Roof Battens, All You Need to Know About Roofing Battens

Roof Battens

If you are not involved in the roofing industry, you likely do not have any idea what roofing battens or roof battening is. Most people think of roofs as being made of the materials that they can see. They look at a roof and see shingles and assume that is what a roof system is, but it is not.

A roofing system is made up of layers of materials that are used to construct a sturdy structure that can withstand the elements and protect the building. Part of the layers of the roofing system can be roof battening.

Understanding more about roof battens is vital for anyone that plans on doing roofing work, needs roof repair or is involved in any area of construction. Having a good understanding of how a roof works starts with understanding each component of the roofing system and how it plays a role in ensuring that the roof is functioning at a high standard.

Roofing Battens

What Are Battens

Let’s get right down to the definition. Roofing battens sometimes called lath for roofing, provide the fix point for materials. Shingles and tiles are affixed using the battens as spacing. Battens are not always used in a roofing system.

Roofing battens or battening, also called roofing lath, are used to provide the fixing point for roofing materials such as shingles or tiles. The spacing of the battens depend on the type of roofing material and are applied horizontally.

The spacing of the roof battening highly depends on the type of exterior roofing material that is going to be used. For example, metal roofing will be attached to special metal roof battens. The batten seams are covered with batten joint and then the metal sheets are attached at specific intervals. The same intervals may not be used for asphalt shingles. The size of the roofing material will direct the spacing of the battens.

This technology has been in use since the 1950’s and a is a tried and true method of roofing that is preferred by many building designers. It delivers the consistent reliable results that has been used successfully for years.

Roof Batten Instalation

Understanding the Layers of a Roof

Every single roof starts with a truss system. The truss system is the skeleton of the roof and are often crafted from wood. Most homes have wooden truss systems. Once the trusses are in place a “deck” is constructed of wood.

The deck is the platform that other roofing material is attached to. The deck is covered with a layer of protective materials to which the shingles or tiles are directly attached to in some cases. In other cases, the battens are installed, and the shingles, tiles or metal sheets are attached to the batten.

Benefits of Roofing Batten Systems

Not every roof uses a batten system for example a membrane system does not use a batten system. Membrane roofing is a flat roofing system. You do not have to use a batten roofing system under most building codes. In some cases, it is necessary, but in most cases using batten on your roof is a choice to gain the benefits of using this system.

There are primarily two options for roofing, a direct to deck system or a roof batten system. The direct to deck system attaches the outside materials like shingles or panels directly to the “deck” of the roof. There are some situations where a roof batten system must be used, like in cases where the HVAC system is on the roof, or in the case of concrete tiles it is best to use a batten system.

There are clear benefits of using batten roofing system over a direct to deck system:

  • Roof batten systems use less fasteners. That means there are fewer fasteners compromising the underlayer of roofing for each square. Direct deck roofing can have as many as two hundred fasteners while the batten roofing has less than fifty.
  • Direct deck systems do not have the same wind ratings as batten roofs have to offer. The technology of batten roofing has been around since the 1950’s and has been shown to withstand greater uplift winds compared to direct deck roofing.
  • Maintenance is easier for batten roofing compared to direct deck roofing options. Batten roofs are easier to access for repairs. They are also easier to manage for solar panel installations.
  • Batten roofing options reduce heat gain in the attic, which in turn puts less stress on the HVAC system, and can curtail energy losses.
  • Batten systems reduce ice damming.
  • The batten roof can reduce heat loss and heat gain.
  • Insulation can be added between the layers of the roof, the batten and the external skin of the roof to increase energy efficiency.

There are a lot of things that a batten roof system can do that a direct deck roof cannot. It can be a more energy efficient option that reduces some of the common roofing problems. The fact that less fasteners are used should be a big enough selling point.

Roof Batten Example

Each fastener that penetrates the underlayment and the deck is a risk factor that moisture will get into the roof. 9 times out of 10 a leak can be traced to a fastener point. With a batten roof there is less penetration, so there is less risk.

Batten roof systems can withstand higher upwind which means there is less risk of losing parts of your roof during the next storm. This added layer of protection is an ideal solution for excessively windy climates.

Maintenance is easier on batten roofs. They are sturdier to walk on for roofers and replacing parts of the roof if necessary is also easier. Instead of removing entire sections of roofing, replacing underlayment, and driving more holes into the roof, the outer roofing material can be pried from the batten and replaced.

