Looking After Your Leadwork

Whatever the size or complexity of the property, there are somethings that you really must invest in and top of the list has to be leadwork. Lead flashings and ridges are your primary defence against the rain and once the begin to fail, the rest of the building will quickly follow.

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Good leadwork example of welding clipping MAAC Studio conservation architects

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Lead is a great material. It is versatile, it looks great and it is very long lasting. Done will, leadwork can last hundreds of years with minimal maintenance and at the end of its life it is easy to recycle and reuse. At some point it will reach the end of its useful life and for those of you who live in a Victorian property, it is likely your leadwork has been in place for over 150 years, so be vigilant.

Spotting the difference between good and bad leadwork requires quite of lot of knowledge and experience. Often the lead is high up on the roof and access is difficult. From a distance it can be difficult to spot any problems, arranging access with cherry pickers or scaffold can be costly. At MAAC Studio we have some specialist equipment that enables us to get a good view of most roofs before it is necessary to get the more expensive access plant on site. 

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Leadwork tear caused by thermal movement

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The first, preliminary inspection is an important step. If the inspection is not carried out carefully, important warnings signs may be missed and at best you will find that there are additional costs when work is carried out on site. The worse situation is that problems go undetected, creating greater risk of water ingress and repairs cost further down the line.

Perhaps the biggest issue are the fixings that hold the lead in position. Lead needs to move and slide, it heats up dramatically in the sun and cools down just as dramatically in the rain and at night. When it is fixed incorrectly and can’t slide, the thermal movement will tear the lead, creating gaps for water to get in. The damage is progressive, the timber sub structure rot away and the lead is left without support and flapping in the wind, causing further damage. In all of my roof inspection I have noticed that problems caused by poor fixing is most noticeable where a roof repair has been carried out by a workman that doesn’t possess the required level of skill and knowledge. In trying to fix the original lead that was worn out, they have made the situation worse and accelerated the deterioration of the roof.

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badly repaired leadwork

Spoiler alert – Stick tape / Flash band is not an acceptable repair.

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Finding the right skills can be challenge. The Lead Contractors Association provides a directory of skilled tradesmen. There are others that we know of through experience of working together on projects. However, before rushing out to book a contractor to deal with your leadwork, you need to ask yourself, what else is happening to my building? If you are aware of one issue, there are probably two or three more that you aren’t aware of, so it might be time to book a Fabric Report for the whole property.

The message from this post is that if you have a traditional stone and slate building, look after your leadwork, employ people who know what they are doing, and when it comes to your roof looking for cost savings is a false economy.

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Good leadwork chimney flashing ready for pointing  MAAC Studio conservation architect

An example of a good chimney flashing repair just before it was pointed up.

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MAAC studio are accredited conservation architects and principal designers working with traditional buildings throughout Scotland. 

If you need independent advice give us a call ?