Supplier Profile: SSQ

Supplier Profile: SSQ

Despite the current challenges facing the sector, SSQ says it is in a strong position to keep delivering for its customers. PBM reveals more.

Forty years haven’t dimmed London-based slate supplier SSQ’s passion for natural materials — and as it enters its fifth decade, the company says it remains committed to bringing quality products to merchants, roofers, specifiers and homeowners around the country.

And the firm argues that its long track-record, full of ups and downs like the life of any business, means it has been better positioned than many to weather an extremely turbulent and unpredictable few years.

Of course, that is not to suggest the business has managed to escape two years of unprecedented supply chain disruption entirely unscathed, as founder and Managing Director Ahmed El-Helw explains: “First came Brexit, then the enormous upheaval brought about by COVID. Now the most serious phase of the pandemic is over, but we’re faced with soaring inflation and a worsening cost of living crisis.

“Any of those issues alone would pose major difficulties for industries such as ours — taken all together, the scale of the challenge has been huge.”

He continued: “Unsurprisingly, we’ve not avoided that. No business could escape it entirely. But on the whole, I’m very proud with how we’ve coped. With only a few exceptions, we’ve been able to continue offering great products, large volumes and short, reliable lead times throughout this trying period.”

So how has SSQ managed this? A key factor has been its “long, unusually close relationships” with its suppliers.

30 years of friendship

For example, earlier this year, members of the SSQ team travelled to Spain to celebrate thirty years of working with Del Carmen, the supplier of its premier Spanish slate. Dozens of the firm’s customers, employees and other friends from throughout the sector descended on O Barco de Valdeorras, Galicia to mark the momentous milestone.

Despite the current challenges facing the sector, SSQ says it is in a strong position to keep delivering for its customers.
The SSQ team travelled to Spain earlier this year to celebrate thirty years of working with slate supplier Del Carmen.

Led by members of the Spanish family who have run it for generations, attendees were given a tour of the hugely impressive Del Carmen quarry, just outside the village of La Bana in the heart of Spain’s slate-quarrying region. The trip culminated in an evening of good food and celebration back in O Barco, with nearly a hundred people in attendance.

Ahmed El-Helw said: “People said I was naïve when I first began dealing with Del Carmen thirty years ago — that they’d steal my customers by encouraging them to buy direct instead. But that’s never happened. The Del Carmen family are loyal, honest, sincere people, and it was a joy to reaffirm the ties we first made in La Bana all those years ago.”

First-class cladding

The latest addition to the SSQ offering, though, is cladding made from the company’s signature phyllite product, Riverstone. Available in thicknesses of 1cm, with tolerances of between 8–10mm, it is said to differ from many slate cladding products in that the individual slates offer a rough, natural surface on both sides.

Riverstone cladding has been tested with the ARDEX X7Gplus adhesive, and achieves EN 1542:1999 standard for tensile bond strength when fitted this way. Furthermore, the product meets an impressive array of other technical performance standards — including EN1936 for density and porosity, and results of just 0.2% in EN13755 for water absorption, which means the risk for freeze-thaw damage is minimal.

Fire rating

Aside from events like Brexit and the pandemic, recent years have also seen sweeping changes in the sector in the aftermath of the fire at Grenfell Tower. The government went on to ban combustible materials above 18 metres on residential buildings. In SSQ’s part of the industry, however, this has caused some confusion.

It’s only natural that more and more prospective customers want to know what changing regulations mean for the installation of slate roofs, but slate and phyllite roofs have been unaffected because they’re materials that have been extensively proven to not be combustible.

Approved Document B of the Building Regulations states: “roof covering products (and/or materials) defined in Commission Decision 2000/553/EC of 6 September 2000, implementing Council Directive 89/106/EEC, can be considered to fulfil all of the requirements for the performance characteristic ‘external fire performance’ without the need for testing”.

Despite the UK’s departure from the European Union, the particular EU Directive referred to above is still in force — and it lists natural slate as one of the materials exempt from testing due to its long-established outstanding fire performance. All SSQ’s natural slate can therefore be used wherever non-combustible roofing products are required.

Ahmed concludes: “Who knows what the coming years will bring — but I believe that SSQ has the strong foundations, the outstanding products and the passion and expertise to continue to thrive and grow.”

Click here for more information on SSQ’s range of products and support services for merchants.

Fact File

Key Contacts: Barry Saltmarsh, UK Sales Director

Company Address: 301 Elveden Rd, London NW10 7SS

Product range: Del Carmen slate, Riverstone phyllite

Trade Associations:  NFRC, CORC, GDLA, LPOC, SPAB; Merchant buying groups — NBG, Fortis, H&B

No of staff: 100

Marketing support: Displays, literature, giveaways, branch training

Distribution / Delivery Lead time: Nationwide, 5-7 business days

Company comment: “For over forty years, SSQ has been bringing premium quality natural slate and phyllite to customers across the UK and beyond. Beginning with first-class Spanish slate, sourced from the celebrated Del Carmen quarry in North-West Spain, the company has since expanded its range to also encompass Riverstone phyllite, extracted at its own quarry in Argentina.

“Expert teams on the ground in both Spain and Argentina ensure that the company’s rigorous quality standards are upheld, and SSQ products remain highly sought-after by roofers, architects and homeowners all over the world.

“As well as being used extensively as an alternative to indigenous slate across the UK, especially in South-West England, SSQ has also supplied customers in projects in Australia, New Zealand and America.”

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