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Roofline Reducing Future Maintenance

1 October 2007

Gary Driscoll, public sector and new build manager at Eurocell discusses how sustainability and long-term maintenance have become the new driving forces in social housing, changing the way that roofing and cladding products are specified. As a result, many roofline manufacturers are now working in partnership with contractors because they are best placed to provide valuable feedback on the ways to reduce future maintenance.

Keeping the damage caused by the British weather to a minimum is a constant battle for housing providers and the roof, simply because of its exposed elevation, receives more than its fair share of wind and rain. Recently, with the unusual weather patterns including wind-driven rain and ever tighter thermal performances required, many housing providers are now evaluating roofline products in terms of lifetime cost, including maintenance needs, rather than just initial purchase price.

Much of this roofing refurbishment is being carried out on Decent Homes programmes and normally the contractors we work with carry out a survey on each property to determine the extent of work needed. This varies considerably by site although fascia, soffits and rainwater systems often require most attention. Listening to the feedback from the contractors has enabled us to identify the most common problems and this has translated directly into many new products that should help social housing providers reduce their future maintenance requirements.

On most sites, the contractors we work with are finding that the whole roofline often needs replacing. On this part of the property, timber really seems to suffer from the extremes of temperature and moisture. Many contractors understand the benefits of long-term maintenance and have even suggested to the client and Clerk of Works on site that PVC-u might be a better alternative. It is this partnership approach that has lead to many improvements in the original design and generally PVC-u roofline represents a better choice for reducing long-term maintenance. Our role within this is often to provide practical advice either to the client or contractor on the most appropriate product. In most instances, contractors prefer working with our 18mm PVC-u Euroboard because it is strong enough to be fitted directly to the roof rafters.

When it comes to ventilating the roof, an early decision is best and many of the roof structures in social housing tend to be cold roof constructions. In these types of properties, the two most common forms of ventilation are ‘over the fascia’ or ‘through the soffit’ and on some Decent Homes sites we are seeing a trend towards ‘over the fascia’ ventilation.

The advantage of over ventilation is that the solid soffit avoids dust and dirt entrapment in the grills which often means that housing providers had to clean these on a regular basis but with ‘over the fascia’ ventilation, this is avoided. This type of forward planning, early on in the refurbishment programme, means lower maintenance for the housing provider.

Over ventilation is now becoming easier on refurbishment sites because many of the properties also require a complete roof replacement which is another reason why early consideration of the ventilation is crucial to creating better homes.

Over the fascia ventilation is also gaining favour on many Decent Homes sites because it is unobtrusive once fitted and extremely strong. Our product development team have also ensured that our over vents can provide ventilation above or below the underlay and when used in conjunction with our 18mm Euroboard fascia and 9mm Eurosoffit, which are UV stabilized and colour fast, it provides a very durable system against the increasing frequency of wind driven rain and warmer summers.

Cladding is also an area that has a dual benefit for housing refurbishments in the public sector and here PVC-u presents the client with all the advantages of low maintenance, weather resistance and durability. Our feedback from contractors is that cladding, especially when combined with insulation is helping to increase the thermal performance of the properties on many Decent Homes projects. Thermal performance has become a crucial consideration within public sector housing as the government tries to meet its commitment for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Our Shiplap Cladding is now used widely on many of these sites and is playing a part in creating refurbished dwellings that are both energy efficiency and more comfortable for the residents.

When it comes to the environment, housing providers are increasingly focusing on the carbon footprint of their refurbishment activities. Aware of this feedback, many suppliers to the sector are gaining environmental accreditations, such as ISO14001. The PVC-u industry is also starting to recycle much more and the advances we have made are already allowing us to create products made entirely from recycled material, such as our cavity closer and soon to be launched composite door frame. Crucially for us, and a fact not lost on contractors, is our nationwide network of depots. In terms of carbon footprints, these offer an extremely efficient method of distributing roofline products and the fact that contractors can pick up exactly the product they need locally saves time, money and fuel. Clients also like the fact that the contractor can source the specified product whether they visit our depot in Truro or Inverness.

Housing providers and contractors are well aware of the benefits of low maintenance and the work we do in supplying many Decent Homes programmes will ensure more comfortable and better quality homes for existing and future residents.

For more information fill in our handy contact form or contact Eurocell on 01773 837490.

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