Leadwork or lead working is a practice that has been a mainstay of roofing applications for centuries.
The use of lead sheet to create weather-tight coverings on an array of buildings is a skill. Traditionally, this skill was practiced by plumbers, or Plombiers, who worked this malleable metal to form roof coverings that were designed to last. Today, however, the craft of leadwork has taken on a new guise and those who practice it are in high demand.
This section aims to provide the ultimate guide to leadwork when used for roofing. We will explore the material, its uses, and the application of lead and compare this to examples of our work over time. Interestingly, the use of rolled lead sheet comes with a comprehensive set of guidelines. These guidelines have been set out in The Craftsman’s Guide to Rolled Lead Sheet.
Used in UK construction for centuries, lead whilst a toxic material is only harmful if inhaled or ingested. The risk of inhalation arises where lead is being melted, or through breathing in dust particles contaminated with lead. With regard to ingestion, this might occur through poor personal hygiene, when a user does not follow a few simple rules and procedures.
When handling and working with clean solid lead sheet, risk of exposure to lead is likely to be ‘Not Significant’. BUT – If stripping existing lead sheet from a roof where the underside may be corroded then dust might be present that could be inhaled. In such cases, the operation could be assessed as being a ‘Significant’ risk of exposure, depending on the state of the lead and the time taken in its removal.
Melting down of lead (e.g. for caulking joints) should be carried out at low temperatures (certainly below 500°C) and can be assessed as ‘Not Significant’. PROVIDED – The quantities of lead are small and the melting operation is carried out on open site and/or in a well-ventilated area. However, even in these situations it is recommended that leadworkers wear appropriate personal protective equipment including a suitable face mask and gloves.