You did the work, you’re a craftsman, what else would anyone possibly need? A warranty, maybe? Just like a building materials company offers product warranties, many contractors offer a craftsmanship warranty for some time period following the install of a product or construction of a structure. Is this the right move for your company?
What is a Craftsmanship Warranty, Really?
It might seem logical that as a professional contractor you’re already standing behind your work, but it’s not always that obvious to potential clients. Some may have been burned in the past by less than scrupulous “experts” or are simply afraid to let go of so many of their precious dollars without knowing their purchase won’t be all on them, if something should be wrong with how it was installed.
That’s where a craftsmanship warranty comes in. Unlike a materials warranty, a craftsmanship warranty extends to the job itself – not what you’ve installed (which is generally covered by its own product warranty), but how you did the work. Anything, from the prep work to the actual install, can fall under a craftsmanship warranty – including the work of your subs.
However, because a “craftsman warranty” doesn’t have a fixed meaning, you should define any warranty offered in detail, even if that means having a full page of its own that details what is and is not included, and for how long. Creating a certificate that’s suitable for framing isn’t a bad way to go when all is said and done.
Warranty Pros and Cons
It’s all fine and good to say, “of course I’ll stand behind my work,” and expect that people everywhere will know this, but the truth is that not everybody knows you, your work or is even really all that trusting these days. Many customers need to know that you’re willing to back your promises up in writing. For these people, a warranty can create a peace of mind that you can’t generate in a more concrete way.
Of course, there’s a flipside to this. Some customers will treat your warranty like a ticket for you to fix everything even remotely related to their job forever and until the end of time. They may call you over things that aren’t related in any way you can determine, except that maybe the window install you did 10 years ago happened to be close to their faulty piece of siding.
Creating a Warranty That Works
When it comes to warranties, the devil’s in the details. It may take some extra time to really lay out what is and isn’t included in your coverage, but having a good craftsmanship warranty can protect you from false alarms and give potential customers that extra reassurance that you’re not going to leave them in a lurch should one of their windows fail to work properly because you made a mistake (we all do – you’d not be the first).
Some contractors approach this problem by simply applying a blanket “lifetime” to the warranty. This can be a major problem when the customer starts to consider the implications. Just whose lifetime here? The job’s lifetime? The contractor’s lifetime? The customer’s lifetime? Other contractors offer a warranty instead based on the expected lifetime of the materials in question, or a multi-tiered warranty that considers different aspects of the job.
For example, a tear-off and reroof job with a 30-year expected lifespan can easily be warrantied for five years against craftsmanship defects, depending on your location. An add-on bathroom might have a warranty that offers a one-year guarantee on plumbing, three years on interior materials and five years on exterior materials. Specifics matter, especially when you’re offering a warranty.
Do you offer a warranty? If so, how do you structure yours? Have customers pushed back against “lifetime” warranties or asked for more details in writing?