WHEN IS A GUARANTEE NOT A GUARANTEE?

Following recently publicised concerns regarding the pitfalls of some insurance backed warranties it is reassuring that for projects involving rolled or traditional sand cast lead sheet there is a unique scheme offered by members of the Lead Contractors Association.

In such a specialist area as lead sheet design and installation, the opportunity should not be missed for the client, architect, main contractor, etc to let others be responsible for long term performance – with further reassurance provided by independent verification and an insurance underwritten 25 year guarantee.

LCA members were the first in the roofing industry to offer such an extensive insurance backed guarantee period, but apart from the exceptional extended period of cover, the LCA members’ Guarantee Scheme is unique in containing two further clear and critically distinctive features.

Lead sheet is a wonderful roofing material – soft, malleable and relatively easy to work by hand – it is therefore quite easy for a general contractor to appear competent. However, it is one thing to have a manual skill in working with lead, but to get the optimum performance from a product that can last more than 100 years, it is essential that practical skill is backed up by individual knowledge regarding the detailing required to install it onto a roof.

This means knowing

  • What thickness sheet to be used across various application
  • What the maximum lengths and widths are that can be fitted
  • Where and how it should be fixed
  • What type of substrate it should be laid on
  • Whether or not there is (or needs to be) effective ventilation

Plus a hundred other things the specialist has to take into consideration (roof pitch, exposure, wind lift, etc) that the general roofing contractor may simply not be aware of.

The best lead sheet is rolled to a European manufacturing standard (BSEN12588) or for older, more prominent buildings and heritage projects, traditional sand cast sheet is often used. Either way, lead sheet doesn’t often fail and even when badly fitted will last for years before needing attention, but when a product should last for 100+ years, why should anyone be paying for repairs after five?

It is a fact that more lead fails through badly designed details on a roof than from bad product or bad workmanship, so how does anyone know that the installer has the appropriate knowledge to design, form and use the correct detailing?

Unfortunately, even if badly designed and installed, lead sheet will often last long enough for the installer to have been paid by the time any problem appears, so there is little incentive for them to return to site to correct any faults

Therefore the first critical distinguishing feature of the LCA scheme is that every project submitted for registration is inspected on completion by an expert – a member of the LCA Council or the LCA technical consultant. Any detail found during this inspection which does not conform to BS6915 (Code of Practice for the design and installation of fully supported lead sheet roofing and cladding) must be corrected before the Guarantee registration is approved.

As has already been emphasised, working with lead is a specialist craft demanding skill and knowledge from every practitioner. For the non-practitioner, i.e. the architect and client that has to verify and pay for the work, some technical support and guidance is available by referring to the Lead Sheet Manual published by the Lead Sheet Association. However, surely having a leadwork installation physically checked, up-close on the roof (not from the street) by an independent expert, is worth the cost of the guarantee alone?

That is not the end of the peace of mind offered by the scheme, because if a problem arises at any point during the guarantee period, the original installer will be notified to return to site to investigate and if necessary carry out remedial works at their own cost.

Critically however, if the original contractor is no longer trading, or is unwilling or otherwise unable to return to site, under the terms of the guarantee the LCA will nominate another member contractor to return to site and investigate the problem.

If a fault is identified that is covered by the terms of the guarantee, remedial work will be carried out without further cost to the client, financed by a separate Trust Fund (set up by the LCA and ring-fenced from day to day activities.) The Trust Fund itself is insurance underwritten to provide cover against any claim of up to £250,000.

Only members of the Lead Contractors Association that can offer such a unique collective scheme to cover leadwork installations and in doing so provide genuine long term ‘peace of mind’ for their clients.

For more information about the Lead Contractors Association or for further details of the LCA Guarantee Scheme, contact us at:

Lead Contractors Association
Centurion House
36 London Road
East Grinstead
RH19 1AB

Telephone: 01342 317 888
E-mail: info@lca.gb.com
Website: www.leadcontractors.co.uk