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CROSS Safety Report

School fascia board failure

Report ID: 137 Published: 1 April 2009 Region: CROSS-UK

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A section of pressed steel gutter and plywood fascia board at a school collapsed during or after a heavy rainstorm.

Key Learning Outcomes

For buildings owners and managers:

  • Regular inspections and maintenance to roofs and gutters, especially after heavy rainfall events, can help keep a structure safe

  • Regular inspections can help to detect issues which need addressing before they become hazardous

Full Report

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The Full Report below has been submitted to CROSS and describes the reporter’s experience. The text has been edited for clarity and to ensure anonymity and confidentiality by removing any identifiable details. If you would like to know more about our secure reporting process or submit a report yourself, please visit the reporting to CROSS-UK page.


A section of pressed steel gutter and plywood fascia board at a school collapsed during or after a heavy rainstorm. The reporter believes that it had been in service for 15 to 20 years. They understand that staff and pupils had walked beneath the failed gutter just minutes before its collapse, narrowly avoiding a serious accident. The gutter was about 200 mm wide x 250 mm deep.

They believes that the down pipe may have become blocked, allowing the gutter to fill during heavy rain. The method of fixing the gutter and plywood fascia board was simply by nailing into the end grain of the rafters, which are at 600 mm centres. Inspection by the reporter revealed that there was no other support. BS 5268 cl states that ‘no withdrawal load should be carried by a nail driven into the end grain of timber’ (Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1: end grain of rafters
Figure 2: inadequate nailing of fascia boards

They therefore regard this fixing detail as inadequate and potentially dangerous and is concerned that the detail might have been used on other institutional buildings.

Expert Panel Comments

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CROSS has previously had reports concerning failures at schools including a brickwork cladding panel collapse, and the collapse of internal wall due to wind load during construction (report 99).

This is another example of a collapse that could have had tragic consequences and the question might be raised as to whether the standards at schools differ from those in other buildings. Apparently trivial details may not receive proper engineering attention but are nevertheless vital. All building work needs to be ‘robust’.

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