Precious copper roof cladding

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Existing Building Issues

The price of metals continues to rise on world markets. In a previous article we discussed a road sculpture being stolen for its metallic content. Click here to read. But believe it or not, copper cladding and lead flashing have now become so valuable that thieves have taken to stealing them from the roofs of existing buildings.

Copper cladding stolen. The photographs below show workmen replacing the copper cladding to the roof of a school in Dublin. Despite the barbed wire and security cameras, thieves managed to get onto the roof of a two story portion of the building and remove a section of the copper sheeting. This unfortunately wasn’t discovered until rain penetrated the roof damaging the internal ceiling in the process. As the school were on holidays when the cladding was taken the security tape had been overwritten and couldn’t be used as evidence. This particular roof cladding had been in place for 40 years and there was no record of any of it being the subject of a robbery before. What ever price the thieves obtained for the copper was vastly less that the thousands of euro it cost to replace and repair the damage caused. Two other schools in the area, which had roofs clad with copper as well, also had sections of their copper roofs removed at the same time.

Lead flashing stolen. It’s not just copper that is being removed. I have known of other buildings where the lead flashing we detailed to flash the upstand wall for a flat roof was stolen. It occurred at the end of the re-roofing project and again we only discovered the problem after water started to enter the building. Lead has been a very common building material for hundreds of years but I am not aware of similar robberies in the past.

The future. A possible solution to it would be tighter regulation of scrap metal merchants. The thieves are presumably selling the metal for scrap. If the price of metal continues to rise then tighter regulations will be required. These could take the form of scrap merchants requiring identification from persons selling to them and proof of where the material was sourced. This would make the job of catching these criminals a lot easier.

Copper roof cladding stolen from roof
Copper roof cladding stolen from roof
Last section of replacement copper cladding being installed
Last section of replacement copper cladding being installed

2 thoughts on “Precious copper roof cladding

  1. A number of Architects / Engineers / Cost consultants we are currently advising are refusing to use copper / lead / zinc and opting for PVC, PIB, TPO etc to forestall this thievery. The membranes chosen can have the standing seam affect and can be coted in Zinc / Copper oxide paints to very much mimic the real thing. However – no lifetime warranties ,but expected life data now exceeding 35 years for a number of the systems – this coupled with the economies of purchase and installation are making this option the way of the future given the issues you have highlighted in your article.

    Ed Cronnelly
    MD/ Owner
    Bidcon – Roofing and Cladding Specialists.

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