BES Field Testing Standards
Water Intrusion Field Testing Services
Building Enclosure Specialists, LLC (BES) performs field-testing procedures to evaluate the performance of installed windows, doors, storefronts, curtain walls, sloped glazing systems, skylights, ribbon windows, and exterior building facades for new construction quality assurance and diagnostic services to determine the cause of water intrusions.
Quality assurance water penetration testing is quickly becoming standard on most new construction projects. BES testing professionals use only the highest quality testing equipment available to complete testing in accordance with written industry standards and testing protocols from either the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) or American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Understanding the differences of each testing standard can be a daunting task. Our knowledgeable staff is ready to guide you through your next project to meet your product testing needs.
An independent testing firm is generally used to validate that windows, doors, storefronts, and curtain wall assemblies are installed to meet project specifications and product manufacturers’ installation requirements. Field testing for water penetration will determine the quality of subcontractors’ work, providing accountability and ensuring that proper specifications were followed during the construction process. Typically, these services are for quality assurance or new building commissioning. On new buildings, we perform baseline water testing to determine if fenestrations (windows/doors/penetrations) are properly flashed and sealed to prevent water infiltrations, typically testing 10%- 20% of the fenestrations at a property.
Our specialty is water damage cause & origin investigations. We use specialized calibrated water spray rack equipment to recreate reported water intrusions and accurately identify failure points in the building envelope. We recreate a simulated rainfall event in a controlled manner to find the exact source of the water infiltration, a procedure sometimes referred to as forensic water infiltration testing. This systematic approach is the only recommended method, as many times the actual source of water infiltration may originate from the surrounding construction. This information will be accurately documented so proper repair procedures can be executed. Once we identify the cause of the water infiltration, a scope of work can be written. Following the repairs, we typically retest the areas to determine if the repairs were performed correctly and verify that the water intrusion has been repaired. Our testing equipment is highly portable, so we can perform this service anywhere.
Below are the types of tests and links for additional details to the various performance specifications:
ASTM E 331 – Standard Test Method for Water Penetration of Exterior Windows, Skylights, Doors, and Curtain Walls by Uniform Static Air Pressure Difference
ASTM E 547 – Standard Test Method for Water Penetration of Exterior Windows, Skylights, Doors, and Curtain Walls by Cyclic Static Air Pressure Difference
ASTM E 783 – Standard Test Method for Field Measurement of Air Leakage Through Installed Exterior Windows and Doors
ASTM E 1105 – Standard Test Method for Field Determination of Water Penetration of Installed Exterior Windows, Skylights, Doors, and Curtain Walls by Uniform or Cyclic Static Air Pressure Difference
ASTM C 1601 – Standard Test Method for Field Determination of Water Penetration of Masonry Wall Surfaces
ASTM C 1715 – Standard Test Method for Evaluation of Water Leakage Performance of Masonry Wall Drainage Systems
ASTM E 2128 – Standard Guide for Evaluating Water Leakage of Building Walls
AAMA 501.2 – Quality Assurance and Diagnostic Water Leakage Field Check of Installed Storefronts, Curtain Walls, and Sloped Glazing Systems
AAMA 502 – Voluntary Specification for Field Testing of Newly Installed Fenestration Products
AAMA 503 – Voluntary Specification for Field Testing of Newly Installed Storefronts, Curtain Walls, and Sloped Glazing Systems
AAMA 511 – Voluntary Guideline for Forensic Water Penetration Testing of Fenestration Products
Additionally, BES performs modified versions in general accordance with the above tests, utilizing our high-resolution infrared camera equipment to identify water intrusions non-destructively. Although this does not meet many of the static pressure type standardized testing listed above, we never exceed the design pressure of a product or building component during these tests. The modified versions can be used to identify potential failures without expensive destructive testing, as most of the standardized testing requires disassembly of the building components. We generally use the modified testing procedures in all non-litigation projects. Read our published white paper, “Water infiltration Testing Using Infrared Thermography”
An in-depth evaluation of the building envelope enables the architect/engineer to develop accurate specifications for contractor bidding that are also used during construction. The quality of the initial field evaluation directly affects the quality and performance of repairs, as outlined in the specification documents. A thorough investigation also promotes an efficient design specification, thereby reducing the possibility of increased costs via change orders due to unforeseen conditions.
