Preventable Curtain Wall Failures10:22:00 AM on 10/13/2010
Of the many topics and products covered by Kawneer’s Commercial Training Department, one that has resonated the most in recent years has been a segment called “Preventable Curtain Wall Failures”.
We all know the cost of call-backs and remedial work can often make the difference between profit and loss. And all too frequently it feels like glaziers are required to accept responsibility for things they cannot control. Contrary to this feeling, when fabricating and installing a curtain wall, the most common causes of system failure are entirely within the glazier’s ability to address and prevent.
I’d like to share with you the most common sources of system failure as reported by our installation managers and curtain wall engineers. These do not lie with the building structure itself or with other trades, but can be addressed and prevented by the glazier.
The first source of potential failures — Seals around and within the curtain wall system. The perimeter caulk joint serves two main purposes: preventing air/moisture from penetrating the façade of the building and separating dissimilar materials. Since curtain wall systems are required to be able to move with the building, wind load drift, live load deflection and creep and shrinkage can all strain and potentially tear inadequate perimeter seals.
Shop drawings and installation instructions will indicate the sizes and locations of the perimeter seals in relation to the framing members.
Shims: Simple decisions like supplying shims of the proper composition and installing them at the correct locations can prevent unnecessary stress on the frame and the glass. Non-load-bearing shims can compress. Wood shims can deteriorate. Shims located under the anchors and not between the anchors and the mullions transfer excessive loads to the anchors themselves and to the perimeter fasteners.
Gaskets: Most gaskets are designed to be cut into individual pieces not to be run continuous around corners. Stretched gaskets of insufficient length will shrink-back. Gaskets run around corners will pull away. Gaps can allow air to infiltrate and condensation can result.
<- Unless using a system with molded gasket assemblies, one continuous gasket will pull away at the corners and allow air and water infiltration.
A third source of potential failures concerns water management.
Because of the manner most curtain wall systems control water, it is critical to properly locate weep holes in pressure plates and covers. It is also imperative to establish and maintain the required air seals in the system. If the pressure plate fasteners are not those designed for the system, are not located as specified in the installation instructions, or the proper level of torque is not applied to them, air can infiltrate and draw moisture with it.
In Kawneer’s 100+ years, we have visited our share of jobsites. Too often expensive remedial work is the result of something as simple as the lack of attention to what is thought of as a minor detail. What are some areas of concern for you?
I’d love to talk to you more about how we can work together to prevent failures and ensure the success of a job.