Marking EC of Natural Stone products

Since a long time we have been hearing about the marking EC, a measure that will now soon be obligatory for some products of stone from 1 October this year. Perhaps there are some professionals who do not know what exactly it consists of and in what way it will affect them. What is the marking EC? Why is it important? These are the questions addressed in the following article.

The history

Among the measures adopted by the European Commission for the building of a common market, a series of directives have been developed for the harmonisation of certain products. One of these was the Directive 89/106/CEE of the Council of 21 December 1988, relative to the approximation to legal, regulatory and administrative disposition, of the member states for the construction industry products. Later they were modified through a series of dispositions, the main being Directive 93/68/CEE of the Council of 22 July 1993, relative to the brand EC.

The transposition in Spain of these directives were realised respectively by means of the Royal Decree 1630/1992 of 29 December and Royal Decree 1328/1995, of 28 July. However, its entrance in effective vigour has been delayed till the normative development of the directive is finalised, which continues till now, for some families of products.

The committees

The development of the directive has consisted in the elaboration of technical norms and the European Committee for Normalisation (CEN) has been put in charge. The committee, consisting of European organisations on normalisation, out of which have been created almost a hundred technical committees to deal separately with each family of products of construction. In the case of natural stone there have been four committees in charge, the work of which has lasted more than 10 years:

  • CEN/TC 125 " Bricklaying.
  • CEN/TC 128 "Products of discontinuous installation for coverings and wall cladding".
  • CEN/TC 178 " Units for pavements and curbs".
  • CEN/TC 246 "Natural Stone"

Each one of the committees consists of representatives of the member countries of CEN, such as technicians of the relevant administrations, experts in technological centres or representatives of the industry. The activity of each of these committees has consisted in the redaction of the norms of the product, in which the technical requisites and testing methods are established, as well as the testing norms and the norms terminology.

The procedure

Once the norms projects are redacted by the committees, they are sent for a public survey to the member countries of CEN. During the six months of survey there exists the possibility of realising technical and editorial commentaries via organisms of normalisation that act as channels to the position of the sector in each country. Based on these commentaries a new document is elaborated in consensus that is subjected to formal voting for approval. The formal vote has to be approved by a majority of 75%, after which they are published as European Norms (EN) in English, French and German. These norms should be adopted in the official language of each country as national norms within a maximum time period of six months, the existing norms in contradiction with these becoming null and void. In Spain the publication of these norms corresponds to AENOR.

In this way, the EN norms are published as EN national norms, having as identical content the Spanish norm (UNE-EN) which, for example, has as its equivalent in Germany (DIN-EN), and for which the requisites and the testing methods for a determined product are identical in all the member countries of the CEN. Only variations are admitted in the content of national adoption, denominated "national deviations", due to existence of legislation, unique climatic conditions or characteristics or practices in a country that cannot be modified, or can only be done over a long period of time. Some of the product norms contain an informative annexe ZA, in which the parts of the norms that comply with the essential requisites established in the directive are identified. In this way, those chapters of the norms not contemplated in the annexe ZA, have to be understood as being voluntary. In the case of natural stone three norms have been elaborated that do not include this annexe, which corresponds to rough blocks, blocks worked for distinct applications to bricklaying and slabs, so that they are totally voluntary.

However, the companies can choose to show the requisites of annexe ZA, able to do tests distinct to those specified in the product norm, so that they able to demonstrate the equivalence of the applied methods.

The results till now

Till now three product norms have been published. They are the following-

  • UNE-EN 1341:2002: Tiles of natural stone for use in exterior pavements. Requisites and testing methods.
  • UNE-EN 1342:2003: Cobblestones of natural stone for use in exterior pavements. Requisites and testing methods.
  • UNE-EN 1343:2003: Kerbstones of natural stone for use in exterior pavements. Requisites and testing methods.

In accordance with the Resolution of 3 October, 2002, of the Head Office of Technological Policy, published in the Official State Bulletin (BOE) of 31 October, 2002, the three norms took effect on a voluntary basis beginning 1 October 2002, which means they can use the marking EC for commercialisation, the voluntary period ending on 1October, 2003, after which it is compulsory for the products to have the marking EC for legal use and commercialisation.

The majority of the European norms of natural stone that are still to appear are in the project phase (prEN), in an advanced state of development, so that one can expect they will be published within a few months. They are the following:

  • - prEN 771-6: Specification for pieces for fabrication of bricks. Part 6: Pieces of natural stone.
  • - prEN 1467: Products of natural stone. Rough blocks. Specifications.
  • - prEN 1468: Natural stone. Rough Slabs. Specifications.
  • - prEN 1469: Products of natural stone. Slabs for cladding. Specifications.
  • - prEN 12057: Products of natural stone. Modular tiles. Specifications.
  • - prEN 12058: Products of natural stone. Slabs for flooring and staircases. Specifications.
  • - prEN 12059: Products of natural stone. Worked blocks. Specifications.
  • - prEN 12326-1: Products of slate and natural stone for inclined roofs and cladding. Part 1: Specifications.

The requisites

The norms of the products establish a series of requisites for the commercialisation of products, that differ from one product to other. The requisites are of the following types:

Samples: Methods that need to be used for obtaining the representative samples for later testing in the quarries, in the factory or the buildings.

Reference samples: Characteristics of the commercial samples delivered to clients.

Initial testing: Tests that ought to be done before placing the product in the market, to determine the properties declared by the manufacturer and compliance with applicable norm.

Control of production in factory: Consists of tests and internal controls that should be done regularly in the production process and the final product, to assure that the product placed in the market conforms with the relevant norm and with the values declared by the manufacturer.

System of verification of conformity that will be applicable to the product: Depending on the product, in some cases is permitted the declaration of conformity by the manufacturer, and in other cases, the certification of conformity by an authorised organisation will be demanded.

Marking: Information that should be supplied with the product accompanying the marking EC.

The majority of the products of natural stone will have the system "4" of verification of conformity as predicted in the directive, which means that it is enough to make a declaration of conformity emitted by the manufacturer authorising the marking EC under his responsibility. This declaration of conformity, the same as marking EC, should be redacted in the official language of the country where the product will be commercialised.

In certain products of natural stone the system "3" of verification of conformity will be demanded, which implies, moreover, that some of the initial types of tests will have to be done by authorised laboratories. This will basically affect some determined products that, by its application and for its content of combustible material, such as natural asphalt or resins, are subject to requisites of resistance to fire. They can also affect products such as slabs of natural stone for cladding, which are subject to regulation for dangerous substances or safety rules, for example, suspended roofs.

In only unique cases, the system "2+" of verification of conformity will be demanded, which implies certification of conformity by an authorised organisation. It deals with elements of laying of natural stone for use in walls, columns and partitions that have structural function inside the building.

The marking EC is equivalent to a passport inside the UE, given that the member states cannot oppose the transit through its frontiers of the products or commercialisation inside the country. The products imported from third countries should also carry the marking EC, corresponding in this case by making a declaration of conformity to the manufacturer which is legally established inside the UE. This, in fact, can effectively mean a break on imports from certain countries, in which the lack of quality controls of the products allows them to sell at low prices.

The compliance of the product norms does not exempt the producers of the obligation to respect the requisites imposed by other directives, for example, in the question of dangerous substances.

In the same way, the national regulations in construction materials can impose additional requisites to the products for determined uses such as, for example, those related to resistance to ice. In these cases the supplier will be obliged to do pertinent tests and provide the information required by the client.