As part of comprehensive building maintenance, the owner and facility manager have countless items to oversee, including mechanical equipment, indoor air quality, and exterior structural elements, just to name a few. Another of these areas, sealant joints, can be frequently overlooked.
What may appear to be a minor aspect of the building envelope is actually critical to the success of air- and water-tight structures. In this blog post, we will explain why it is important to watch for sealant issues, what could happen if you neglect to do so, and how to make the repairs.
Even the highest-performing sealant can fail with improper application, insufficient substrate preparation, incompatible materials, or just extended exposure time. With thousands of lineal feet of sealants on a building, there is a lot of room for potential error.
Sealants, regardless of their chemical makeup – silicone, urethane, foam, hybrid, etc. – are the key to transitioning dissimilar materials on a building and can be found at the following locations:
By following recommended sealant guidelines and inspecting these vulnerable areas of the building, you can help prevent air and moisture ingress that can lead to leaks, discoloration of the façade, and mold, at a minimum. For a building with severe water infiltration, it can be time-consuming and costly to identify the source, diagnose the cause, and perform the repair. This process of “leak-chasing” is a huge headache for everyone involved. Once identified, the issue and the repairs themselves can result in extended building closures, occupant disruption, and lost revenue. By conducting regular inspections and fixing minor sealant problems now, you can mitigate long-term damage and the need for full façade restoration.
Even an untrained eye can easily spot if a joint is compromised. Here are the main items to look for:
Once you identify the source of an issue, you must determine the correct course of action depending on the degree of severity. Note that when you need to apply a new bead of sealant, you should work with a building envelope consultant or trusted sealant manufacturer to decide whether to use the same product as previously applied or a compatible alternative. Manufacturers can provide product and system testing to verify compatibility and adhesion with any of the surrounding materials.
If the sealant is performing properly but is slightly damaged on the surface or unsightly, follow these steps to extend the life of the sealant joint:
However, if the sealant is extremely damaged and no longer functioning, you should:
It is important to also consider the following steps when cleaning the surface of the sealant to prevent any damage:
Maintaining your building can be a huge undertaking. Sealants are commonly disregarded in this process, but they are a crucial part of the building envelope that must be prioritized. When implementing a maintenance program, ensure that sealant joints are included in inspections to prevent disturbing tenants and costly issues down the line.
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