The flooring retailer keeps touting a life-time warranty on the laminate, engineered wood, or carpeting you intend to buy. This sounds great. Does this mean you can get a new floor if the one you buy goes bad on you?
Flooring warranties largely exist for the benefit of the manufacturer, not the consumer. Warranties shift liability off manufacturers’ shoulders to avoid or limit potential class action lawsuits.
Terms of Most Flooring Warranties
Warranties are styled by manufacturers as a way to provide the consumer with comfort upon purchase of solid or engineered wood, laminate, resilient (vinyl tile, plank, or sheet) and carpet floor coverings. Common features:
- Time Period: Because floors are long-term investments, the warranties usually cover a long stretch of time: 15 to 20 years at a minimum; lifetime, maximum.
- Conditions: Warranties commonly address “wear-through,” fading, water damage, staining, and manufacturing defects.
- Pro-Rated: Like tire warranties, floor warranties are pro-rated. So, to use an extreme example, if you are in the 99th year of a 100 year warranty, the manufacturer will pro-rate your reimbursement by a factor of 1%.
- Reimbursement: They provide reimbursement, should any of the above occur, usually in the form of store credit or replacement, but rarely monetarily.
Restrictions Make For a Toothless Warranty
If the warranty covers wearing, fading, water damage, staining, and defects, then it excludes everything else that might happen with the flooring. These exclusions are both specific (things like pebbles underfoot, golf spikes, moving furniture) as well as general (“misuse” is a favorite term).
Insanely Long Warranties Are Great Marketing Tools
Lumber Liquidators is famous for this (and genius, as well). Consider this: Armstrong offers a lifetime, original owner warranty for its Premium Lustre Collection. That’s about as good as it gets, right? It’s impossible for you to live past your lifetime. However, Lumber Liquidators offers something that sounds a whole lot better when it rolls off your tongue: a 100 Year Warranty.
The “Improper Care and Maintenance” Clause
If floor manufacturers need one blanket “way out” of honoring their warranties, it’s called the “failure to properly maintain flooring” loophole. John Mapes of My Flooring Warranty, which provides enhanced flooring warranties, says that most warranties are a “way out” for retailers and manufacturers.
Is There Any Way to Give Them Value?
- Get a Transferable Warranty: Make sure that the warranty can be transferred from owner to owner. While admittedly a minor item, a lifetime flooring warranty looks good when written up in a house sales sheet. Typically after sale, you hand over a binder or envelope of warranties to the new owner; it’s great to be able to hand over one for flooring, as well as for dishwasher, a/c, furnace, etc.
- Get That Certificate of Ownership: Some claims cannot be called in unless they are accompanied with a Certificate of Ownership. Having a sales receipt may not be good enough. Lumber Liquidators is not alone in requiring the original purchaser to register the purchase within 90 days in order to receive an ownership certificate. After that, the certificate–yes, the physical piece of paper–is needed in order to make a warranty claim. For Bruce Hardwood, though, a sales receipt and date and proof or purchase are all that are needed to file a claim.
- Get a Lifetime or Long-Time Warranty: What is the length of the warranty? While the difference between 100 years and lifetime is meaningless, there is an appreciable difference between 15 years and lifetime. However, the type of floor you purchase generally determines warranty length. For example, solid hardwood floors will be warranted for longer periods (35 years, 50 years, lifetime) than for engineered flooring, which runs the risk of delamination (5 years, 15 years, etc.).
- Get the Best Reimbursement Policy: If your warranty covers installation, so much the better–many warranties expressly exclude installation.
John Mapes of My Flooring Warranty: “[M]ost claims filed on behalf of consumers against carpeting retailers and manufacturers are found to be maintenance-related, not product- or installation-related. Flooring manufacturers are looking for a “way out,” thus, the routine maintenance cleanings are becoming a vital part of their warranty requirements and are becoming more specific over time.”
Neil Poland of Mullican Flooring says that nearly every single warranty claim comes within the first six months. He goes on to say that few claims are made after several years–which is exactly the kind of time period that might result in those wear conditions.