The time and expense of performing an initial, well-focused evaluation will save the building’s owner money in the long run and identify repairs that extend the service life of the building.
Wall Penetration Testing
The ASTM C 1601 (Standard Test Method for Field Determination of Water Penetration of Masonry Wall Surfaces) covers the field determination of water penetration of masonry wall surface(s) under specific water flow rate and air pressure conditions. Surface penetration is defined as the amount of water that passes through the tested wall surface per unit time per unit area. This is not directly comparable to overall water penetration and leakage, in which the area is defined as the amount of water traveling completely through the masonry system.
The outer wall surface of a masonry wall will experience water penetration when subjected to wind-driven rain. The resistance to water penetration is dependent on materials, workmanship, design, and maintenance. This test is similar to the laboratory version, the ASTM E 514. The ASTM C 1601 determines water penetration of the masonry at its surface. The ASTM E 514 measures the water that has penetrated into and through the masonry system and is collected. Direct comparison of results from this test method and the ASTM C 1601 is not appropriate.
The test chamber is a rectangular chamber with a minimum area of 12SF. The chamber is attached to the wall system using mechanical fasteners and sealant to prevent loss of water and maintain proper air pressure. The chamber has a single line of spray nozzles placed one inch apart. This creates a sheet flow condition during testing. Water is then pumped from the reservoir at a pre-specified flow rate (usually 3.4 gal/sf/h), while pressure is maintained at 10 lbs./sf. Alternate testing conditions may be used based on local climatological data.
The test duration shall be not less than 4 hours after a 30-minute preconditioning period. Preconditioning is designed to adjust water and air flow adequately prior to the actual testing.
During the testing, observations and measurements are recorded.
Initial water flow, air pressure, and water level in reservoir are noted at the beginning.
The technician will:
- Record water flow patterns.
- Record water flow, air pressure, and water level at 5-minute intervals.
- Record the amount and time of which water is added to the reservoir.
- Note all visible lateral and vertical leakage and patterns of leakage.
- Note all interruptions during testing.
- Include all data in the final report document after testing calculations are made to determine water loss.
BES utilizes professional testing equipment that is calibrated to each specific testing standard for accurate results. Our field consultants are properly trained and knowledgeable of all testing standards. BES has extensive knowledge of most building systems and specializes in forensic water intrusion investigations. This allows us to not only properly test fenestrations on new construction projects, but also to pinpoint the cause of the failure if there is one and provide accurate recommendations to achieve successful testing results. Failures during quality assurance (new construction) testing can result in unnecessary delays that impact your bottom line.
If you are looking for a reputable second or third-party testing company to perform accurate professional testing, provide concise reports, and help you through the entire process, contact BES today. We provide testing services throughout the United States from our headquarters located in Baton Rouge, LA.
Storefont / Curtain Wall Water Testing
Storefront and curtain wall systems are similar in appearance but differ in the way water drainage mechanisms are used. Details related to their design and installations vary among manufacturers. Common problems with these systems include water leakage, air infiltration, and failed insulated glass units.
Field-testing is generally performed to satisfy project specifications. This gives the building owner confidence in the installer’s work and has proven to help improve overall project quality control by providing accountability for the general contractor and subcontractors involved in the installation process to ensure quality work.
BES utilizes professional testing equipment that is calibrated to each specific testing standard for accurate results. Our field consultants are properly trained and knowledgeable of all testing standards.
