The Right Choice in Liquid Roofing

Terry Wain, technical secretary at the Liquid Roofing and Waterproofing Association (LRWA), discusses specification and application best practice in the fastest growing sector of the flat roofing market.

The LRWA recorded an 18% growth in market share for liquid applied waterproofing between 2011 and 2013 alone, which means that liquids are now officially the fastest growing sector of the flat roofing market. A rise in LRWA membership also reflects sector growth with an increase from 11 manufacturer members in 2011, to 20 in 2016.

Additionally many large roofing brands best known for bituminous membranes have added liquids to their ranges, and with this substantial growth, other products such as insulation, adhesives, trims and other components specifically designed for use with liquid systems have been developed, demonstrating the importance and popularity of liquid waterproofing systems in both refurbishment and new build projects.

Making the Right Choice
As with any market sector, the successes of rapid growth does present its own issues, and because of the increased demand for liquid waterproofing, there has been an influx of new manufacturers and roofing contractors emerging into the market, as well as established organisations adding liquid to their range. Whilst manufacturers and contractors alike must relish the new business opportunity, it’s important to ensure high standards are still being met.

When specifying any building product, a contractor needs to know that it will offer genuine, long-term performance aligned to a proven track record. In the flat roofing sector where poor product performance could lead to water ingress, the contractor also needs to be able to pass peace of mind upstream through the delivery partners, all the way to the principle designer, the client and the end user.

It’s therefore important to seek advice from a trusted trade association such as the LRWA which is the only recognised body in liquid applied membranes to produce compliant guidance notes and Codes of Practice. This, coupled with stringent manufacturer membership criteria, is a good place to start before specifying a product.

Quality Assurance
Working with a LRWA manufacturer member ensures quality and in a fast growing market, there are several factors roofing contractors should look out for when specifying a system. These include ensuring manufacturers have management systems that meet ISO 9001 standards, providing trained technical staff to give support from the office and out on site, achieving independent product accreditations such as BBA and ETA certificates, and supplying systems with long term guarantees.

A guarantee is critical to building the confidence of the contractor, the specifier and the end user, and it’s essential that manufacturers offer clarity in their guarantees and demonstrate the true value of a quality-assured product.

It’s also vital that the manufacturers guarantee includes end-to-end support, a technically trained member of staff who has a clear understanding of what could happen in the event of a system failure and site assessments to ensure expertise is built into every aspect of the design, specification and installation process.

Manufacturers should also operate their own approved contractor schemes, ensuring roofing contractors are provided with the full training needed to work with the manufacturers’ products properly and are supported on site to deliver high quality projects.

The product battle is also one we must be aware of as an industry. There are some good product systems sold through distribution networks, but in some circumstances, operatives aren’t being trained properly or don’t have the field service personnel to ensure a quality of application. There are also products being sold without any testing or certification which are simply not fit for purpose, and it is more than likely the general public that end up with these types of products on their roofs.

Skills and Training
The issue of training and skills has had an effect on many sectors in the construction industry, and roofing is no exception. According to the Construction Products Association (CPA) 2015 Skills Report, created in conjunction with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), it stated, “…a lack of skilled staff, outdated qualifications, an ageing workforce, insufficient high-calibre candidates coming into construction, and difficulty accessing skills funding are all holding the industry back.”

With no set regulation on training, it’s notoriously difficult to ensure all operatives work at the same level on the application of the different liquid systems available. By achieving NVQ Level 2 and becoming an approved contractor, this promotes quality standards to both clients and end users.

As part of this drive for quality, the LRWA for example has developed and delivers a Specialist Apprenticeship Program and Specialist Up-Skilling Program, aimed at improving the skill quality of all operatives and supporting the young installers of tomorrow.

As well as contractors taking responsibility of their own training, LRWA manufacturer members must also show commitment and have more involvement in the development and delivery of training in the application of its own products, and the LRWA launched its Basic Competency Programme (BCP) in 2015, which has only enhanced the quality of manufacturer training.

In addition, with the recent announcement that the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) is to make job cuts throughout 2016, now is the time for manufacturers to step up in the training arena.

Looking Ahead
As an association, despite stringent membership criteria and comprehensive training, we cannot rest on our laurels and believe our job is done as the liquid sector continues to grow.

Liquid products vary considerably depending on different chemistries specified, but whether it is a new or a long established system, an overseas import or locally made, it’s important to remember that a quality manufacturer must have the correct certification, technical support, training programme, long-term guarantees and site inspection procedures to ensure peace of mind and quality assurance for the roofing contractor and ultimately, a sound waterproofing system for the end user.

The rapid growth of the liquid roofing sector has brought its successes, but also some key issues which need to be addressed. Whilst we must enjoy the increase in sector demand it’s important to make the right choices from specification to application, to ensure high standards are still being met in the industry.