Water Leakage Investigative Testing – Dos and Don’ts

cbeecherBuilding Codes, Building Envelope, GCI Consultants ℠

Building damage caused by uncontrolled water penetration through exterior walls is a serious concern of owners, contractors, architects and product manufacturers. When a building owner has experienced water intrusion into their building typically water leakage investigative testing is needed to identify the issues.

All too often during water leakage investigations the process and subsequent testing are not performed per industry standards. AAMA 511, Voluntary Guideline for Forensic Water Penetration Testing of Fenestration Products is the industry guideline for the investigation process. The AAMA voluntary guideline is based on ASTM E 2128, Standard Guide for Evaluating Water Leakage of Building Walls.

ASTM E 2128 has a proven systematic approach to the evaluation:

A – Review of Project Documents
B – Evaluation of Design Concept
C – Determination of Service History
D – Inspection
E – Investigative Testing
F – Analysis
G – Report Preparation

(A & B) – As shown above, a thorough review of the project’s drawings and submittals is required to properly start an evaluation plan. This review should reveal what, if any, water resistance performance requirements were specified for the wall. As well as the window/door rated performance grades (PG), industry standards, and local codes used for the design of the project.

(C) – The next step is to interview the building’s owner and maintenance personnel to obtain information on the day(s) and location(s) water intrusion has been observed. The leakage history will be used to determine the wind speed(s) and rainfall level(s) for setting up a water leakage testing plan. During this interview, a review of prior remedial work conducted is obtained for further inspections.

(D) – After the background information has been gathered a site inspection is conducted. The major objectives of an inspection program are: to determine as-built conditions, to determine the current conditions of the walls and components including visible and concealed water damage and apparent water paths, and to formulate initial hypotheses about the cause.

(E) – A water leakage investigative test plan is developed and performed. Note: implementing testing before completing the preceding steps in a systematic approach may significantly limit the benefits of the test, and more importantly can lead to incorrect conclusions. The primary purpose of investigative testing is to recreate leaks that are known to occur. Investigative testing is not intended to demonstrate code compliance and most importantly not to create leaks that haven’t been seen in the past.

There are several industry test methods available for investigative testing including ASTM E 1105 and AAMA 501.2. ASTM E 1105 is a water spray test with a pressure differential across the test specimen. Testing should be performed in stages with areas on the exterior isolated from water spray which will assist in identifying the point(s) of water entry. The pressure differential should be started at low pressure (0 PSF) and progress higher until the wind speed during noted leakage occurrences has been tested. All location(s) of water entry on the interior with test pressures and areas isolated on the exterior are fully documented.

Upon completion of water spray testing, isolated areas of destructive testing should be performed to review and identify the exact construction of the wall, fenestration product, and installation.

(F & G) – The results of the water leakage and destructive testing are compiled and analyzed to establish a root cause and effect relationship between wall characteristics and leakage(s) observed. A formal report is written identifying procedures conducted, conclusions from testing, and if requested, proposed remedial work with follow-up testing to verify the adequacy of remedial repairs.

If you are looking for experienced professionals to test your building for water leakage, contact the specialists at GCI Consultants to schedule an investigation. You can rely on us to follow the ASTM E 2128 guidelines and provide actionable plans to solve any issues we find.