GAF is at or near the top of the best-selling asphalt shingles list. Is GAF’s enviable market share the result of consistent quality and performance, or is it driven by a large marketing budget that helps cover its flaws? Let’s explore.via GAF
There are obvious things to like about GAF – the wide selection of asphalt shingle styles and colors are sold nationally, and if you need more of the same shingles five or ten years later, they will likely be available.
On the downside, it is well documented that GAF, like most other shingle manufacturers, sometimes denies warranty claims that seem legitimate. The company settled a major class action lawsuit over warranty claims on defective shingles manufactured from 1998 to 2009, primarily at one plant. Let’s dig deeper.
Are GAF Shingles the Right Choice for Your Home?
This investigative look at GAF shingles is for the homeowner that is familiar with GAF products and wants to do their due diligence before making a roofing material decision. It gives you the perspective of contractors that have installed GAF for decades, home inspectors that have inspected hundreds of GAF-covered homes and homeowners that live with GAF shingles on their roof every day.
Let’s look at GAF shingle pros from the three perspectives mentioned: Installers, inspectors and homeowners.
Why roofing contractors like GAF shingles: There are a couple reasons that most roofers are happy to install GAF products, and some swear by them.
- The GAF complete roofing system: When you purchase mechanical systems, an HVAC system for example, it’s important that the components such as the condensing unit, indoor coil, gas furnace and the thermostat control are designed to work together. The result is optimized performance.
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Roofing contractors like the complete roofing system from GAF because it gives them six material components with complementary design and performance. Called the GAF Lifetime Roofing System, it includes:
- GAF Timberline shingles with a limited lifetime warranty
- Cobra attic ventilation/ridge vent
- Deck Armor roof deck paper
- Starter strip shingles at the eaves and optionally at the rakes
- Weather Watch leak barrier used to line valleys
- Ridge cap shingles that cover attic vents and non-vented ridges
- GAF roofing contractor training and certification: GAF provides roofers with training on installing its products. While “shingles are shingles” is basically true, understanding the best practices for installing them helps ensure top performance and durability. GAF’s Master Elite certification guarantees the roofers:
- Are licensed and insured
- Have a reputation for quality workmanship
- Participate in ongoing professional training to make them aware of best current practices and how-to’s for installing GAF roofing materials
- Using a Master Elite contractor gives the homeowner access to one of GAF’s enhanced warranties, the System Plus warranty or the brand’s best Golden Pledge warranty.
- The warranties are generally considered the best in the industry: Comparing the fine print on warranties from GAF, CertainTeed, Owens Corning and other top brands shows that each has its strong points. GAF are considered the best, and roofing installers want a product the manufacturer will stand behind. Otherwise, the roofer takes the blame for issues.
Why home inspectors like GAF shingles: Home inspectors see a lot of homes whether they’re inspecting them for a homebuyer or looking for damage following a major storm. Their reviews are typically that the quality of GAF products is better than average in a couple of areas:
- GAF’s best lines show excellent durability: GAF’s most popular shingles including Timberline, Grand Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Glenwood are well made with fiberglass-mesh reinforced asphalt. Shingles are built in multiple fused layers, and when installed provide three to five layers of protection to the roof, depending on which line it is.
- Impact resistant GAF shingles do what they’re supposed to do: GAF Timberline ArmorShield II and Grand Sequoia IR shingles are both UL 2218 Class 4 rated. This means that a 1.25” steel ball dropped twice onto the same spot of the shingle from 12 feet will not damage it. CertainTeed, Owens-Corning and Atlas are also among competing brands that make Class 4 shingles.
- Wind resistance is very good: GAF Timberline and other dimensional/architectural shingles show good resistance to tearing in high winds. Enhanced installation including additional fasteners and a complete GAF Lifetime system boosts wind rating from 110MPH to 130MPH with good results.
Why homeowners like GAF shingles: Homeowners often prefer GAF products for the same reasons contractors and inspectors give them high ratings.
- Good options in every price range: From affordable 25-year three-tab shingles to upscale shingles, to specialty shingles resistant to impact, stain-protection and solar-reflective shingles, GAF has good options for any homeowner.
- Upgraded warranties: As noted, when a roofer certified “Master Elite” by GAF installs the shingles, better warranties are offered. For example, the 100% coverage before the warranty is prorated is extended from 10 years to 50 years, and workmanship (install quality) is extended from zero years up to 25 years, on GAF dimensional shingles.
- Most warranties are transferable once: It’s a useful selling point to let potential buyers know the shingle warranty will remain in effect after the sale. Note: The new homeowner must notify GAF in writing within 60 days for the warranty to remain in effect. Call Customer Service at 1-800-458-1860 with questions.