Energy efficiency is a big bonus of these types of roofing systems. These systems help to keep the property cooler in the summers and warmer in the winters even when additional insulation is not used above the deck. The natural air flow helps to moderate the temperature.

You can really ramp up the savings by having additional insulation installed above deck between the batten. You can easily cut energy consumption by up to 15% by simply adding more insulation to the roof.

There is the added benefit with a batten roof of getting more use out of your attic space. It will be a cooler space in the summer and a warmer space in the winter with a batten roof. This can be the ideal roofing solution for many different situations.

Reroofing

Re-Roofing

Batten can also be sued for re-roofing purposes successfully. Adding batten to a roof that is in disrepair can be a cost savings. Instead of ripping out all the exterior layer of roofing materials and reinstalling, batten allows a new roof to be installed over the old one.

Using this method to replace a roof can be cost and time savings. It also generates less debris. Many homeowners choose this method when given the option. Re-roofing can be done once in the lifetime of the roof.

It is often done to replace an old worn roof that has “good bones” (no deck damage). It can be done to change the aesthetics of the home as well. Re-roofing using a batten system is an easy way to get a “new” roof without having to go through all the demolition.

Batten also strengthens the roof. You get all the benefits of a new roof without the weeks of construction mess to deal with. This can be great solution for property owners that are searching for an affordable way to replace their roof.

Types of Roof Batten Systems

While roof battens are most commonly made of metal or wood, they can be made of other materials like plastic or composite. There are several different types of batten, some combine two materials to get the needed affect.

For example, elevated battens are standard wood battens that have a block of plastic (in some cases wood) attached to the underside to “elevate” the batten to a certain predetermined height. The elevated batten is used to help increase energy efficiency.

Elevated battens are typically used with tile roofs. They allow air flow, and prevent heat absorbed by the tiles to stay off the underlayment and keeps it from transferring into the attic below. The space created by the elevated batten is a natural form of insulation. It also has the added benefit of keeping moisture off the roof deck.  These types of battens are more expensive then other batten types.

Traditional wood battens are a standard size of 1″x2″x4″ and are constructed of a hardwood. Metal battens are used with metal roof panels. Plastic battens have also made the scene in the last decade but are used far less often than the other types of battens.

Metal Roof Battens

Batten Layout

Battens can be laid out horizontally or in cross hatch sections. As mentioned earlier the spacing between battens largely depends on the size of the shingles, tiles or panels that are being installed. The layout of the battens is very important to the end results.

Most roofing experts agree that consistency in layouts is important to the industry but currently there is not a standardization in place. Typically, battens are installed 24” on center but that can vary depending on building codes. 8d nails or staples are used to secure the batten to the deck boards.

Wood battens are a cost-effective option that are especially important in tile roofing. Concrete tiles can easily be hooked on to the batter, most come with hooks already installed for just that purpose. Penetration of the nails at ¾ inches can decrease the number of penetrations into the underlayment, which of course can reduce the risk of leaks and moisture problems.

Battens are usually installed with a gapping space about every four feet or so. This method of batten installation can help to ensure if any water gets in do to driving rain forces, the water will find the gap and run down the batten and off the roof.

Plastic battens are designed with channels that encourage water to seamlessly run through the batten instead of under the roofing material. Plastic battens are more expensive because of this added design element.

New Roof Battens

Why Are Battens A Great Option for Any Roof?

Adding battens to your roofing system can add cost but that additional cost can be largely recouped with the energy savings. A batten roof can last longer, be more durable, deliver a higher level of energy efficiency.

In some roofing options like tile roofing, battens are a must to ensure tiles are uniformly installed and excess overhangs which can invite water damage are not present. Batten roofing is a great option for re-roofing.

It is also a great option if you plan on installing solar panels on the roof down the road. Solar panels can be a risk to direct deck roofing systems. Solar panel installation on a batten roof means that the deck and underlayment is protected from penetration.

Battens are almost always used on modern metal roofs. If you want to add a metal roof to your structure, metal battens will be a part of the project. In the case of metal roofs getting the longevity out of them relies heavily on the batten placement.

Roofing

Conclusion

Battens are not something most people give a lot of thought to. Unless you are in the roofing industry or the building industry you likely have never considered the importance of these simple materials and how they can affect the performance of a roof.

If you are considering a new roof, consider the value that having a batten roof can add to your property.  Batten roofing options are being rediscovered to help people save energy and get the longevity out of their roof that they are hoping for.