Don’t Judge a Batten by its Cover

Jul 16, 2015 Off Comments in General News by
Don’t Judge a Batten by its Cover

What does it mean when a roofing batten is dyed a fancy colour? The simple answer to that question is: “Not very much”. A batten being a dyed a particular colour does not by itself mean anything – unless there is more information on the batten than merely a coloured surface.

There has been a lot of fuss in the past year or two, about needing to use the “right” sort of batten for roofing work. Following this, some producers have tried to short-circuit that process by colouring their battens, to try to make them look “official”, but bypassing actually producing anything like a “proper” BS 5534 batten.

You may be aware that BS5534:2014, the Code of Practice that gives recommendations about putting together a safe and permanent roof construction, was revised and re-issued very recently and, in that revision, a number of things about roof design and erection were changed. However, – and here’s a key thing to remember – the way in which roofing battens should be graded and marked was not changed. So it is still a requirement of BS 5534 to grade battens correctly, and also to mark them correctly too. The Standard says nothing at all about them needing to be coloured….and that is where, in the case of certain suppliers, a bit of “kidology” has been allowed to creep in.

The original idea behind putting a dye into the battens’ preservative treatment was to make “graded” battens stand out from the usual, “ungraded” ones (which usually look a bit green in colour, on account of the type of preservative used) and for that reason, the colouring process was originally very successful – with Gold Batten being instantly recognised as a high quality BS 5534 graded batten. You know what they say though, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, or in this case, a way to try and increase market share.

Some producers thought they could sell more battens simply by making them a different colour other than green, but there’s a lot more to a being BS 5534 batten than simply having a nice-looking skin! It’s wise to keep in mind too that colour can mask imperfections in the wood, so the lighter the colour, the better. SR Gold Timber is a prime example of batten colouring and grading done right.

First and foremost, a BS-graded batten must have the number of the Standard marked on it, and that number (sorry to labour the point) is “BS 5534” and not any other BS number. We commonly see ungraded battens sporting the initials “BS 8417”, but that is nothing at all to do with the battens having been graded. BS 8417 actually only covers the timber’s treatment with wood preservatives and, in the case of battens, that needs to be something which is suitable for roofs; which is known in the jargon as “Use Class 2”. However, if the only BS number that you can see stamped onto a batten says something like “BS 8417: UC2” then that batten has definitely not been fully graded and so obviously it is not a “BS Batten”. It may have been treated to some extent against rot, but nothing else will have been done to it, to make it into a “proper” batten that can be used anywhere.

Another thing which must be marked on a fully-graded BS 5534 batten is a code to identify which wood species has been used to make the batten. So there is another Standard – BS EN 13556 – which tells the producer which “letter code” relates to which type of wood that has been used. BS 5534 states that such letter codes must be stamped onto each fully-graded BS Batten, as part of their required marking. So you should look for either “WPCA” – which denotes spruce – or “PNSY” – which denotes pine. Very often, however, since both species may be used in the same parcel, you will see graded battens stamped with the letters “PNSY/WPCA” – which means that they may be made from either type of wood, which is perfectly acceptable. Once again, if there is only the species code and no mention of the standard number BS 5534, then it still is not a “proper” graded batten.

To sum up then: BS 5534 graded battens need to have the number “BS 5534” written on them – not to state the obvious. They also need the species code, and they also have to state the batten size, plus an identification of the producer. If they are also a nice, light colour (such as SR Gold) then that is a bonus. Just remember, colour alone is not enough.