Managing Risk: support for business

Theft of lead

The theft of external lead from schools and other buildings shows no sign of going away. Scrap lead fetches large values a metric tonne. It’s estimated the cost of theft of external metalwork from schools, churches and other listed buildings is more than £50 million a year.

The theft of lead not only involves the cost of replacing it, but also the property damage due to water penetration and the disruption that results.

Practical advice

First, have a good look around your property and make a note of any external lead work, its location, how easy it is to access, its likely value to thieves, and the impact of its loss. Second, to help prevent your property from becoming a target, try the following:

  1. Make access to the grounds or property harder by:

• Ensuring your boundary fencing is in good condition, and locking access gates when the property is not in use

• Encouraging staff and neighbours to be vigilant and noting the make and registration numbers of any suspicious vehicles, or any unusual activity

• Restricting access by vehicles to property.


  1. Make access to external lead work harder by:

• Removing tall trees close to buildings

• Storing ladders securely

• Locking away wheelbarrows or trolleys, thieves can use to move stolen lead

• Storing wheelie bins away from the building and locking them in secure areas

• Removing bushes or other vegetation close to buildings thieves could hide in.


  1. Other things you can do include:

• Installing security lighting

• Fitting infrared CCTV systems, where possible

• Painting lead with tar so it’s harder to remove

• Apply non-drying anti-climb paint to roof downpipes and gutters – to avoid legal issues, only apply paint 2.5 metres above ground level and post suitable warning signs

• Apply DNA grease paint to help the police convict thieves.


  1. Inspect your property frequently.

Look for signs of suspicious activity or water damage to internal decorations. This could indicate the removal of external metalwork.

Theft of lead

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