If you are looking for a reputable second or third-party testing company to perform accurate professional testing, provide concise reports, and help you through the entire process, contact BES today. We provide testing services throughout the United States from our headquarters located in Baton Rouge, LA
Masonry Wall Drainage Testing
Although masonry wall systems are durable and capable of fulfilling their function for many years, defects are inevitable, usually becoming apparent as water intrusions within the building. These defects can arise from deficiencies in design, poor workmanship, inadequate project supervision, complicated cladding transitions, or a combination of these conditions. Some defects may show up soon after completion of the building while others may not develop for many years.
Brick masonry walls are primarily constructed using the following two methods: a masonry barrier wall or a masonry drainage system. A masonry barrier wall is formed when bricks are applied directly to a substrate. The most common method, the masonry drainage system, is a masonry wall that is designed with an air space between the outer wall (brick exterior) and the backup wall (inner wall) of usually 1 to 2 inches. This space serves two purposes. It provides a drainage space for water that penetrates the wall while allowing air to circulate in the space and dry moisture from water penetration and condensation. Newer construction techniques are dependent more than ever on quality workmanship, as newer designs often introduce multiple cladding systems that require complex waterproofing techniques. These design elements are particularly vulnerable to water intrusion problems.
The exterior masonry wall often referred to as the masonry Wythe mainly acts as a rain screen. One of the biggest misconceptions by individuals not familiar with masonry construction is that the wall system is waterproof. Contrary to this belief, the brick and mortar joints actually act as sponges that draw water into the wall system. In a heavy, wind-driven rain, water, by design, will penetrate the masonry Wythe. This water is then directed down the interior drainage space and collects at the thru-wall flashing, which consists of a rubberized asphalt or EPDM flashing material over a formed metal pan system. Common metal pan system materials are stainless steel, copper, and lead-coated copper. This water is then diverted back to the exterior via the weep holes located at the base of the pan system. A common defect arises when inner wall cavities are bridged with excessive mortar or debris at the base of the wall cavity during construction. If weep drains are omitted, placed at the wrong level, or blocked, water will likely accumulate and eventually find its way into the building. Excessive mortar will also cause water to bridge the drainage space and soak the backup wall’s moisture barrier. Improperly lapped or damaged moisture barriers will allow water to penetrate the backup wall system and eventually enter the building envelope.
Water penetration through exterior masonry wall systems is a serious problem throughout the country. Identifying the cause and origin of water penetrations in concrete brick, clay brick, and stone cladding systems is often a difficult task. Many water intrusions are improperly diagnosed because the masonry walls are overlooked. ASTM has developed a standard to test the effectiveness of masonry drainage systems.
The ASTM C 1715 (Standard Test Method for Evaluation of Water Leakage Performance of Masonry Wall Drainage Systems) is a standard procedure for determining the ability of a masonry wall drainage system to collect water that penetrates the exterior Wythe during rainstorms and direct this water back to the exterior via weep drainage systems. This test procedure requires drilling small ½-inch holes in the exterior brick façade. Plastic tubing is inserted to the inside edge of the brick wall system. Water is then applied at a low-volume, consistent flow into each of the holes. During the test, we document the ability or inability of water to exit the wall system via the weep drainage holes. This testing can be used to identify failures in the flashing systems, document cause and origin of water infiltration, determine the effectiveness of thru-wall flashing repairs, or provide quality assurance for new construction. Quality assurance testing is especially useful during the commissioning of a new building.
All of our masonry test equipment conforms to the ASTM standard. Each testing apparatus is calibrated every (6) months and properly maintained to ensure accuracy during onsite testing.
Water typically flows into the masonry wall cavity through separations between the mortar and the brick units. This can be due to bond separations, voids, and microscopic cracks. Water penetration will also occur, although typically to a lesser degree, due to absorption through the brick units and mortar. When the brick masonry drainage system is found to be deficient, many building owners, unfortunately, opt for a band-aid approach by applying a silane or siloxane sealer. Most sealers are not capable of bridging these types of gaps. Sealers will penetrate the masonry wall and repel water initially, but within a few months, they will begin to degrade at the surface, and water will again penetrate the wall system. Silicone-based sealers that can bridge larger gaps will change the appearance of the brick and mortar. In addition, sealers do not last forever and will become a maintenance item. Never rely on sealants to fix a leaky brick wall. It just won’t work. A masonry drainage system was designed to be just that, a drainage system. Identifying and repairing the root cause of a water intrusion is a much better approach.
