FIXINGS & FASTENINGS
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to be used. So, while the dangers of using gas torches
are increasingly recognised, is the roofing industry
clear about the best alternatives, and the financial
implications of not being able to offer them?
Fixing method alternatives
Firstly, there are a couple of trends that suggest not
offering alternative fixing methods for bituminous
roofs will limit access to tenders, and therefore
potential income for roofing contractors.
We’re hearing about a growing number of
property owners, particularly big corporates and
public authorities, who are adopting a ‘flamefree’
policy where the use of gas torches on their
sites isn’t allowed. Perhaps in response to this,
some of the big construction firms now prefer to
work with contractors that can also offer flamefree
fixing. Similarly, the CDM 2015 regulations
“While the use of gas torches
for fixing bituminous roofs is
still common amongst roofers,
it’s clear there’s a movement
towards the use of alternatives
that mitigate the risk of fires on
have made architects accountable for the risks
inherent in their designs. Because of this, more
architects are specifying adhesive or mechanical
fix roofing systems.
Secondly, by only offering fixing methods
that require the use of gas torches, contractors are
risking increased costs. Any roofer will tell you
that, when taking out their public liability insurance,
they’re always asked about their use of hot works.
Insurers see this as more risky, so premiums are
naturally higher, and policies come with a strict set
of precautions for hot works. Failing to meet these
precautions leads to claims being rejected.
And of course, with any fire on a construction
site comes the potential of a fine from the HSE.
The number of HSE prosecutions have trebled in
the last couple of years. Many of these cases have
involved the construction sector, where there’s been
Mechanical and Part-Mechanical fixing solutions
for steel, plywood and concrete decks.
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a particular crack-down on any negligent practice
that puts workers in danger. It’s worth noting that the
average fine per HSE conviction in 2016/2017 was
So, there are some strong arguments that suggest
it pays to offer flame-free alternatives. But what are
the best options?
When used properly, both adhesives and
mechanical fasteners provide a long-lasting fixing of
the waterproof membrane on a flat roof and around
its features or fittings. Neither of which involve a
naked flame. But, considering our climate here in the
UK, mechanical fixing has some clear advantages
To ensure proper curing and adhesion, most
manufacturers of bituminous felt adhesive
recommend application in temperatures of at least
5°C. Looking at weather data for the UK, and when
you make an adjustment for the average rooftop
wind chill factor, there would have been 120 days in
2017 when these adhesives couldn’t have been used.
That’s a third of the year!
Mechanical fixings are also quicker to install
because they don’t need time to cure. And, at the end
of the roof’s useful life, a mechanically-fixed system
is easier to recycle.
While the use of gas torches for fixing bituminous
roofs is still common amongst roofers, it’s clear there’s
a movement towards the use of alternatives that
mitigate the risk of fires on construction sites. Savvy
roofing contractors should be evolving their working
practices now, and ensuring their people understand
what the best alternatives are, and know when and
how to use them.