Lead Work

Lead has been used on roofs for hundreds of years. Highly water resistant, it is durable and workable with an attractive finish. It can be used for a variety of applications, flashings, aprons, hips, dormers, valleys, porches, and more. Installation of lead must be done by a reputable roofer, as poor workmanship can lead to issues further down the line.

Lead comes in various thicknesses / codes, each one denoting a maximum length to be used, or application. Contractor experience of these is crucial and wrongly specified work can lead to temperature movement and splitting.

One of the most common places for water ingress is at the base of a vertical wall, for instance, the junction where the chimney stack meets the roof covering. Traditionally a mortar fillet made from lime was used at this junction, However, this was not the most effective at keeping water out. Mortar fillets can still be used but only in conjunction with lead soakers, cut pieces of lead, lapped under each tile and turned up the vertical wall. This gives the appearance of traditional detail, without compromising water tightness.

Usually, stepped lead flashings are used on both sides of the chimney, cut into the joints of the brickwork, covering the lead soakers. The front flashing or “apron” as it is commonly known, is a large single piece of lead (subject to the width of chimney), that is turned up the front of the stack, fixed into the brickwork joint, then dressed over the tiles or slates below. At the rear of the chimney is the back gutter, a piece of lead installed under the tiles, then turned up the stack. A collar flashing, fixed into the course of bricks above the back gutter, providing a weather tight flexible seal. This method, used throughout the Georgian and Victorian periods, is still used on new builds today.

Detailed, fancy lead work applied to different areas such as window sills and chimney stacks are a matter of preference. Soft and easily shaped, lead lends itself to many creative designs.

Other uses are on roof hips and ridges, especially on slate roofs and is also a favoured material for valleys on both tiled and slate applications , although recently on new builds, these valleys are being replaced by their modern day equivalent, glass reinforced plastic.

Using a competent tradesman, correctly installed lead work looks pleasing to the eye and can last many years. On the other hand, wrongly installed materials by the “unskilled”, can create a catalog of problems and expensive rectifications.