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Service life of tapes can determine the service life of an entire high-performance building assembly.
Performance testing of adhesives and sealants used in our weather barriers is improving due to new field-testing research, as we’ve written about before. However, the improvements in testing haven’t reached a critical product area: pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) tapes used for sealing seams in flashing, housewrap, and generally creating continuity in air and weather barriers. “I am unaware of any work being done on this issue, either laboratory or field tests,” says Christopher White, of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
The most commonly cited adhesion tests for pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) tapes are as follows:
But none of these tests is ideally suited for lab-testing high-stretch construction flashing tapes, and none go anywhere near testing under field conditions. And since just about all tapes are used in concealed weather and air barrier systems, we really need a field-service-life prediction test.
So we took matters into our own hands—or rather, our own workbench. Lately I have been just sticking a slew of tapes on different building materials and gauging how hard it is to pull them apart.
My efforts got a lift in technical rigor when I was discussing this with David Gauthier, president of Vantem Panels here in Brattleboro, Vermont, a local structural insulated panel (SIP) manufacturer. David is always looking for gaskets and tapes to recommend with his panels. He said, “Hey, I bet we could use our tensile tester on the tapes!” (Van Tem uses a tensile tester to assess the strength of the bond between their skins—mostly OSB—and their foam cores).
We have no illusions that the testing we performed is up to the rigor of ASTM D3330—the list of how our testing is different from the standard Test Method A is at the end of this article.
There are a lot of key differences, so no conclusions should be drawn from this testing. In any case, not all manufacturers report D3330, so we needed to pick one set of conditions and run as many tapes as we had through that one. We hope this testing provides some suggestive information.
And here is a thought: maybe our “benchtop” testing will inspire (or anger?) some experts from PSA tape manufacturers or test programs to conduct some field or field-like service life performance testing. We’d love to see more manufacturers engage in testing along the lines of the Sustainable Building Solutions Test Facility Tremco has going, in partnership with the Department of Energy.
After all, if the sealant manufacturers have rallied behind the work of Dr. Christopher White at NIST on standardized testing for field service life prediction of liquid sealants, can’t the PSA tape manufacturers rally behind our humble work to develop some testing and data for the field service life of PSA tapes?
Here are some things we noticed based on our test results (click to download the spreadsheet).
For more background into our test methods, here’s a list of how our benchtop testing is different than the ASTM D3330 Test Method A (tapes peeled at 180° angle to the substrate, as pictured, Section [1.1.1] in the standard).
Clearly, our benchtop testing is VERY different than the standard and mainly about looking for some generalizations we might suggest from comparing tape test results. We don’t come anywhere near claiming ASTM D3330 results.
What have been your experiences—anecdotal or otherwise—in field service of flashing tapes? Please comment below.
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