Aluminum railing manufacturers often provide some kind of warranty on their products, but warranties vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Homeowners, contractors, and LBM dealers should all make a point to understand the warranties of the products they use (or are considering), because a good warranty can save a homeowner thousands of dollars, while a poor one can cost a customer money, time, and create an on-going hassle. (If you can't easily locate your manufacturer's warranty, that can be a red flag).
Here are some terms you'll see in a warranty and some words you should look for. No matter what you read here about what is typical or what particular words mean, you should always consult the warranty documentation you were given to see exactly what is covered in your situation.
Limited Lifetime Warranty
Many railing or fence companies offer this kind of warranty. “Lifetime” typically applies to the original purchaser of the aluminum, and the warranty is limited because it doesn't cover future homeowners’ lifetimes as well. For example, if a couple purchases aluminum railing for their deck, the railing is backed by warranty for as long as they own the property or until they’ve passed away. Some companies allow their warranties to be transferred to new homeowners for a period of years, others do not.
What does the warranty cover?
A standard warranty covers “defects in material and workmanship.” That means that if there is a problem with the way the aluminum was fabricated or a flaw in the powder coating, that is covered under the warranty. Warranties don’t cover problems caused by homeowner error or “acts of God” (like an earthquake that causes a fence to collapse). Warranties also do not cover problems caused by faulty installation, either by contractors or homeowners.
For exterior products like railing, there's another thing to look for: does the warranty cover major fading or color loss? Some fading is natural over the years, but a strong warranty will address what happens if there is more color loss than expected. Additionally, check to see if fittings or other pieces of the system are covered, and for how long. Are they covered under the same warranty or do they have their own, less substantial warranty?
Does the warranty cover labor?
This is where rubber meets the road. If your fence cracks because of an error in the manufacturing process, or your railing has an obvious flaw in the material, you deserve to have it replaced. But who is going to install the replacement product? You may get a boxes of brand-new railing shipped to your door, but if your warranty doesn’t cover labor, you either have to install it yourself or pay someone else to do it.
Most companies’ warranties do not cover any of the cost of labor to replace a fence or railing. Key-Link's warranty does cover labor, as a prorated 5-year warranty. That means for the first five years you own your fence or railing, if you need to replace it, Key-Link will cover all or part of the labor costs to do so.
You can read our warranty on our resources page.