Manufacturers of prefinished hardwood flooring like to tout the decades-long warranties they offer for the finish. But these lengthy warranties usually aren’t as valuable as manufacturers would like you to think.
The warranty periods are longer than they need to be.
Twenty-five years has been somewhat of a standard for long-term warranties on the finish of prefinished flooring, but now you can find warranties for even longer, up to “lifetime.”
The catch is that even the best-quality prefinished products almost always need to be refinished before 25 years because of normal wear and/or loss of sheen (i.e. dullness), but typical finish warranties don’t cover either of those things. To keep your floors looking fresh, you will most likely end up having to pay for the refinishing that will naturally be needed before the warranty on the finish expires.
There’s no point in having a warranty on the finish that’s longer than the finish can reasonably be expected to look good!
Slightly defective floors aren’t covered.
What happens if the finish is defective and prematurely wears off? Most finish warranties include a “wear through” clause that guarantees a new finish for the entire floor if that happens—but only when the finish wears off a certain percentage of the total floor.
In many warranties, that percentage is as high as 10 percent or more of total square footage. If that much of your finish is bad, you have a noticeable, unsightly area (unless you’ve covered it up). Meanwhile, you’re waiting in frustration for more of the finish to wear off and kick in the warranty.
Good warranties have lower percentages, but even then, you can’t expect to get a new finish just because the finish is defective in a small area. No warranty will guarantee a 100-percent perfect finish.
Exclusions significantly limit what is covered.
Warranties on finishes usually include a long list of exclusions, such as pet damage, sunlight damage, “rough use,” improper installation, and improper maintenance. Those exclusions can be applied broadly to invalidate your warranty benefits.
The manufacturer might not be able to honor the warranty.
A lot can happen to a business during the 25 years or more of a long-term warranty. Not even well-established businesses are immune from going out of business during that time (or from declaring bankruptcy). And of course you never know about relatively new, unproven companies.
If you’re counting on your warranty years from now, you may be distressed to find that no one will honor it—at least not without getting lawyers involved.
When choosing prefinished hardwood flooring, don’t place too much value on a long-term warranty for the finish. The quality of the finish and the standards of the manufacturer are much more important.
When Ralph’s chooses vendors or manufacturers of prefinished hardwood floors to associate with, we focus closely on quality. Our experience allows us to identify the good ones from the bad ones. In addition to the quality of the product, our criteria includes on-time delivery and after-sale service. No manufacturer or vendor is perfect, but we don’t want a poor product or service to blemish our hard-earned good reputation. If a manufacturer or vendor we choose doesn’t do right by our customers, we will.