What are the differences between battens?

Since the revised code of practice for slating and tiling came into force over three and half years ago, all roofing battens must comply with BS 5534:2014 requirements. This means they cannot be graded on site and must be pre or factory graded and every batten you use must be indelibly marked to show it is graded to BS 5534, as well as showing supplier, origin, size and type of preservative (if applicable).

However, the fact that all battens must comply with BS 5534 requirements, does not mean that they are all exactly the same when it comes to quality and performance. Indeed, it is surprising how many differences there can be between similar looking roofing battens - from the way they are graded, through to the type of timber they are made from and the preservative they are treated with.

To help make it easier to choose from the vast range of roofing battens on the market, we’ve put together a handy checklist of things to look out for:

1 – Grading stamp - only battens that have been pre or factory graded to BS 5534 are actually allowed to be called roofing battens. Make sure there is an indelible stamp on the batten saying BS 5534 and never risk using one if it hasn’t. If you have any doubts at all, check with the manufacturer. Another additional quality assurance is third party certification. JB-Red is third party certified by the British Board of Agrément and this is also included on the stamp.

2 – Batten colour – The issue of batten colour has caused some confusion. Whilst the distinctive red colour of our JB-Red battens does give peace of mind that you are using a BS 5534 compliant batten, this is not necessarily the case for all battens. Please don’t assume that just because it is coloured, that a batten meets the required British Standard. It must also have the correct stamps and supporting documentation.

3 – Timber – The type of timber used for a roofing batten is quite significant, so do check this. The species of tree from which the timber has come from should be stamped on the batten. We only use slow grown imported redwood or whitewood for our JB-Red battens. Redwood is stamped on the battens as PNSY (Pinus Sylvestris) and whitewood is stamped as WPCA (Picea Abies). All of our roof battens are cut from kiln dried sideboards as they are less likely to distort.

4 – Drying process – Timber which is too wet is prone to mould growth and potentially rotting. However, it must be dried in a controlled way to prevent defects such as warping and splitting. Check that battens you buy are kiln dried as this helps to stabilise the timber.

5 – Grading processRoof battens must be pre graded before they get to site, this can be done visually or by a machine. We believe that only mechanical grading, using camera and laser scanning technology, is able to produce the most accurate and consistently graded roofing battens. Our JB-Red roofing battens are put through a state-of-the-art laser grading machine called Goldeneye, which scans the battens in intricate detail, by the millimetre, to deliver a high level of accuracy, consistency and ultimately, quality assurance.

6 – Quality checks – Ask what quality checks the battens go through. Our timber is quality checked at every stage of the process. Goods inward check the raw material for conformity to our buying specification, the material is checked again before it goes through the Goldeneye scanner to ensure no deterioration has taken place, an operator is present on the scanner to check for compliance and the battens are checked again at the end of the process. A number of pieces are also taken out every hour and undergo a full quality check for compliance with BS 5534.

7 – Treatment – Roof battens should be preservative treated to Use Class 2 in accordance with BS 8417. Different manufacturers use their own types of preservative treatment and may offer different guarantees as a result. JB-Red battens use a patented next generation technology preservative called MicroPro, which has a unique red pigment and carries a 60 year lifetime guarantee against insect attack and wood rotting fungi (when installed correctly in accordance with the requirements of Usage Class 2).

8 – Sustainable sourcing – Make sure that the timber in the battens you are buying is sustainably sourced. Look for FSC or PEFC Certification.