25 April 2017

2017 trends in pitched roof slating and tiling

Gavin White, Product Manager, Marley Eternit looks at what 2017 holds for pitched roof slating and tiling products.

A shift in sustainability standards

The government is focusing on solving the housing crisis and is stripping back many barriers to housebuilding, in my opinion, to the detriment of environmental considerations.

In 2016, the Redfern review looked at the causes of falling homeownership. This revealed how house prices have increased by 151% since 1996, while earnings have only increased by about a quarter as much. The number of people with a mortgage in 2014 was 10% lower than in 2010.

The main driver for sustainability in new housing - over recent years - has been the Code for Sustainable Homes – an environmental assessment method for rating and certifying the performance of new homes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It was first introduced in 2006, but was withdrawn in 2015. Although views of the scheme were mixed, it did ultimately encourage continuous improvement in sustainable housebuilding and put low carbon development at the top of the agenda.

Unfortunately, The code for sustainable homes, which was just starting to gain some traction, was scrapped and supposedly replaced by the voluntary ‘Home Quality Mark’ in an effort to reduce the ‘red tape’ associated with new housebuilding and increase the amount of homes completed.

Its replacement, The Home Quality Mark is attempting to fill the gap and become the national standard for new homes. It uses a simple 5-star rating to provide impartial information from independent experts on a new home's design, construction quality and running costs.

As is the case with anything voluntary, there is naturally some concern over how much take-up we will see with this new scheme. If housebuilders aren’t forced to adopt it, then they may ultimately view it as an unnecessary cost and inconvenience. For such a scheme to work there would need to be incentive to encourage adoption, such as government subsidies or discounts from insurance providers. Until then, it is likely that housebuilders will only comply with what they have to, in the knowledge that housing is in high demand and short supply.

Is responsible sourcing still a priority?

Another area that seems to have lost some traction is responsible sourcing.

Third party accredited responsible sourcing schemes have been increasingly adopted by construction product manufacturers to demonstrate a robust, responsible supply chain and efforts to manage the environmental and social impact of their business activities. Schemes such as BES 6001 require a great deal of resource to manage on an annual basis, and until now, their adoption has been justified through tie-ins with environmental assessment schemes such as BREEAM and the Code for Sustainable Homes. However, with the scrapping of the Code and high demand for construction products, there is some question over the long-term influence of responsible sourcing schemes and their ability to positively differentiate and affect manufacturer choice.

As an organisation that has responsible sourcing accreditation for all of our roofing materials, including timber roofing battens, we would like to see greater emphasis on responsible sourcing across the industry. Organisations that invest heavily in third-party accreditation should see greater benefit for their efforts.

What will be the impact of the skills shortage?

The increased pressure of supply and demand has also been exacerbated by an industry-wide skills shortage. During the downturn, many trades struggled to fill their books, with many having to find alternative work further afield. The main effect of this was that many skilled tradesmen ended up either leaving the industry or retiring altogether.

Now that the market has effectively bounced back – albeit, still not to pre 2008 levels – there is the very real problem of a lack of suitably qualified labour. This makes it difficult to physically build the number of units required to meet the housing shortage, not to mention making it more costly to employ the skilled workforce needed. Inevitably, the industry is attempting to address this by bringing through new labour as quickly as possible. While fast-tracking new labour into the industry is undoubtedly a good thing, there is some concern that this may give rise to workmanship issues and instances of product failure through incorrect installation.

There isn’t an easy fix to this problem, but as the industry leading manufacturer, we are playing our part to try and provide a range of resources that can be used to supplement knowledge or assist with correct installation to the British Standard. These include:

  • Product Knowledge, Estimating and Dry Fix courses at our Burton training centre
  • Online product and technical information
  • Mobile APPs such as the acclaimed Sitework Guide

Caution with dry fix systems

We were already seeing huge growth in demand for dry fix systems, even before the recent change to BS 5534. Now that mortar is no longer deemed suitable as a sole means of fixing (heritage work excluded), it makes more sense than ever to be switching to dry fix products. In addition, many dry fix systems also provide ventilation to assist in meeting the requirements of BS 5250.

Although dry fix is definitely the way forward, we believe that some contractors may be under the assumption that, just because a system is dry fix, it’s inherently durable - or has the same durability and performance to other similar systems. Unfortunately this is not always the case.

The growth of the dry fix market has resulted in a huge increase in new suppliers, offering cheaper products and systems that claim to be equivalent to long-standing dry fix and ventilation systems. While buying something cheaper is always an attractive proposition, it’s always advisable to question why it’s cheaper and start to understand the fundamental differences between the systems. Ultimately, it’s highly unlikely that any manufacturer can engineer cost out of a system without affecting overall product quality and performance.

Such is the concern surrounding the quality of dry fix systems entering the market, that a new British Standard for dry fix roofing systems is currently being developed. As with any British Standard, it is hoped that it will help ensure quality, durability and overall performance of systems being specified and installed.

So, in advance of the new British Standard, what can be done to ensure that you are using a quality system which meets long-term durability and performance expectations?

Quite simply, look for a supplier and systems with a history of proven performance. Marley Eternit was one of the first suppliers to develop dry fix systems in the 1980s and we have three decades of experience in developing and supplying some of the highest quality dry fix systems. The designs we have come up with, and the materials we specify, serve one main purpose – to provide maximum performance and durability.

We can demonstrate this if we look at one of our systems in detail and some particular elements that set it apart from the alternatives on the market.

RidgeFast – Ventilated Dry Ridge System

Flashing material

RidgeFast uses a high grade of aluminium for the flashing-skirt, which is moulded into deep corrugations. The metal grade, shape and size of the corrugations help to ensure effective run-off of wind-driven rainwater and maintain a constant ventilation path, while effectively resisting the crushing force of a mechanically fixed ridge.

Ridge roll material

The centre material used for a ridge roll is arguably one of the most important elements of any dry ridge / hip system. We use a high performance material called EPDM. It is hydrophobic in nature and extremely effective at repelling water, while still maintaining airflow. EPDM is also elastomeric, meaning it has the ability to stretch and flex, making it extremely forgiving when being installed and is easy for the contractor to lay evenly.

Butyl strip

The butyl strip on a ridge roll is important because it provides the means of adhering the flashing skirt to the roof covering below. We use one of the widest and thickest butyl strips on the market, to ensure the highest level of tack adhesion possible.

Explore our full range of dry fix products, including dry ridge, valley and hip systems, as well as vents and other accessories.

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Here at Marley Eternit, we are always on hand to offer practical and experienced support.