Ask the Expert – Keystone Lintels


Arron Ross, Specification Executive at Keystone Lintels, discusses their innovative lintel range and why they are a popular choice for house builders  

What products/services does Keystone Lintels provide? 

Keystone is the largest supplier of steel lintels in the UK and Ireland. From our standard range of galvanised steel lintels (which are also available in stainless steel), to our special lintels, windpost systems, non-combustible cavity tray lintels and Keyslip feature lintels, the breadth and quality of the Keystone product range covers endless structural solutions for even the most creative building designs. Furthermore, one of our latest innovations, the award winning Hi-therm+ lintel, has set a new standard for thermal efficiency in steel lintels. It incorporates a central thermal break and is up to five times more thermally efficient than a standard lintel.  

In unison with its wide range of lintels, Keystone provides a host of complementary services that include competitive, value-engineered free of charge quotation scheduling and specification, load calculations, PSI value calculations, drawing tool aids and on-hand technical expertise. To increase product and industry knowledge among specifiers, a series of CPDs are also available to architects, engineers, energy assessors and housebuilders on all of Keystone’s award-winning structural solutions. 

What makes the Keystone Lintels product range innovative?  

Keystone Lintels stands out for its ability to challenge conventional design boundaries and effectively adapt its product range to meet industry demand. Understanding that no two projects are the same, the Keystone team prides itself on finding solutions to reach a client’s ambitions. With our in-house R&D team continuously pushing boundaries in terms of product innovation, Keystone has time and time again proven there are no limits to what end results steel lintels can achieve; both aesthetically and functionally.  

For example, following the Grenfell tragedy, we worked closely with the industry; including housebuilders, accreditation bodies, warranty providers, architects and brickwork contractors to find a solution around the numerous issues with the detailing of steel lintels and separate cavity trays. This led to the development of our innovative, non-combustible cavity tray lintel (NCCTL) solution, which provided builders with a simple, easy to install one-piece product, whilst simultaneously exceeding the minimum fire rating requirements within Part B of the regulations. 

Keystone’s engineers stay on top of the latest trends and demands in residential construction to turn concepts into cutting-edge reality. So, whether a project requires a complex shape, size, finish or structural capacity, Keystone has the innovative lintel solutions and know-how to deliver both safety and the desired design. It’s for reasons like this why its range has become the go-to for housebuilders pursuing individuality in projects.  

Which are some of the most popular products for new build properties? 

Our standard lintel range has always been at the forefront and serves as the bread-and-butter of our business. However, looking ahead at industry change, particularly to the ever-increasing need for sustainable design solutions, we can expect an even greater demand for our Hi-Therm+ lintels; even more so than we’re already seeing at the moment. Additionally, we’ve found that our innovative special lintel solutions have become more and more integral to modern architectural designs such as bay windows and curved walls; with many of our bespoke solutions even featuring in standardised house-types for numerous national housebuilders. 

Why would you recommend using steel lintels instead of other alternatives such as RCC or timber?  

Steel lintels offer many advantages over traditional timber and RCC alternatives. Generally, the balance of steel’s inherent structural properties, recyclability, and buildability on site make it an optimal material choice for many scenarios.  

First of all, steel is robust; meaning the lintels are far less prone to damage on site, and when comparing to another robust material such as reinforced concrete, a steel lintel is the lighter option. This offers far easier manual handling on site and makes the installation process that much faster. By using the pre-galvanised mild steel as a standard for our lintels, the zinc coating offers protection against rust and corrosion, allowing our lintel range to meet the lifespan requirements set out by BLP for mild steel, cold formed lintels. Additionally, we can also supply our lintels in grade 304 or 316 stainless as and when required, such as when a project is near a coastal region or when the A1 fire rating is a key design consideration. This also increases the lifespan of the lintel; which can be particularly important for projects such as residential care homes, schools and prisons.  

A steel cavity lintel is a practical one-piece solution that provides numerous benefits from a buildability aspect. For example, it provides a level of inherent stability to a cavity wall; which isn’t achievable when using a split timber or concrete lintel option. This in turn can reduce the amount of wall ties needed when using a steel cavity lintel and also cut the installation time in half. Our cavity lintels also come with factory-fitted insulation, which eliminates the need for site operatives to cut their own, which, if cut incorrectly, could violate the part L requirement of continuity of insulation within the wall cavity.  

