Field testing of building exteriors for water penetration, usually simply referred to as “water testing,” is essential for identifying manufacturing and construction defects in windows, doors, skylights, and other openings in the building envelope.
So why’s it important? According to Architect Magazine, water intrusion makes up more than 70% of construction litigation. Water testing can help you avoid those unnecessary costs and headaches.
Water testing works by determining the resistance of manufactured windows, curtain walls, skylights, and doors to water penetration. Proper water testing methodology follows the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) E 1105 standard. Under that standard, water penetration failure occurs when water leaks beyond a plane parallel to the vertical plane of the assembly’s innermost projection, not including interior trim and hardware.
At GCI, we deploy a rigorous field test that is based on laboratory certification tests and simulates the conditions of a wind-driven rainstorm. Field testing is necessary because laboratory testing cannot always duplicate real field results. Construction, environmental influences, or issues occurring between shipping and installation can significantly affect the performance of materials, which are all factors that can’t be accounted for in a lab.
How It’s Done
Water testing measures penetration by applying water to the outdoor face and exposed edges of the tested assembly with a static external air pressure higher than the pressure on the indoor face. Not only will it determine the resistance of assembly components themselves, but it can also reveal leakage between those assemblies and the surfaces in which they are installed. While a manufactured component may successfully meet ASTM E 1105 water testing criteria against leakage into the building itself, water may penetrate an assembly, leading to degraded performance of materials.
Water testing is typically conducted by sealing a chamber to the interior face of the assembly being tested, then the air is exhausted from that chamber to produce pressure differentials similar to those produced by weather. A rack of calibrated water nozzles sprays water at the proper rate on the exterior surface. The air pressure differential may be uniform (constant) or cyclic (varied). It’s important to note that air pressure varies greatly across the building envelope and the water testing methods applied should incorporate an understanding of that variation. Though water testing uses similar equipment, air infiltration measurement is not included as part of the procedure.
When to Test
Water testing can be conducted any time between initial assembly installation and construction completion. Many of our clients come to us for one-day water testing, which is conducted upon the completion of construction. Such tests are certainly useful and productive, but we strongly advise earlier engagement in the process as it can help contractors and building owners avoid costly, more complex issues.
Earlier tests conducted upon initial installation provide easier inspection of interior surfaces for penetration and identify the precise point(s) of penetration. More importantly, with early testing, fabrication, and installation problems can be discovered at a time when corrections can still be made easily and at a much lower expense.
Better still, engaging the full scope of services of a building envelope consulting firm like GCI can help identify not only water penetration but other building envelope issues at the planning and specification stage. By employing full-scope testing, potential problems can be solved before windows and other assemblies have even been ordered. One-day testing can reveal the same problems but by then it’s possible these issues will have compounded.
While building codes may not require it, every new construction project should be water tested regardless of size. Many smaller projects don’t incorporate water testing simply to keep construction costs lower but any financial advantage quickly disappears when windows or doors start to leak. Post-construction water damage issues like mold or moving the building’s occupants cost much more than early testing and consultation. Save yourself the worry and financial burden of possible water damage by scheduling a water test as early as possible in the construction of your next building.
Let GCI Help!
With over 30 years of experience in investigating everything and anything that can go wrong in a building envelope, GCI is one of the best tools you can deploy when defending your building against issues such as water penetration. If you’re interested in our services, drop us a line!