The government’s plan to set up a new regulator for building products is good news for professional builders, according to SR Timber’s Trading Director Shaun Revill.
Here he offers a guide to help builders spot a genuine batten, arguing that whilst the regulator will eventually offer greater peace of mind around the issue of compliant products that meet UK quality standards, it’s still vitally important professional builders know the difference between good- and poor-quality materials – as the perils of non-compliant products could range from costly fixes to failing roofs.
If there’s one good thing to come out of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, it’s that the government is responding to the recommendations of the Hackitt Review with the introduction of a new national regulator with the power to remove any construction products or materials – such as those used in housebuilding – from the market that present a significant safety risk.
And, more importantly, the new regulator – which will be a division of the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) and will work closely with the Building Safety Regulator and Trading Standards – will be able to prosecute any companies that flout the rules on product safety.
That’s a very strong and clear message that the government is sending out – and about time too because, as a leading importer of timber products and the UK’s largest importer of roofing batten (including our flagship Premium Gold), we have long championed quality materials that are compliant with British Standards
We have also been vocal in airing our frustrations that reputable suppliers of roofing batten have to jump through hoops to ensure compliance with BS5534:2014 + A2:2018 when the policing of the standard has been non-existent and poor-quality and fake batten has been used in the construction of homes in the UK.
Whilst it’s all very encouraging, I suspect it will still take time to come into full force – which is why it’s so important to help professional builders get on the front foot with a reminder of some of the key characteristics of compliant, quality roofing batten that can easily be visually inspected. Failing to do this can result in having to purchase more batten for each roof to account for wastage, all the way through to roofs failing. As a reminder, here are some of the key characteristics of compliant, quality roofing batten.
Check the markings
The most important thing to check is that all pre-graded batten has key information stamped on it – and if there’s nothing marked on it, then it’s very unlikely to have been produced in accordance with the British Standard. Stock can easily be checked in merchants’ yards or as it is being delivered to site, and the key pieces of information to look out for are:
- Name of the supplier (in our case, it’s TX TTB-012 – TX is the sawmill identification mark. TTB-012 is the certificate number)
- Origin – imported or British grown and/or the species code (in this example, it’s WPPA – the species code of the timber: WPPA refers to pine and spruce, which is a mixed species code)
- GRADED BS5534 (graded in accordance with BS5534:2014 + A2:2018)
- Batten size or sizes (for example 25 x 50– the dimensions of the batten in millimetres. The other standard size is 25 mm x 38 mm)
There will also be a stamp to denote that the batten has been independently assessed by a third party for quality assurance. This shows that the grading, preservative treatment, product marking and management processes have all been independently audited.
Get your tape measure out
Batten comes in two dimensions: 25 x 38mm and 25 x 50mm. The British Standard states an allowed tolerance of +/-3mm on the width and a tolerance on the thickness of – 0/+3mm. The 25mm thickness is the most important one, and this will barely alter at the range of moisture levels that are encountered in batten production and on building sites. So, the 25mm minimum is what to look for in good batten. 50mm and 38mm width batten offers superior quality, as it is produced full size in both thickness and width.
Check for knots
The rules on knots can be quite complicated, but, essentially, if knots are bigger than half the width of the batten and appear on both sides of the face (width), this means that the batten is unlikely to be compliant. Knots smaller than 5mm in diameter (which are usually referred to as ‘pin knots’) are allowed anywhere. Knots larger than 5mm are not allowed if they run edge to edge (the 25mm thickness part of the batten).
Other things to look out for
- Grain direction (‘slope of grain’) – the ‘grain’ of timber is the main direction of its wood fibres. Put simply, straight-grained wood is strong wood, and the more the grain ‘slopes’ across the batten, the weaker the piece will be.
- Wane – this term refers to a ‘missing’ edge of any square-edged piece of sawn timber, where the natural roundness of the log is visible, rather than solid timber being present at that point. BS5534:2014 allows up to one-third of the batten edge to be missing due to wane. However, SR Timber’s Premium Gold will normally not have any wane in it.
- Other defects – slow rate of growth, high moisture content, discolouration, splits and distortions are just some of the other factors that can be tell-tale signs of non-compliant batten.
Buying cheap batten could end up hitting professional builders in the pocket, which is why we’re keen to help with useful information such as our ‘Guide to Graded Roofing Battens’ that can be found in here – https://sr-timber.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/SR-Timber-GUIDE-DL-leaflet_2017_2.pdf
For further information on SR Timber visit https://sr-timber.co.uk/