In Europe lead sheet is an attractive, effective and traditional roofing material which provides long-term weatherproofing, either as sheeting or as a flashing or weathering for chimney flashings, gutter and valley linings, roof apex caps and other weatherings. Certain damp proof courses use lead-sheet as the preferred, long term solution to damp-prevention and it is commonly used for sound-proofing, due to its ability to deaden sound waves
As a roofing material lead sheet is superior to its competitors in several significant ways:
- Recyclable and a low carbon footprint
- Durable and long-lasting
- Low maintenance and low lifetime costs
- Low environmental impacts
- A traditional and attractive building material
Recyclable and a low carbon footprint
Lead sheet is the most recovered and recycled building material in use today. It is 100% recyclable and can be used repeatedly without any loss of performance – there is no need for disposal at expensive landfill sites. In Europe in excess of 95% of lead sheet arising from demolitions is now collected and recycled.
Lead also has the lowest carbon footprint of all metals because the production process requires relatively low levels of energy.
Durable and long-lasting
Europe’s historic monuments provide the best indicator of lead sheet’s durability. Many buildings, such as churches and civic buildings have lead sheet roofs which are hundreds of years old. Lead sheet experiences very low levels of surface corrosion and creates its own surface protective layer, or patina, which inhibits corrosion.
No known substitutes have a life-expectancy that approaches that of sheet lead and on average lead lasts three times longer than other man-made products. Many substitutes deteriorate under UV light, and several require total replacement after as short a period as 15 years. On average lead sheet lasts three times longer than other flashing products.
Lead’s longevity means that architects can safely use it in designs that need to comply with European code requirements for a 60-year design life.
Low maintenance and low lifetime costs
Due to its long life expectancy, lead sheet has a lifetime cost that is considerably lower than substitute products. It is estimated that lead sheet will be almost 50% cheaper over 40 years. The ease of recycling effectively means the true cost of using lead sheet is the initial product cost plus installation cost less its scrap value.
Lead installation is not affected by damp or cold weather conditions, thereby minimising project delays. Man-made alternatives often require the additional expense of adhesives and sealants. While drying times of adhesives can increase labour costs.
Lead has very few laps and joints which results in a high degree of weather tightness. If fitted correctly lead sheet does not require ongoing maintenance and ‘wind lift’ is minimised due to lead sheet’s inherent high specific weight reducing the chance of rainwater causing damp.
Low environmental impacts
Lead’s long life makes it a great choice if you are considering the wider environmental impact of a building. All lead sheet is manufactured from recycled material and there are no concerns with its long-term availability. Its low melting point during the recycling process means it is very energy efficient. This also makes recycling very cost effective meaning a lower environmental impact compared to primary production and resulting in very low CO2 emissions.
Equivalent man-made roofing products have a much shorter life span and often require the use of toxic adhesives to fix them in place and those made with hydrocarbons are not easily recyclable.
A traditional and attractive building material
Some of Europe’s most famous buildings use lead sheet as a roofing material and it forms an integral part of many of the continent’s most distinctive historic cityscapes -it also ages more attractively than synthetic alternatives.
ELSIA members provide training for lead sheet installers and support the maintenance of high quality fitting standards. Working with lead is a highly skilled job and most installations are undertaken by skilled tradesmen.
Ecclesiastical & Heritage World – Lead – Our most environmentally-friendly roofing material
Building Construction Design – Rolled lead sheet – spanning the centuries
 Applying the average rate of corrosion of 0.89g/m²/year to an average thickness of 2mm (equivalent to 22,680g/m²) indicates that, providing it is fitted correctly, lead sheet will last for thousands and thousands of years.