Make it a quality year for battens


An industry working group is raising awareness of the risks caused by the sale and use of substandard roofing battens. Shaun Revill, Trading Director at SR Timber, talks to TDUK about why these products have begun to creep into the UK market, and what we can do to stop it.

An alarming consequence of 2022 being such a turbulent year was the rise in substandard batten entering the UK market. These substandard battens have been spotted both on site and in less-knowledgeable merchants, causing alarm among many timber industry organisations.

The appearance of these products, often coloured blue to pass them off as meeting British Standards, is the result of suppliers turning to cheaper products to protect margins.

Quality on the agenda

A working group has been formed to look into this issue, chaired by the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) and featuring Timber Development UK (TDUK), NHBC, LABC, and leading suppliers including SR Timber, as well as independent timber grading businesses.

The aim is to raise awareness of this dangerously misleading product, reiterate the importance of British Standards for batten, and highlight what companies should look for.

Both TDUK and NFRC have released technical notes for the industry, which urge merchants, importers, manufacturers and roofers to undertake spot checks on each delivery of battens they receive. It also encourages them to reject deliveries where sizes do not meet the tolerances defined in BS 5534.

Battens should also be preservative treated using a pressure impregnation process to give them a desired service life of 60 years. However, the Technical Note says there are claims that dip treatment is being used by some suppliers.

Check your documents

One check we recommend in monitoring compliance is reviewing documentation from importers. These demonstrate the product has undergone technical due diligence and random inspection to ensure the products comply with BS 5534.

These records are likely to include:

  • Random checks of sizes and images of the supplier marks on each piece
  • Links from these marks to the QA certificates in the purchase records
  • Records of non-conformance and corrective actions implemented by the supplier.

Don’t risk your reputation

Image of a substandard roofing batten

Image courtesy of Ben Hulme. Batten was removed from roof after installation.

The message is clear: by buying, selling, or using this compromised product, you’re putting yourselves and others at risk of injury on site and placing your business’ reputation in jeopardy. British Standards are very clear on the criteria for roofing battens; it’s safer for those working at height and whose homes it’ll be used on.

Using an inferior product puts contractors at risk both on site and from the added costs of having to make right. Warranty and insurance providers such as NHBC and LABC are very clear that roofing batten must meet British Standards.

Contractors caught out using inferior products will likely have to replace the whole job and purchase BS 5534 standard battens. This, when operating at tight margins, will heavily impact a contractor’s bottom line. It also raises the question, if a roof is condemned for using poor product, who foots the bill? The contractor who bought the batten? The merchant who sold the product? Or the supplier who exported the timber in the first place?

Without proper checking at each phase, the bill could fall to contractors, who will have to resolve it while negotiating with the merchants who sold the product.

Last year the whole supply chain implemented stricter checks at import, point of sale, and on site to prevent poor-quality product coming through, reducing the volume of substandard product in the market. But it’s critical we all continue to play our part in ensuring products adhere to BS 5534 and are safe to use.