Lead was one of the earliest metals discovered by mankind and its use dates back to around 6500 B.C. with common usage starting from around 3000 B.C. The Babylonians and Assyrians used lead sheet in the construction of some buildings and it was used by the Chinese to make coins around 4000 years ago. It was, however, the ancient Romans that really popularised lead by using it for making water pipes, lining baths and using it in paint.
In medieval Europe, lead became very popular in the construction of roofs and guttering and for statues and ornaments. One of the key reasons for the popularity of lead in roofing at the time was the fact that, unlike the wood or slate shingles that were so common, lead was very flexible and malleable. This meant that the lead could be easily bent to fit uneven or awkwardly shaped roofs, allowing for a much better fit.
Another important reason for the use of lead is the fact that it is not easily corroded. Unlike alternatives such as iron and steel, it does not need protection by painting as its surface is covered by a thin grey film of oxidised lead which forms a natural protective barrier. In its un-oxidised state, lead is a shiny metal with a bluish white colour but it oxidises very quickly and easily leading to the grey colour more commonly associated with the material.
While lead has a number of practical benefits owing to its physical properties, the last few decades have really highlighted what is, perhaps, leads most desirable quality as a building material. Unlike almost all modern alternatives, lead is highly recoverable and recyclable. It is far more environmentally friendly than the alternatives made by the petro-chemical industry and has a lifespan far greater than many of the other metal alternatives. In fact, lead roofing commonly last over 200 years and has been known to last as long as 500 years in some cases. This combination of longevity, recyclability and the fact that lead is a naturally occurring material which doesn't have to be synthetically created all adds up to a product which meets the demands of 21st century sustainability requirements.
Finally, from a purely aesthetic perspective, lead (like copper) is one of the few materials that has a tendency to look better with the passage of time. Rather than corroding or falling apart, lead has a tendency to suffer the elements very well and, over time, it will acquire a beautifully weathered appearance which has graced, and continues to grace, some of the world's most beautiful and stunning buildings.
MY LeadWorks is a true "one-stop shop" because, in contrast to many other leadwork contractors, all of the work is carried out "in house" without any subcontractors. We use traditional techniques and carry out our work using both milled and sand cast lead (depending on the specific of the application) and using the correct detailing according to the guidelines and practices set by The Lead Sheet Association. All work is carried out professionally on and off-site working closely with architects and local authorities.
There's a saying that we like to use: "Don't let the lead work you...you work the lead."