Roofing contractor concerns about GAF shingles: Here’s what roofers have to say when asked about their criticisms of GAF.
- Most aren’t Master Elite roofers: Only 2% to 3% of roofing installers go through the time-consuming training and certification to become Master Elite, and without that certification, they cannot offer the enhanced warranty coverage.
- Extended warranty cost is difficult to figure: Most System Plus warranties cost about 5% of the roof total and Golden Pledge warranties cost up to 10% of the roof cost, but getting the exact figure factors shingle type, roof pitch, number of peaks and valleys, nailing technique and more. It’s a hassle for roofers.
- Meeting Lifetime Warranty requirements: For “Lifetime” warranty coverage on Timberline and other dimensional shingles to be in effect, two of the other GAF roofing components mentioned earlier (Cobra attic vent, DeckArmor paper, starter strip, etc.) must also be used on the job.
Home inspector concerns about GAF shingles: While these issues aren’t unique to GAF, inspectors have noted these problems occurring occasionally. These problems are typically the result of misadjusted production equipment that is checked and corrected, but sometimes not before a “bad batch” of shingles gets distributed. Many homeowners don’t realize these problems are happening until they attempt to sell their home and an inspector for the buyer finds the issues.
- Delamination: When the layers of dimensional shingles aren’t properly fused, they can begin to come apart in just a few months after installation. The good news is that this problem usually occurs when the shingle warranty coverage is 100%, i.e., before the proration begins (Standard-10 years, System Plus-50 years, Golden Pledge-50 years for dimensional shingles).
- Excess granule loss that harms appearance, strength and durability: All shingles lose granules over time. However, if the granule application process isn’t correct due to the shingles or adhesive being the wrong temperature when granules are applied, they might not properly adhere and come loose much quicker than they should.
Homeowner concerns about GAF shingles: There is one homeowner concern that stands out.
- Warranty hassles and loopholes: First, it’s worth stating that 90% or more of GAF customers have zero issues with their roof. That’s a similar percentage to CertainTeed and Owens Corning.
However, when issues do occur, this is the biggest complaint about every shingle brand. The manufacturer sometimes makes the homeowner go to great lengths to “prove” there’s a problem. This usually involves many phone calls or email correspondence, taking multiple pictures of the roof and/or tearing out a few shingles and sending them to GAF. It’s a time-consuming process, and if the roof is leaking, it will have to be tarped – an expense not usually recouped from GAF or other manufacturer.
The word of the installer that the shingles are defective is not acceptable since, in some cases, GAF blames the installer for the problem, and sometimes GAF is right. If GAF acknowledges a problem, the company will often claim, as noted, that shingles or other roofing components were improperly installed or that the attic/roof isn’t sufficiently vented.
The bottom line about warranties is that you must read the warranty for any brand of shingle you’re considering before you choose a shingle and the installer. Make sure:
- Your roof is properly prepared, and the attic/roof structure is vented per the warranty requirements
- The installer understands manufacturer specifications and techniques for installation and gives you a written guarantee that it will follow the guidelines
It’s worth the cost of making repairs such as replacing warped decking or upgrades such as adding attic venting before installing roofing shingles. Also, tearing off the first layer of shingles rather than simply adding a second layer is an affordable step to keeping within the warranty guidelines.
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GAF Shingles Cost: Materials and Installation
Here are current material costs for the major lines of GAF shingles. Costs are per square (100 square feet):
- 3-Tab shingles: GAF Royal Sovereign shingles: $62-$78
- Average dimensional shingles: GAF Timberline shingles: $115-$125
- Best dimensional shingles: GAF Timberline Ultra HD shingles: $120-$145
- Designer shingles: GAF Woodland shingles: $150-$160
There are two other costs to consider – accessories and installation per square:
- $5-$15: These include cap shingles on all roofs, ridge vent if the old ridge vent can’t be used on, on tear-off and new construction roofs, deck paper, starter strip shingles, moisture barrier and ridge cap shingles.
- $125-$250: Base Installation labor costs
Accessory and installation costs are comparable for all shingle brands.
In conclusion, GAF offers quality that is on par with CertainTeed and Owens Corning and better than many lesser brands. The warranty coverage is good, though again, warranty claim hassles and denials are the biggest concern with any shingle brand.
You can ensure the best results by choosing a competent installer that follows GAF installation requirements and by making necessary improvements to your roof structure before the shingles are put on.
If you’re willing to pay more for the added peace of mind, choose a GAF Master Elite contractor and purchase an extended warranty for 5% to 10% of the material cost. These safeguards best ensure you’ll get excellent performance from your shingles, whether GAF or other top brand.
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