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Lead or Lead-Free Solder in Roofing Applications?

Lead or Lead-Free Solder in Roofing Applications?

While lead-bearing solders have been a popular choice in roofing applications, there are growing concerns regarding its use because of the potential health effects and impact on the local environment. 

Contact with lead materials can have adverse effects on a person's health if the particulates are inhaled or ingested. 

Below are the benefits of both lead and lead-free solder explained:

Lead-Bearing Solder Benefits

Leaded solders have been used traditionally in most roofing applications because they are easy to work with, have lower melting points as well a lower  cost.  Leaded alloys produce strong, durable joints with strong resistance to expansion and contraction during seasonal ageing.

The lower melting point of alloys such as 50/50 Tin/Lead makes it easy to solder roofing components compared to higher temperature alloys such as lead-free.

Lead-Free Solder Benefits

Lead-Free solder has not only become increasingly popular, but in some municipalities a required form of solder in roofing applications since it is not toxic to humans or ground water systems.

Lead-free solder alloys are mostly Tin alloyed with small amounts of copper and other metals such as Silver, Antimony or Bismuth. 

Lead-free solders have a strong resistance to corrosion as well as a higher tensile strength than lead-bearing solders.

When working with lead-free solders, there isn’t any risk in getting exposed to lead.  Further by using lead-free solder, it doesn’t have any negative affect on ground water systems.

With some metals, such as galvanized steel that requires the curing of a powder coating, lead-free solder is the best option due to its higher melting temperature.

Lead-Free Solder Negatives

Lead-free solder costs more per lineal foot of solder seam compared to tin/lead solders.

Lead-free alloys also flow a bit slower, have a grainier cosmetic appearance and wear out soldering tips at twice the rate compared to working with 50/50 alloy.

Bottom Line

Look to your customer or the general contractor to determine if lead-free solder should be used to produce a job.   It is becoming more commonly used and it could be mandated in some applications.

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