Roofing battens standards and safety

JB Red fully BS 5534 graded batten meets standards and safety

Changing standards

There has always been a British Standard for Roof Battens. However, in the past often scant regard has been taken of it. There have been five major revisions of the Standard over the last fifteen years. Each time the requirements for Roofing Batten has been examined and improved.

The grading rules for battens are set out within:

BS 5534:2014+A2:2018 Code of Practice for Slating and tiling for pitched roofs and vertical cladding.
This requires that roofing battens meet the requirements of section 4.11 and are graded in accordance with Annex ‘D’. Each batten must be marked in accordance with section and be accompanied by documentation set out in section


  • Name of supplier
  • Origin (i.e. species code)
  • Graded in accordance with BS5534
  • Basic size
  • Type of preservative and method of treatment

Marking, each batten should be indelibly marked with:

  • Supplier
  • Origin (i.e. species code)
  • Graded BS5534
  • Size

Before 2005, factory or pre graded timber roofing battens were not available and the NFRC published TB33 – Graded Battens for Slating & Tiling, as an interpretation document and guidance note; this formalised the option of grading on site.

The requirement for all the delivery documentation to conform grading to BS5534 and the requirement to mark EVERY batten with BS5534, made on site grading almost practically impossible.

Until recently, many battens have been incorrectly marked "BS 5534" having had scant or no grading; this situation is now improving but care is still advised. BS 5534 recommends that machine graded battens are produced under a UKAS Quality Assurance Scheme. This is good advice for any factory or pre-graded batten, as the method and extent of grading needs to be confirmed.

Safe Roof System
Following testing HSG33 – Health & Safety in Roof Work, is to be revised. The HSE now recognises that pre-graded 25×50 battens that meet BS 5534 can be used as a foothold, when fixed to rafters set at 600mm centres. If graded battens are used this way then the following safe system of work must also be used:

  • The battens are at least 1.2m long to ensure they span a minimum of three trusses.
  • The battens are only fixed with the recommended nails.
  • The safe system of work dictates that the roofers never deliberately walk on the battens, mid span, between the trusses.
  • The safe system of work dictates that the roofers always walk on the rafter line when installing the tiles and slates.
  • The NFRC have published Health and Safety Guidance Note Q - Correct Installation and Safe use of Slating and Tiling Battens to give further guidance.

Within almost every contract, guarantee or insurance scheme and within building regulations, it states roofing should be carried out to the relevant British Standard – BS5534. Consequently, the roofing batten used needs to meet the same standard.

Importantly Local Authority Building Control and Standard bodies are now recognising the importance of roofing batten meeting the grade set out in BS5534. The NHBC have recently recognised this, and it is now a requirement that only factory graded battens are used on NHBC sites (see NHBC Technical Extra, October 2011, Issue 04).
Most importantly though, is guidance set out in the NFRC TB33 ‘Graded Battens for Slating and Tiling’ states that only battens that have been pre or factory graded to BS5534 can be called or used as roofing battens.

Sustainability & The Environment

Often overlooked, the importance of environmental accreditation when using timber should not be underestimated; this typically occurs at the end of the contract. It is often a contract requirement to use certified controlled wood verifying it is from a legal and sustainable source.

The two main certification bodies are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Program for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification schemes). CPET (Central Point of Expertise on Timber) requires legal and sustainable timber to be used on most Public Sector funded projects (see and most main contractors have a sustainable procurement policy.
Using certified controlled wood provides the most suitable form of evidence. FSC and PEFC certified timber is widely available but should be requested at the time of order to maintain the chain of custody.