In the residential roofing market, for many years GAF has been holding the top spot as the “Largest Roofing Shingle Manufacturer in North America”.
Its top selling product, Timberline Shingles, has been installed on millions of homes across the US.
These shingles have been touted by GAF as “the # 1 selling shingle in North America”, “the heaviest and longest-lasting fiberglass asphalt shingle in the Timberline series” offering “superior strength and improved weathering in harsh conditions”, because their exceptional design “promotes longest life and extra durability.”
However, in 2013 a major class action law suit was brought against GAF and its Timberline shingles, revealing a very different reality: the shingles have been prematurely cracking and failing on thousands of roofs due to material and manufacturing defects.
The actual number of people in the class action suit was not disclosed, but there were more than 10,000 warranty claims related to this problem, that were filed in just one year. Since the shingles in question were manufactured from 1998 to 2009, at the rate of 10,000 claims per year, our guess is that there were at least 100,000 failed Timberline roofs.
The company has been covering up this issue for years (we will show quotes from high-ranking GAF officials), failing to inform homeowners, roofing contractors and state authorities, or to recall the defective product.
While the class action law suit has been settled in April 2015, we want to make you aware of this situation and summarize the case, because there is a complete lack of media coverage on this issue.
Our goal is to inform you about GAF’s sub-par manufacturing practices, deceptive marketing, and lack of care for the consumer, as related to this law suit.
Class Action Law Suit Against GAF Timberline Shingles: Case Summary
In 2013, a class action law suit, titled Building Materials Corp. of America Asphalt Roofing Shingle Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 8:11-mn-02000 (D.S.C.) was brought against GAF. Plaintiffs claimed that the company’s Timberline shingles have a defect that makes them prone to prematurely crack, tear or split.
GAF, in turn, claimed that its shingles were not defective and were appropriately covered by the warranty. However, the company agreed to offer two class action settlements covering shingles manufactured in:
1. Between 1999 and 2007 at GAF’s plant in Mobile, Alabama
2. Between 1998 and 2009 at other GAF manufacturing plants.
The settlements would cover the following claims:
1. Cracked Timberline Shingles
2. Damage to the Roof System (roof structure and roof system including the roof deck, underlayment, leak barriers, starter strips, ridge cap shingles, and attic ventilation.)
3. Damage to other building materials (anything directly connected to Timberline shingles or the Roof System, such as flashings, gutters, siding, valley metal, crickets and saddles, plumbing vents, and soffit and fascia).
GAF’s decision to cover up Timberline Shingle’s Defects
During the course of the investigation it was discovered that for many years GAF deliberately continued to hide Timberline shingles defects from suppliers, installers and consumers, while actively marketing it as a top quality product.
Here is what it looked like:
1. By late 1990’s GAF received information about premature cracking on many of its roof shingles, including Timberline products. To address this issue, the company assembled “cracking teams”, who investigated the source of the problem.
As a result, the company discovered that defective raw materials and inadequate manufacturing practices were used to make the shingles in several of its factories, including facilities in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Baltimore, Maryland; Millis, Massachusetts; Fontana, California, Dallas, Texas and Mobile, Alabama. For example, one of the findings was that the cracking claims increased by 43% from 2001-2002 alone.
A 2006 report by GAF employees, Sudhir Railkar and Adem Chich, revealed that the company received 10,170 cracking complaints for Timberline shingles through 2002. The average age of the roof subject to a cracking complaint was 7 years.
In 2002-2003, investigations were conducted in the Minneapolis facility. In August 2003, a GAF employee, Guy Gimson, issued a CQA report, titled “Minneapolis Shingle
Cracking”, which outlined testing conducted by GAF that proved that its laminated fiberglass shingles, including the Timberline shingles, cracked at low temperatures.
Other GAF’s internal documents revealed that “Shingles made in Minneapolis are cracking during warranty preview”. The time frame provided in that report for the issue being analyzed was “products manufactured since the 1980s”.
At around the same time, investigations were conducted in Mobile, Alabama, and Dallas, Texas, facilities. They also revealed cracking problems. GAF’s internal reports described laminated shingles as having a “high failure rate” in all regions and climates where they were sold.
2. By 2002, GAF received more than 10,000 “cracking claims”. The company paid out several million dollars as a response to the claimants. However, they continued to conceal the true nature of the cracking, did not recall the defective shingles, and didn’t advice consumers about these problems.
3. The fact that the cover up was deliberate is clearly evident from the documented communication between GAF District Manager, Kevin Hull, and regional manager, J.D. Hasselbach. When Hull brought up concerns regarding the cracking shingles, Hasselbach responded “yes I know all about the millions of dollars we are paying in claims and class action suits. Cut out the email traffic on this as it can be used in court against us. You are not telling me anything new . . . Just keep selling.”
