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Fenestration Forum: April 2016

Success in-situ

March 23, 2016  By Brian Burton

Manufacturers can minimize their difficulties with on-site or “in-situ” testing by adhering to certain well-established quality-control principles, which can be important to reduce the chances of costly failures. Yes, on-site testing can be a complex undertaking. The number of components that that are encompassed within the scope of a typical on-site test may account for at least part of the complexity.

When you include the fenestration components themselves, environmental barriers and various components of the wall or roof assemblies, it’s not surprising that the process can become perplexing. Manufacturers may also pay closer attention to product quality for prototypes assembled specifically for laboratory testing than they normally do for products com-ing straight off the assembly line and shipped directly to the construction site.

Adding to the challenge is the large number of applicable standards and the environmental problems that can be encountered on-site in attempting to successfully simulate a severe weather event, which can be difficult even in controlled laboratory settings. The components themselves have likely been moved on a number of occasions before installation and testing. Changes may by caused by vibration, thermal deformation or UV radiation. All good reasons to ensure your products are protected from damage during storage, handling, installation and commissioning.

One important principal, aside from ensuring products are installed in accordance with the draw-ings, specifications and building codes, involves paying close attention to the connection details between fenestration products and water-resistant barriers in the wall or roof system. They must be properly lapped to perform as intended. Failure to ensure continuity where systems compo-nents interconnect can be a potential source of air or water leakage during testing and during the buildings service life.


Another principle involves ensuring that quality-control checks are completed before construction, during construction and after project close out. After commissioning maintenance instructions should be provided to the owners. These QC steps can and should include a review of the final construction documentation including shop drawings, arranging pre-construction/pre-installation meetings with individual trades and confirming on-site construction inspection is ad-equate and regular.  The proper assembly, inspection, witnessing and testing of a mock-up that is inspected and ideally photographed before finishes are installed is also part of this over-all sys-tematic quality assurance process.

For installers, good building practice also involves making sure that on-site conditions are suitable when installing sealants and weatherstripping. This includes ensuring that surfaces are dry, clean and free from contaminants such as dust or construction debris. Temperature may also be a factor in proper sealant application and contractors should pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions.

There are certain testing protocols that should be confirmed. Test specimens and locations should also be examined for any damage or defects prior to commencing test set up. The test equipment should be calibrated, the samples preconditioned. Preconditioning refers to the practice of making adjustments for ambient conditions to reduce adverse effects of wind and temperature at the project site. The test equipment pressures should checked during testing. Cycle times should also be monitored.

In many cases on-site testing failures can often be traced to one or more of the following reasons: components were not properly installed or lack of experience or judgment by fenestration technicians and/or testing personnel. Sometimes the product or opening dimensions change because components were transported to site, moved numerous times prior to installation and exposed to weathering forces such as water, temperature fluctuations, and UV radiation. Lack of sufficient detail in the construction documentation and problematic location of test specimens are two more common causes of failure, as is interface components not being properly lapped.

Brian is involved with an innovative multi-disciplinary firm specializing in website design and development; Award Bid Management Services The firm also assists companies interested in selling goods and services to governments and institutions. He can be reached at;

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