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In the same way that women accuse men of
being reluctant to stop and ask for directions when they get lost, some
specifiers accuse tradesmen of rarely reading the fixing instructions
that are supplied with the products that are specified.
So why do manufacturers supply instructions with some
products and not others?
It would be ideal if all products were generic, like nails, battens,
clay plain tiles or natural slate, which have been around for centuries.
In that time the method of use has changed very little. The changes that
have taken place have developed over time to allow one generation of
slaters and tilers to pass on the techniques to the next generation. But
the pace of progress gets quicker and new products are being launched
onto the market every year, and we need to know how to fix and use these
products, even if we have never seen them before. It is for this reason
that fixing instructions are essential.
While proprietary products may be similar to another manufacturer’s
product, each will be unique, and will need to be explained. Therefore,
it is important that the tradesman who fixes the product or system, in
association with other roofing products, has the most detailed
information on the fixing method that is available.
The specifier, who is more interested in size,
performance and quantity, tends to have technical literature rather than
fixing instructions. The fixing instructions should be clear, easy to
read and illustrated. Unfortunately, some contain too many words and no
illustrations, others have too much irrelevant information crammed onto
a small piece of paper, while some are well thought out and cover every
But regardless of how good, or bad the fixing
instructions are, they will never address every situation. There is
always need for good technical backup to allow tradesmen to ask the
manufacturer directly what should be done for those situations that are
not covered by the instructions.
Language / instructions
We expect all fixing instructions to be in English, but they should be
in the language that the tradesman can read, and using measurements in
the right format to be of use. English is not the native language of all
tradesmen working in the UK, and this can be a problem where quality
control and health and safety are concerned. For this reason cartoon
type instructions are more universally understood. Unfortunately not
everything can be explained this way.
Fixing instructions are normally included in the pack
as a piece of printed paper or a small booklet, or they may be printed
on the packaging. Either way there is no reason why they should not be
available for even the smallest project or repair.
Having the instructions on the carton is helpful for
the tradesman to read prior to opening the pack, as once opened will not
be returnable if it is wrong. But unfortunately if left out in the open
most packaging deteriorates and becomes unreadable. Also fixing a
packaging into the A4-size property maintenance file is not convenient.
The majority of companies use A4 fixing instructions that are folded
into a trifold booklet, or an A5 booklet, as it is the most convenient
size for most situations. The type of paper can vary from cheap
photocopy paper to laminated heavy duty paper that is not affected by a
shower of rain. More companies are making their fixing instructions
available on their websites so they can be downloaded and read prior to
the material arriving on site.
This allows the preparatory work to be done
correctly, often by another tradesman, such as the carpenter with the
fascia board height, long before the materials arrive on site.
Liability / risk
There is another side to fixing instructions which should be taken into
consideration. If the manufacturer does not supply any instructions, and
the tradesman uses the product, the tradesman has to decide how to fix
it. If it fails, it is the tradesman’s responsibility.
This approach is not seen as being very user friendly,
and repeat sales can be affected. Supplying some brief instructions is
helpful and can guide the user; but if the tradesman uses the product
outside of the conditions that are quoted, they are back to being
responsible. If the instructions are incorrect or out of date then the
manufacturer could be responsible, if the installation is undertaken in
accordance with the instructions, and fails.
If, however, the instructions are complete and accurate
and the installation is not undertaken in accordance with those
instructions, the manufacturer is then not liable if it fails.
Therefore, good fixing instructions protect the manufacturer from
complaints and claims from customers. Following the instructions exactly
protects the contractor and tradesman.
In most instances the instructions agree with the
technical literature and specification, but occasionally they do not. In
such instances the differences should be brought to the attention of the
specifier as this could develop into a contractual dispute, especially
if it affects another aspect of the construction. In most instances it
is the fixing instructions that are deemed to be the prime document that
should be followed, but not always.
Tradesmen on site who do not read the fixing
instructions are vulnerable to either invalidating any guarantee that
may be provided, and may also be taking on liability for the product if
it fails in use. Therefore, however tedious it is, instructions should
be read and followed, and at least one copy of the instructions saved in
a file in the dry, for reference both during the contract, and long
after if there is a dispute.
Instructions are good if read, understood and used, but
dangerous if not. In court, both sides are unlikely to be right.
- Always look for, read and save all
instructions with proprietary products.
- If the instructions do not cover the
intended situation, contact the technical/sales department of the
product manufacturer to check, and report back to the specifier for
- Never guess how the product should
be used – you could be wrong.
- Never be afraid to ask for
directions, manufacturers prefer that their products to be used
correctly rather than abused.
by Chris Thomas, The Tiled Roofing Consultancy, 2 Ridlands Grove,
Limpsfield Chart, Oxted, Surrey, RH8 0ST, tel 01883 724774