Furthermore, the steel cavity lintel can also go a long way in guarding against damp issues. Because they’re made from folded steelwork, this physical fold prevents moisture from tracking from the outside, across the cavity and into the inner leaf. Additionally, the top-hat shape of the lintels provides an easy ‘guide’ for site to drape the DPC over to prevent moisture getting in below. In contrast, it can be rather tricky to correctly lay over a split lintel detail such a timber and RC solution, which could cause water to pool in the cavity if there’s any sagging within the DPC. 

Paired with steel’s environmental benefits of being 100% recyclable, these installer-friendly and reliable performance attributes help explain steel’s growing dominance as the modern sustainable lintel material. 

How does Keystone Lintels help to promote sustainability? 

Whilst we’ve been working away over a number of years, the past few years in particular have seen a huge push within our group to prioritise sustainable growth and development within the business. We’ve appointed a dedicated sustainability manager to make effective change and establish a sustainable framework for the future, using the three pillars of sustainability – Our Planet, Our Products, Our People – as the foundation of our plan.  

Looking at the environment, we’ve already made numerous changes such as switching all of our sites to a 100% renewable energy tariff. Upgrades to our machines have also reduced energy consumption. Our forklifts are also now electric across all our manufacturing sites, further reducing emissions. However, we acknowledge there’s always room for improvement, and we’ve got a strong laid out plan to achieve our goals. 

Additionally, sustainability plays a huge role in defining our supply chain management. We actively reduce, reuse and recycle materials at all manufacturing sites. Our packaging for steel lintels is also fully recyclable. We’re constantly looking to challenge our supply chain by looking at lower carbon steel mills. Moreover, given an increasing demand in requests for Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), we’ve spent a lot of time and resources to ensure that these will be available for our lintel range early 2024. This will allow our customers to track their carbon footprint far easier when looking to use our products.  

Our sustainability efforts also showcase our social commitment – both internally and externally. From internal employee fitness incentives with the MIND charity, the health and wellbeing of our staff is fundamental to our success. We also donate lintels to NHBC training schools and sponsor initiatives such as Skillbuild and The Guild of Bricklayers; helping to develop the next generation of skilled workers in an industry where there’s a real shortage of skilled trade presently. Simply put, sustainability at Keystone Lintels extends from our infrastructure to end users. 

What is the Hi-therm+ range and how does it help to reduce carbon emissions?  

Hi-therm+ is a lintel with a central thermal break and dramatically reduces thermal bridging through a junction with beneficial cost and performance outcomes. 

Building Regulations Part L sets the minimum standards for energy performance of new and existing buildings. In the latest changes to Part L, a mandatory (FEES) Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard has been introduced in addition to the original (TER) Target Emission Rate which measures CO². 

The introduction of FEES is based on the principal of preventing energy waste by ensuring the fabric of the building is adequately insulated and airtight. As the fabric of the building will remain for the lifetime, getting the fabric right at the beginning will save energy for the whole life of the dwelling, meaning more efficient homes. 

The FEES target puts focus on the thermal performance of the building fabric i.e. walls, floors, roofs and the materials / components that make these elements up. Lintels are in most cases the most significant thermal bridge, meaning lintels can have an important impact on the overall thermal performance of a building. 

For example, in a modern well insulated 3-bedroom house with a floor area of 60m², the heat loss through a standard lintel can account for approximately 6% of the overall heat loss through the fabric of the house. Using a Hi-therm+ lintel reduces this figure to 0.25% virtually eliminating thermal bridging. 

Why would you recommend housebuilders and housing developers choose Keystone Lintels?  

When it comes to quality steel lintels for housebuilding projects, Keystone Lintels ticks all the boxes. With a vast product range meeting diverse specification requirements, housebuilders can find the perfect solution for their structural requirements. However, our service levels really stands us apart and solidifies us as the perfect partner. Our customer support goes above and beyond standard expectations – quick lead times, expert technical support, logistics flexibility, and seamless communication. It’s why the company has won six industry awards for both product innovation and service in the past year alone. 

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Media Contact
Joseph Clarke
Editor, Showhome
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 920

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