Many water intrusions that we identify in masonry wall drainage systems are found at the thru-wall flashing located at the base of the wall system, at window headers, and/or at each floor level in a multi-story building. These failures are due to penetrations from construction debris or improperly sealed lap joints and end dams. Another common failure is from excessive mortar between the brick masonry and the backup wall. Excessive mortar will bridge the drainage space and cause water to be directed down the backup wall moisture barrier. This may allow water to penetrate the building envelope at opportunistic locations.
The good news is that today most masonry contractors are more cautious about keeping the drainage space free and clear of mortar and other debris during new construction projects. Drainage mat systems are also being utilized on most new projects. These help protect the base flashing from penetrations during construction. While these efforts may help to reduce many failures, quality assurance testing of the masonry wall drainage systems during initial construction will help alleviate costly repairs to a completed occupied building.
The time and expense of performing an initial, well-focused evaluation will save the building owner money in the long run and result in accurate repairs that extend the service life of a building.
BES specializes in cause and origin water infiltration investigations utilizing numerous ASTM and AAMA testing standards. From forensic water intrusion services to new construction quality assurance (QA) testing, BES has the experience, the equipment, and the personnel to handle all of your building diagnostic projects.
Forensic Water Intrusion Testing
Building Enclosure Specialists, LLC (BES) specializes in forensic water intrusion diagnostic services using our proven processes and professional testing equipment to accurately identify the cause and origin of water intrusions.
Our systematic approach to a project includes providing an initial evaluation, completing a full service history review, identifying physical symptoms, visually inspecting reported intrusions, developing a hypothesis, recreating leaks by simulating normal rainfall, tracing and correlating intrusions, verifying the hypothesis, providing a final analysis and accurately reporting our findings through field documentation.
Far too often investigators rely on assumptions rather than following the most basic investigative testing protocols. BES adheres to the strict standards set forth for our industry in the ASTM E 2128 (Standard Guide for Evaluating Water Leakage of Building Walls) and the AAMA 511 (Voluntary Guideline for Forensic Water Penetration Testing of Fenestration Products). Both offer specific guidelines that provide building professionals with comprehensive methodology for evaluating water intrusions. Moreover, these documents provide guidance on how to perform specific testing methods without exceeding conditions not appropriate for a particular test specimen.
The ASTM E 2128 identifies information-gathering steps for a systematic forensic investigation approach to identifying failures (water leakage) in fenestration products. These steps are somewhat basic, but often forgotten:
- Review all project documents – shop drawings, installation instructions, contracts, purchase orders, and project specifications.
- Evaluate the design concept, water management, and critical details – flashing, sealant selection/application, and weep drainage systems.
- Investigate service history – review maintenance records, interview maintenance personnel, and determine leak history and timeline.
- Inspection – Interior, exterior, workmanship, and product deficiencies.
- By investigating and asking some basic questions, we develop a hypothesis and accurately identify the source of water intrusion while utilizing proper investigative testing procedures.
Many companies become complacent because of their length of service and rely on what they think is happening rather than doing a thorough investigation. The improper diagnosis of a water intrusion can result in unnecessary repairs, additional water damage, and inevitably, an unhappy building owner. To complicate matters, more often than not, water intrusions can be originating from multiple sources. The time and expense to perform an initial, well focused, accurate evaluation of a water intrusion will save the interested parties money in the long run and result in repairs that extend the service life of the building.
BES utilizes professional testing equipment that is calibrated to each specific testing standard for accurate results. Our field consultants are properly trained and knowledgeable of all testing standards. BES has extensive knowledge of most building systems and specializes in forensic water intrusion investigations.