4. The severity of problem and its cover up was best summarized by GAF’s Vice President of Engineering Services, Mike Ferraro, who stated that no other problem was “more extensive, had more involvement at the highest levels” than the premature cracking of Timberline shingles.
Deliberate Marketing Misrepresentations
To encourage consumers to purchase its Timberline shingles, GAF has knowingly made a number of misrepresentations about the product’s durability and longevity:
1. On their website GAF claimed that: “Because of our state-of-the-art manufacturing process, the odds of you having a problem with a new GAF roof is about one in a thousand.”
However, GAF’s own testing, confirmed by the company’s head of Quality Assurance, Guy Gimson, reveals that more than 5% of Timberline shingles experienced premature vertical cracking.
2. GAF made claims to its distributors and installers that the fiberglass mat contained within the shingles, provides “Balanced Tear Strength in all directions” and “Balanced Tensile Strength in all directions”, which result in “Better Resistance to Expansion-Contraction Cycles,” “Better Overall Performance . . . No Directional Weakness,” and “Longer Life.”
During the investigation, several company representatives, including Adam Chich, GAF’s Director of Research & Development admitted that the above claims are inaccurate.
3. GAF manufactured 3 types of Timberline Shingles: Timberline 30 (designates a 30 year warranty), Timberline 40 (designates a 40 year warranty), and Timberline Ultra Shingles (designates a 40 year and a Lifetime Warranty). These warranties specifically warrant the performance of Timberline shingles for a designated time into the future (longer warranties also cost more). As a result, consumers find these warranties meaningful and trust that their roof shingles will last for the stated time period.
However, GAF representatives, including Regional Quality Manager, Paul Miller, have admitted that Timberline’s warranty representations are a “marketing tool.”
Side Note: Later on, in the mid 2000’s, GAF and other roofing manufacturers in the US, removed the label “30, 40 and 50 year shingles” and relabeled all of their architectural shingles as “Lifetime”, while not making any significant changes to improve shingles’ longevity, which is indicated in their warranties.
4. GAF did not conduct any testing or engineering analysis to determine whether the Timberline shingles would actually last for the period stated in the warranties. Instead, the warranties served largely as a marketing ploy to meet or beat warranties offered by competitors.
5. All Timberline shingle products were stamped as meeting the designation ASTM D3462, in effect falsely representing that the shingle has been manufactured, tested, and inspected, in accordance to the standard and meets its requirements. Moreover, since the shingles did not meet the ASTM standards, they also failed to meet local and state building codes, and where legally prohibited from being installed.
As a result, consumers purchasing Timberline shingles falsely believed that they were getting a fully-compliant product.
Poor Treatment of Consumers
One of the worst practices that surfaced during this class action law suit was deliberate and poor treatment of consumers who tried to file warranty claims when their Timberline shingles started to fail.
1. Prior to experiencing cracking problems and other subsequent roofing damages, consumers and installers had no way of determining that they got a defective product.
2. In many cases, GAF did not repair or replace the defective roof, or didn’t fully pay for the damage caused by the premature cracking and shingles failure.
3. When claims where made and plaintiffs tried to inquire about the cause of the cracking, GAF did not disclose the fact that the product was defective to begin with.
4. To avoid making payments, the company tried to impose unenforceable limitations on the scope of the warranty coverage and its obligations to consumers. (Refer to the court documented page 111)
As a result, GAF breached its express warranties for Timberline shingles.
The class action law suit against GAF was settled on April 22 and 23, 2015.
The total amount of payoff to plaintiffs remains undisclosed.
The award included either replacement roof shingles (comparable to the product installed) and/or a cash payment. In some cases, depending on the evidence presented in the individual claim, there was a potential to receive payment for other damages, such as the cost of labor and any damage to the roof system and other building materials.
GAF never issued any public statement admitting the defective nature of the Timberline shingles, the existence of “cracking teams”, and the use of sub-standard materials and practices in the manufacturing process.
Other Class Action Law Suits Against GAF
In the 1990’s, another class action law suit was brought against GAF’s Timberline Shingles. This was Coleman, et al. v. GAF Building Materials Corporation, CV-96-0954 (Alabama Circuit Court, Mobile County), and involved claims of prematurely cracking and defective shingles. This law suit involved only shingles manufactured prior to December 31, 1997. GAF paid out more than $13 million to settle.
Quality and Reliability of GAF’s Timberline Shingles Today
According to court documents, once GAF discovered serious problems with the raw materials and manufacturing practices used to produce Timberline shingles, it has changed both to actually meet the necessary ASTM standards.
However, the company has not issued any public statement regarding these changes, and there are no field testing results of the “new generation” Timberline shingles that we know of.
GAF continues to market this product, making the same claims regarding its quality, durability and warranties as it did prior to the class action law suit.
If the original Court Document was removed (this happens sometimes), we’ve saved a copy here.
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