The truth about lead

The Lead Sheet

The Lead Sheet Association has recently worked with some key organisations in the construction industry to examine more closely the properties and benefits of using lead, particularly in relation to its economic, technical and environmental characteristics.

The research, carried out in conjunction with The Building Research Establishment and Franklin + Andrews threw up some interesting findings.


Cost effective and green


The carbon footprint of lead, compared with other hard metals, is extremely low making it a very environmentally friendly material. Its lifespan also means it lasts a generation without having to be replaced – on average more than three times longer than most other proprietary flashing products. There is also an established recycling infrastructure so almost 100% of the waste can be re-used, and because of lead’s longevity it means that architects can safely use it in designs needing to comply with Euro code requirements for a 60 year design life.


Alongside these qualities Franklin + Andrews highlighted the economic benefits of using lead. Over a 40 year period lead can be up to 50% cheaper than manmade flashing products and over 65 years it is almost 100% cheaper. Lead is seen as being so safe and reliable that it is possible to obtain a 25 year guarantee covering the material and installation when it is installed by an LCA accredited lead contractor. Notwithstanding the guarantee, with lead there is almost no risk of leakage and little inspection or maintenance required, providing peace of mind for building owners.


Douglas Weston CBE, Chief Executive of the Lead Sheet Association who commissioned both pieces of research said: ‘In these tough economic times it sometimes seems the easy option to go for the seemingly cheaper alternative, but this research emphasises what many in the construction industry have known for years – with lead, you get a great result that not only looks fantastic but lasts longer, costs less overall and is fully recyclable.’


Lead offers peace of mind


Douglas continued: ‘The use of other products can often be a false economy for what you also get with lead is peace of mind, it is low maintenance, doesn’t need checking and possibly re-fixing every year and provides more weather tight  protection against possible rainwater ingress.


‘Alongside this research, we also undertook installation trials in our workshop to compare lead alongside many of the proprietary products. The results brought out some interesting comparisons that might often be overlooked.


‘For example, lead can be installed in most weather conditions, whereas other products are sensitive to dampness and are dependent on adhesives which can create jointing problems.  Generally other products require the weather to be dry and the temperature to be above 5°c. Reliance on these criteria can often be a source of installation delays as well as jointing and leakage problems.  Specifiers need to consider these factors as they select their roofing materials, particularly if the installation is programmed for the winter period or being used on buildings containing sensitive materials or equipment..


‘The BRE research also drew attention to the effect of UV radiation on some of the man made products. This can have the detrimental effect on joints and possibly cause brittleness, thereby reducing flexibility and impacting on life expectancy and weather tightness.’

Douglas concluded: this external research, coupled with the trials in our workshop demonstrates the cost effectiveness, green credentials, ease of installation and outstanding performance which makes lead a great product for use on  everyday projects, as well as the truly special ones”.

To find out more about the courses, technical advice we provide or to view  ‘The truth about lead’ visit


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