With such a significant potential investment on the line, due diligence is not where you want to cut corners. Having a qualified team on the project is as important as the process itself. Using specialized teams for certain aspects of the assessment can be essential for their particular knowledge in that discipline. They can discern issues that others may overlook and have up to date information including new techniques and new technology being used in that field. Usually, these are third-party consultants, and they can provide a unique insight into the PCA process. Infrared thermography is one of those specialized fields.
Infrared thermography is a unique approach to exterior facade building inspections, combining extraordinary technology with the knowledge of building science, this puts building thermography in a class of its own. Infrared thermography is a technique for accurately measuring the surface temperatures of an object; it can be used to measure the surface of exterior walls, interior walls, ceiling, roofs, and around windows. Areas of inconsistent temperatures are commonly referred to as anomalies. These anomalies are captured as radiometric jpegs and are processed using specialty software. This allows us to evaluate a suspect anomaly further and determine if it requires further investigation. This process will enable us to non-destructively detect energy deficiencies like insufficient insulation and gaps for air to escape but more importantly, we can detect water intrusion and its impact on building materials. When water finds its way into a building, whether through a roof onto a ceiling, flashing failures, or behind outside finishes, it begins to evaporate and will start to cool and make that area colder than the surrounding area. This is the basic principle of why thermography works.
Detecting water intrusion of any kind is vital because unaddressed water intrusion issues can lead to extensive structural damage resulting in costly repairs. Quite often, before a property goes to market, it often undergoes a cosmetic “spruce up” by applying a fresh coat of paint. This makes the property more appealing and will often hide areas of potential concern. It is not uncommon for us to find significant issues that had been overlooked because it had not presented itself with visible observations. This is why thermography is so useful as a non-destructive “detection tool” during due diligence. Even after a property that is freshly painted,
historical areas of water intrusions are often detectable because the thermal properties (ability to maintain consistent temperature) of an object with historical moisture will change.
Different site conditions related to solar loading (sun exposure), extreme temperature conditions, wind, recent rainfall, and interior conditions can help or hinder thermography findings. Time constraints related to the due diligence process itself can sometimes make site conditions difficult. An experienced thermographer can overcome difficult site conditions. Knowledge of building materials, building components, and building assemblies can help interpret what is being detected by the infrared camera. Not all infrared cameras are equal. BDG uses only high-resolution equipment.
The goal of a PCA is to assess the condition of a property, so the potential buyer understands the short and long-term holding costs. Thermography has become an integral part of the due diligence process.
Exterior Building Inspections
Concerned with the structural integrity of your prospective building acquisition? Infrared thermography for evaluating exterior cladding systems has proven to be extremely beneficial during the due diligence process. Our team can rapidly yet thoroughly evaluate a building’s exterior wall system for water intrusions that may have damaged the exterior sheathing and/or structural components.
Infrared imaging allows us to evaluate the condition of the exterior cladding systems by mapping areas of moisture entrapment and delimitation due to environmental stress. It can be used for many different cladding systems. From single coat stucco systems, to Exterior Insulation Finish Systems (EIFS), to siding, infrared thermography can effectively identify potential hidden defects. Many times, this service will identify the first signs of a potentially larger problem since water intrusion from the exterior can take years to show up on the interior. By then, most of the extensive damage is done.
Exterior cladding surveys are extremely cost effective and allow us to perform thorough and accurate surveys on large properties in days, not weeks. Typically, we can evaluate 10 to 15 low-rise apartment buildings in just a few days on site. This service will either identify costly hidden damage or validate a sound investment. And unlike sounding and other testing methods, surveys are all typically non-destructive and will not disturb the building’s occupants.
We offer our services in several different roles. We often work with engineering firms during the due diligence process of an acquisition. We are typically the first to inspect the exterior of a property, providing insight as to the overall condition and the need, if any, for additional services to complete the due diligence of a property. We are also used in litigation and insurance claims to either provide details as to the extent of the claim or provide bid specification for remedial actions. Many commercial and multi-family properties contract us to perform annual inspections to proactively protect their investment. The cost for us to perform our annual services is far less than a large-scale water damage restoration project. More importantly, an annual inspection will help reduce your long-term building maintenance costs and reduce liability.
