Updated: Jul 20
Imagine this: you just bought that expensive item you've been dreaming about for ages. Too generic? Let's get more specific for imagination's sake. Let's say it's a really nice bathroom
sink. One of those sinks that looks more like a salad bowl than a sink. This isn't just any salad bowl looking sink; this looks like it came from King Tut's tomb. It has gold inlay in marble-looking ceramic. Now let's imagine you just had this sink installed with your recent bathroom renovation. You are so excited to finally have it! It's right in front of you and you almost want to hug or kiss it. The contractor told you this was "a lifetime sink" so you know this sink will be around to impress your guests for ages!
Now imagine you just woke up. You squint your eyes as you open the curtains letting the morning light pour through your east-facing picture window. You remember, "I get to use my new bathroom with my new sink!" You go straight to the bathroom, release the overnight tension on your bladder and wash your hands in the sink of your dreams located in the bathroom of your dreams.
A few years later you grab your toothbrush and apply a dab of your favorite toothpaste. You start brushing your teeth when suddenly your youngest child rushes in, "Can you help me!?" This startles you and you drop your toothbrush into the sink - shattering it into a thousand little pieces. You almost want to cry, or maybe yell, you're not sure but you know you're not happy. Then you remember what you were told, "This is a lifetime sink!" It's frustrating but you know you don't really need to worry. You call the contractor that installed it and you are given information about the company that made the sink.
You call the manufacturer and they tell you, "It's a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects. It clearly states that if you abuse it we won't cover it. Besides, you usually can't expect these sinks to last much longer anyway." You plead with the person on the other end, "I only dropped my toothbrush. A sink should survive that!" Your pleading falls on deaf ears. "I'm sorry," you're told, "but I can't help you." You hang up the phone feeling angry, betrayed, and a little stupid.
I don't know for sure that this happens with sinks; I'm a roofing professional, not a plumber. I can tell you however that I hear about things like this often with roofing! Contractors throw around terms like, "lifetime shingles" or "30-year roof." When you are told something like that be sure to clarify! Asphalt shingles in the low to mid price range usually last 15 to 20 years. Some are made so poorly they last less than 10. High-price triple laminate shingles may last longer. High-grade standing seam metal, slate, and tile are some of the few roofing materials that have a good chance of lasting a lifetime.
It is very common for a roofer to refer to shingles as "30 year" or "lifetime shingles" when they have a 30-year or lifetime limited warranty. It is important to understand that these warranties are primarily against manufacturer defects - not aging due to weather and sun damage. The primary brand and style of shingle that we use for our low and mid-price packages comes with a 30-year limited transferable manufacturer warranty and a limited lifetime non-transferable warranty. You can expect them to last 15 or 20 years. They could last 25 years if you're super lucky.
In short, be careful about catch phrases and gimmiks. Be aware of what you are actually getting.
Information about the photo:
The photo above is of a brand new shingle that is sometimes referred to as a lifetime shingle. Notice how it is missing a patch of gravel. The gravel protects the rest of the layers from sun damage. When the gravel is gone, the shingle gets destroyed very quickly.