Structural Glazing Confidential?

Today’s guest blog was contributed by Jon Kimberlain, construction industry specialist for Dow Corning Corp.

Today’s guest blog was contributed by Jon Kimberlain, construction industry specialist for Dow Corning Corp.

I recently watched a rerun of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations,” which marked an end to the series on the Travel Channel after several years of exploring different cultures’ approaches to food. Mr. Bourdain made a name for himself by writing an eye-opening exposé on the underpinnings of how commercial kitchens work in the restaurant industry. He raised many eyebrows by exposing secrets known only to the chefs—such as that the bread you are eating may have once been on someone else’s table

As a naturally inquisitive person who constantly tries to understand how things work and why people do the things they do, it gave me an idea for this blog. It is not going to be a scathing review of the glass industry, but it does align with topics I have written about the past – mainly structural glazing and maintaining quality in the practice of unitized curtain wall.

I am in and out of curtainwall shops to review and inspect their quality records. Many times, I can get a feel for the quality of glazing within a few minutes in the shop. Having learned some tricks of the trade from mentors like Larry Carbary, I’ve found there are usually rather obvious “tells” in a shop as you survey the operation. None of them are mentioned in technical manuals or specifications.

Coffee stains: When I inspect glazing logs and see coffee stains, smudges or smears of sealant on the pages, it generally indicates that the shop is actually testing and recording what it says it is. If I find perfectly neat pages or if every entry in the row is aligned and in the same color of ink, I begin to look further into the data.

I generally look for repetitive entries – like the same batches of material that last three to four months or repetitive results for tests (e.g., 30 minutes for snap time whether it was 80°F and humid or cold and dry). These are red flags and warrant greater attention to the actual glazing operation.

And there are shops that truly do just keep extremely neat records, and that comes to bear during further inspection.

Waterproof garbage cans or carts: Every shop typically has a garbage can or cart that contains an accumulation of silicone sealant that can be measured in pounds. As you shoot structural sealant, an excess of material is shot into the joint and then struck to make sure the joint is properly filled and that the sealant makes intimate contact with the frame and glass (i.e., tooling). The excess sealant usually makes its way to the rim of a garbage can, edge of a cart or someone’s pants. If you cannot find something like this in the shop, the next question to ask is whether they recently replaced it. If not found, it could mean that tooling is not taking place, which would point to a need for further inspection of adhesion and deglaze testing.

Dirty laundry: Frames and glass need to be clean before applying sealant. This requires frequent exchange of rags. Black, dirty rags next to areas where glazing is actively taking place will be a red flag to look at adhesion testing.

Pump guy: There are several owners in a glazing company. The first are at the top – those who pay the bills and employees. The second are folks who take ownership of parts or all of the process during glazing. Great glazing shops have a “pump guy.” This is an individual who has taken ownership of the process and performance of shooting two-part structural sealants. “Pump guys” are typically able to quote parts of the technical manual, escort you to areas where quality testing is being done, and disassemble and replace a pump blindfolded with one hand tied behind his back. This person’s identity is demonstrable.

If a shop is having a pump problem and no one wants to even show you where it may be located, either the pump guy is off that day, or there is no ownership of the equipment and therefore no ownership of the quality.

This brings me to the end. Quality is the responsibility of actual end users of the material. The great shops are generally able to demonstrate that within a few minutes during an inspection.

Glad Tidings and Joy

Dow Corning recently hired a personal friend and a well-respected expert in all things construction. Mr. Stanley Yee is now a co-worker, and I for one am glad to have him in the company.

To a joyful present and a well remembered past. Best wishes for Happy holidays and an exciting new year! – Author Unknown

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