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There is a well known maxim that says ‘if
you fail to plan then you plan to fail'. What planning is required when
slating or tiling a roof, and what pitfalls should we look out for? As a
nation, we British tend to start projects quickly with a basic plan and
sort out problems as they arise, modifying the plan accordingly, whilst
our neighbours the French tend to make a detailed plan and stick to it
come what may, even when the unexpected arises, on the basis that they
have allowed for it in the plan. Now I am not saying one approach is
better than the other, as each has its merits, but no planning, or too
much planning can result in problems.
The first step with any plan is training. All members of the team need
to be trained to perform their function, and a steady stream of new
people coming into the learning process allows the same number to come
out at the other end as qualified tradesmen and managers. Nobody knows
everything, so each person should have an area of knowledge that they
are an expert in, and an area into which they are learning and
developing, and they should also know what they are incapable of, so
that they do not overstretch themselves.
At the same time each employer should record what each
person is expert at and what they need to learn, to allow them to plan
and cope with the challenges that lie ahead. Too often learning is seen
as a threat by some managers, who do not want staff to know more about
certain subjects than they do. Not everybody is good at structured
learning; many people are good at copying what they see other people do,
and by practice become expert at it. This process works well provided
the mentor who is being copied is an expert. Too often bad practices are
copied and perpetuated that can create long term problems. Whilst a
slate is a slate is a slate, the construction of the building onto which
it is being fixed has changed, along with the regulations and
recommendations regarding insulation, condensation control and other
related construction issues. The addition of new products to make
roofing work quicker and easier means that things are constantly
changing and new knowledge needs to be gained.
Before any project is started the relevant documents need to be gathered
together to allow a full picture of the project to be gained. If there
is a gap in the information then requests for that information should be
made. On every occasion when roofing work is involved, site visits will
be needed to understand the full implications of the information that
has been provided, or to gather further information that is not
available on the documentation, such as the position of telephone
cables, out-buildings or other obstructions. It is only when the full
facts have been gathered that planning the project can begin.
At each stage the relevant documentation and the
plan need to be collated and passed onto the next level. The specifier
needs to gain information from the client, expand on the documentation
and pass the relevant part to the main contractor who breaks it down
into elements, expands the documentation and passes the relevant parts
onto the sub contract management, who breaks down the information,
expands on it and passes on the relevant parts to the trade foreman on
site, who instructs the tradesmen. At the same time materials and plant
are being ordered and scheduled, health and safety method statements are
being produced and approved, and other projects are being monitored in
the same way.
The flow of information is essential for the man on
site to do the job correctly, knowing when materials and other trades
will arrive so that everything can progress as planned. Too often the
roof tile fixing specification never reaches site, so it is impossible
for the tradesman to fix the tiles correctly without that piece of
information, or a material supplier changes, altering the dimensions for
the fascia board height or the flashing kit.
Materials and plant all need to be quantified and ordered to ensure that
it is on site at the correct time. Too often the plant that arrives is
inappropriate for the site, either being too small, too big, or
incapable of being used in the planned location due to restricted widths
between buildings, or other building work going on around the site.
Too often materials are not available and work starts
without an essential component, such as eaves and verge clips being
delivered late and having to be installed after the rest of the roof
tiles have been fixed. All materials should be scheduled to be on site
before they are needed. Too early and they will get in the way, damaged
or stolen, too late and their installation will compromise another
component. Often a key component will be found to be totally unavailable
and an alternative needed. The sooner this is found, the better chance
that everything else can be changed to accommodate it, and no delay to
the programme arises.
For example if a 600 x 300mm slate is changed to a 500 x
250mm slate, it will require more nails, more slate and a half, more
battens and the battens set at a smaller gauge; it will affect the
detailing and position of dormers and ventilation slates.
If specifications are changed, or modifications are
made, or components that penetrate the roof covering added, tradesmen
will inevitably need to access the finished roof, which will inevitably
result in disturbance, or breakage, due to tradesmen standing on the
tiles or slates, especially if the rafter pitch is shallow. A roof
covering that is dismantled never goes back the same and if done by
non-roofing tradesmen is often put back incorrectly. Too often slates
are reinstalled using mastic, tile clips and nails are missing,
resulting in problems at a later date. This could have been avoided or
reduced with planning.
Planning does not need to be a time consuming process, and it should not
become the God to be revered, but a tool to be used. Regardless of the
size of the project, a plan, however simple, is needed. In most cases
the planning process is a state of mind whereby a new project
automatically triggers a few notes that set the planning process in
- Time spent training may be hard to
justify in terms of lost earnings but will be more than made up for
by improved quality and reduced remedial works.
- Gather together and read through all
the documentation before you commit yourself to any project. It is
difficult to get it right, and easy to get it wrong.
- During the planning process
you will not get it 100% right, but the more you do it the better
you will get at planning.
by Chris Thomas, The Tiled Roofing Consultancy, 2 Ridlands Grove,
Limpsfield Chart, Oxted, Surrey, RH8 0ST, tel 01883 724774