Interior Building Inspections
Moisture in building materials can destroy structural integrity as well as harbor mold and insect infestations. Long term water infiltration can cause devastating damage if not properly identified and repaired. Infrared thermography is by far the best method for the documentation of a water loss or water intrusion event. When a substantial amount of moisture impacts building materials, particularly drywall, it changes the thermal characteristics of that material. When water evaporates, it changes the surface temperature of building materials.
If the building material is at a different temperature, the thermal difference will be detected by infrared thermography. This technology can even be used years after the initial loss to document historical damage. Traditional methods of photographs and moisture meters do not always reveal the extent of the damage or provide the necessary visual documentation. Infrared cameras can distinguish between wet and dry by measuring the thermal characteristics of wet materials and can provide a vivid image of moisture damage. Below is an example of the effectiveness of infrared thermography. The digital image does not truly show the extent of the water impact.
To a building owner or insurance company involved in property damage settlement, clear images of normally invisible damage can be invaluable for planning the restoration efforts and for rationalizing settlements. Our quick response to storm-damaged homes and buildings provides the owners accurate documentation for insurance companies. Unfortunately, after catastrophic events adjusters may not get to your property for several weeks, during which time moisture damaged materials may dry and not be considered as part of your claim.
Using our high-resolution infrared cameras, we can document the water intrusions and provide you with a report that clearly details the extent of damage; this can then be used to properly assess damage claims. During remediation and restoration activities, infrared thermography can evaluate the progress of the drying process per accepted standards. The availability of thermographic records can reduce or even eliminate the need for insurance representatives to make personal on-site inspections, and the thermographic records of the remediated property can also help protect the insurance companies from further frivolous claims.
Commercial Roof Surveys
It is estimated that up to 40 percent of all commercial roofs will develop leaks within the first year of service. The average life span of these roofs is seven to ten years, but they can last as long as twenty years if they are correctly installed and property maintained. Commercial roof maintenance is a vital part of keeping your property investment performing for you.
Far too often, the cause of a roof failure is the absence of proper maintenance and inspection. Periodic inspections and routine maintenance to correct deficient conditions can significantly increase the long-term service life of any roof system. A regularly scheduled maintenance program will avoid expensive emergency costs that can arise without routine maintenance.
Infrared roof inspections work on the principle that different materials in the roof have different thermal masses. In the daytime, the sun heats the roof structure. After the sun sets, the roof begins to cool. If there is a leak in the roofing membrane, the insulation inside the roof will become wet. The wet insulation has a higher thermal mass than the rest of the dry roof structure. Because of the difference, the “wet” areas will maintain heat energy longer than other areas, providing the infrared thermographer with a clear picture of the damaged areas.
We can easily detect failures in low slope commercial roof systems. Infrared roof inspections are fast and affordable, and they provide accurate observations of the condition of an existing roofing system. Infrared roof inspections are a non-contact and non-destructive testing method to determine active roof leaks, and the infrared camera allows a professional thermographer to scan large areas of the roof from a distance. Traditional roof inspection methods require a time-consuming grid-type contact search (capacitance testing) that involves drilling holes (core sampling) in the roof membrane. All testing methods require core sampling to be performed to identify observed anomalies.
We also utilize the Tramex Dec Scanner™ that can detect as little as 3% moisture content in most roof systems and detects moisture up to 3 inches below the roof surface. The combination of these two technologies provides accurate non-destructive results. All BES infrared roof inspections are conducted according to the ASTM C 1153 “Standard Practice for Location of Wet Insulation in Roofing Systems Using Infrared Imaging.”
We provide a written report that includes IR images and digital photos of each “anomaly” or fault found during our visit. By request, we can mark each suspect anomaly on the roof so it can easily be assessed and/or repaired by a licensed roofing company.