Fenestration Review

Articles Codes & Standards
FGIA: Field testing for quality control


August 4, 2020
By Jason Seals, FGIA certification services manager, fenestration

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Many associate the practice of field testing with commercial projects such as mid-rise and high-rise buildings. However, field testing of single and multifamily residential buildings is just as important. AAMA 502, Voluntary Specification for Field Testing of Newly Installed Fenestration Products, helps to evaluate newly installed fenestration products. These products are designed to fill punched openings, leaving the factory fully assembled, glazed and ready to install and are rated for performance per the North American Fenestration Standard A440.

Laboratory testing of these products to NAFS is performed under tightly controlled conditions rarely seen in the field. Products are installed into a perfectly square, level and plumb opening and tested for air leakage and water penetration as well as resistance to structural loading. Ratings generated from NAFS testing are used to help manufacturers, installers, and project specifiers provide fenestration products for residential projects that are suitable for the building and its intended use.

Testing a product for air leakage and resistance to water penetration in the field provides feedback about how installation, environmental factors and integration of the product into the building envelope can all affect its performance. This information offers essential feedback on the overall quality of the fenestration product as a component of the building envelope.

Pretest planning is an essential and often overlooked step when using AAMA 502 – a Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance document. (All AAMA standards fall under FGIA’s purview.) The number and types of products to be tested, milestones for when testing should occur, test pressures and pass/fail criteria should be identified in the project specifications and communicated as soon as possible. For AAMA 502 to be used as an effective risk management tool, it is recommended that testing happen at regular intervals, typically at five percent, 50 percent and 90 percent of completion of installation. A minimum of three specimens are tested at each interval, and testing should commence as soon as possible after the product is installed.

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Selected specimens should be inspected by both the test agency and the manufacturer prior to testing to confirm that the product is plumb, level and square and operates correctly. Inspection also includes an examination of the exterior perimeter joint and surrounding wall materials. Test specimens should be clean and free from all construction debris.

Once suitable specimens have been selected, a test chamber is constructed. Typically, the test chamber is built on the interior of the building, but in some cases may be attached to the exterior. The field test agency then simulates wind loading by applying a differential pressure across the entire product, allowing for an evaluation of both the product’s and surrounding installation’s resistance to air leakage and water penetration at the specified test pressure.

The test most frequently specified is resistance to water penetration using the procedures found in ASTM E1105. The test area is observed for water penetration through the product, through the surrounding wall conditions and through the perimeter joint.

Air leakage testing per ASTM E783 can be useful when confirming that a product is properly installed and performing correctly. Typically, the allowable air leakage rate for field testing is one and a half times the laboratory standard for the product type.

Because of all the variables encountered on an active construction site, field testing of installed fenestration products can be incredibly complex. To ensure that these test results are accurate, AAMA 502 mandates that an AAMA-accredited field test agency must perform the test. In August 2017, the Field Test Agency Accreditation Program was created to validate independent field test agencies’ ability to test fenestration products in the field using AAMA performance standards. Agencies must pass periodic proficiency testing, undergo equipment inspections and use an approved quality management system to maintain their accreditation.