty past a 15 year period.
If the Contractor is Part of a Franchise, Who Backs the Warranty?
Policies vary from one corporation to another. If you are working with a contractor who owns a local branch, you should ask them what happens if their business is bought by another contractor. Some nationwide companies will honor warranties provided by a franchise owner- but not all of them. There is a very real possibility that your warranty could be void, if that particular franchise closes or changes owners. You should also ask how long that particular franchise has been open, and how long it has been under its current owner. This information will also help you determine how frequent the turnover is, and better assess how long your own warranty would be honored.
In conclusion, lifetime warranties are often not what they seem. What’s more, companies often use fine print to get out of honoring their warranties. Companies may be advertising a ‘lifetime’ warranty but the truth is that there is usually a limited time frame for the product to be covered and many restrictions on how the warranty can be used. Remember, major rubberized waterproofing manufacturers only warranty their products to a maximum of 15 years! While it’s always worthwhile to read the fine print of any warranty, shoppers should be especially wary of “lifetime warranties” and should consider other factors when making their purchasing decisions.
Home of the Transferable Warranty
GJ MacRae Foundation Repair is the home of the true, time-tested 15 year transferable warranty so beware of empty lifetime warranty promises. We started in 1975 and continue to lead the industry with quality work and guaranteed results.
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We’ve been the basement waterproofing and underpinning industry experts in the GTA for over 40 years. Remember, we’re the team that the experts call when the experts don’t know!