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SSQ - NHBC Slate Specification: Slates – No More Grey Areas

By Nigel Shapland, Senior Technical Officer, NHBC

Natural slate has long been accepted as a premier roof covering for pitched roofs, but a change in British Standards has led to concern about how roofing slates are being specified. It’s a situation that’s forced the NHBC to set out a specification it believes will provide the quality needed to meet NHBC Standards.

In July 2004 a European Standard, EN 12326, replaced BS 680 as the standard to which any roofing slate used by the UK’s building industry has to comply. Since then, as many in the industry feared, it’s become apparent that the new standard is not a robust replacement and can lead to a decrease in the quality of the slates being used.

It’s a worrying trend which, in the absence of any official guidance about what does constitute a ‘good-quality’ roofing slate, will continue to frustrate and disappoint architects, builders, developers and homeowners. So, as a warranty provider expected to promote good building standards, the NHBC felt it necessary to set out the minimum specification it considers to be acceptable.

The situation has arisen because BS 680 and BS EN 12326 are not comparable in what they do and cannot be simply ‘interchanged’ in a specification. Whereas BS 680 used objective pass or fail results along with two specific levels of quality, BS EN 12326 has neither; it stipulates a series of tests that have to be carried out and then leaves designers and buyers to use the results to either create their own, unique specification or buy accordingly. In reality, “tested to BS EN 12326” and the consequent CE marking have, unfortunately, been innocently mistaken for bona fide signs of good quality.

Fortunately, specifying or buying a good-quality, durable roofing slate isn’t as difficult as it may seem as the results of the tests specified by BS EN 12326 have to be provided on a document that accompanies the slate. Often referred to as the ‘ACD’ (Accompanying Commercial Documentation), its provision is a legal requirement: without it, suppliers and buyers can neither prove nor verify the slate’s provenance or its qualities. Three of the tests are critical and their combined result is used to determine whether the slate meets the NHBC’s minimum specification:
• Water Absorption. This indicates the slate’s water absorbency and how it reacts when it gets wet. Test result required by the NHBC: A1.
• Carbonate Content. This indicates how much carbonate the slate contains. This can quickly dissolve causing material loss and structural weakness. Test result required by the NHBC: S1.
• Reactive metallic minerals. The Thermal Cycling Test indicates the stability of any reactive metallic minerals (often called pyrites) that may cause staining, pitting or delamination. Test result required by the NHBC: T1.

So, in summary, if you’re specifying roofing slates, the NHBC’s advice is to ensure they comply with BS EN 12326 and that they’re graded ‘A1, S1, T1’ – and if you’re buying roofing slates, to check the documentation to verify this.

Email: technical@nhbc.co.uk


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Arundel Jones Associates Ltd Registered in England and Wales No. 07334149
Hill Farm, Linton Hill, Maidstone, Kent ME 17 4AL
Tel : 01622 745333 email
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