Engineering the Future

Water Testing: Friend or Foe?

04:08:00 PM on 08/31/2010

Based on the title, you probably already know which side of the aisle you fall on. Architects, building owners, testing labs and consultants love water tests that shine a spotlight on any hidden defects that could pose future problems for a structure. Contractors, glaziers and even some product designers rue the day of water testing. Okay, so maybe both of these stances are exaggerations, but for some they aren’t far off.

Why do we get all worked up over water testing? Simple - it is a critical path item on most every project nowadays whose outcome can propel or hinder a project. What we in the industry must realize is that water testing is necessary, but not necessarily bad. The key is to understand the testing purpose, methods and procedures, as well as what is permitted within the scope of the test.

Unfortunately water testing procedures are sometimes misunderstood or flat out not followed. I have seen garden hoses used in numerous AAMA (American Architectural Manufactureres Association) 501.2 tests with no water pressure gauge, AAMA 502 tests performed in high wind conditions and even a fire hose being used in lieu of ASTM E1105 test.

Even when procedures are followed correctly and proper equipment is used, leaks in the field - can and do, still occur in fenestration products that have already been lab certified. How could this be? After all field tests are supposed to be more generous, allowing more air/water penetration to account for field conditions. Construction oversights and deficiencies in the adjacent construction to the fenestration account for much of the leaks observed.  However, when true fenestration leaks do occur, having a good plan in place allows you to solve these issues quickly and correctly.

The following steps will make sure water testing is your friend:

  1. Document early and often – Even before a project takes flight a clear understanding between all parties involved can relieve conflict down the line. Documenting the Who, What, When, Where and How prior to the first lite of glass being installed is vital to avoiding conflict.

    a. Who will be present at the test and who will be performing the test?
    b. What type of test will be needed and what fenestration products will be tested?
    c. When will the testing be performed? It is recommended that all parties involved be present during test days.
    d. Where will the testing be performed?
    e. How many units will need to be tested to satisfy all parties?

  2. Test early – Detecting a leak before it can become a major problem will save you in the long run. Be sure to test a representative sample. After all you don’t want to test your Cadillac when you’ve got a whole line of Yugo’s to go with it. This will only create more opportunity for bigger problems in the future.
  3. Know the test methods, procedures and purpose - This one seems like a no brainer, but it is amazing the amount of confusion surrounding tests using water and air. This is another instance where the details are the difference. Will you use cyclic or static air? What is the rating of the product?  When can you use AAMA 502 vs. AAMA 511? 

  4. Who has your back? - When fenestration leaks occur on lab certified products it is best to promptly involve the manufacturer for insight and help. Kawneer offers a vast array of customer service options from our interactive websites with installation instructions and details to our knowledgeable sales force to helpful regional project managers. Whatever the product question there is always someone in the Kawneer family ready, willing and able to assist you.

So while water testing can reveal leaks and deficiencies, take heart in knowing that revealing those now, will prevent you from seeing the effects of those leaks down the line. Allowing water testing to be your friend will make for a better project now and in the future.


Trivia – In what year was AAMA (American Architectural Manufacturers Association) formed?

Best regards,

Chris Lipp



Great post, Chris! Water testing is VERY important! HTL does it right, too!



Thanks for the kind words Sara.

Performing water testing correctly is crucial for independent labs, such as HTL, as well as for field personnel determining the performance of installed fenestration products. Unfortunately, in my experience, field water testing is more lax when it comes to following proper procedures and documentation. Standards from ASTM and AAMA are making headway into the field community just as they already have into the certified lab community. That said, I feel more attention is needed in the field testing arena. Too much time and money are spent when conflict arises from improper field water testing. The more we can standardize and enforce the field testing procedures the better off the entire fenestration community will be. Thanks for your comment and I hope to hear more from you and the great team at HTL soon.



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