Fenestration Fundamentals September 2019

July 16th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs

Putty? Toothpaste? Seal failures are no laughing matter

By Mike Burk

Last Christmas my granddaughter gave me a small piece of paper from a Christmas popper. Christmas poppers are holiday table decorations that make a popping sound when pulled opened and often contain a small gift and a joke inside. The small paper read, “Question: What happened to the man who didn’t know the difference between putty and toothpaste? Answer: All his windows fell out.”

Samantha has heard me talking about glass and windows for as long as she can remember. As a result, she’s probably one of a few kids who found this joke hysterical and thought that I would too. And I did, at the time. She could hardly control her laughter as she read me the message.

I came across the small paper later and this time it didn’t seem quite so funny, probably because I know how dangerous glass falling out of windows is and how it can do so much harm. I also thought about all the failed insulating glass units (IGUs) I’ve seen. There’s nothing funny about those, either. Fogged units on the factory floor and in windows installed into homes and businesses—those failures happen because the glass loses adhesion, becoming unsealed and fogged.

As a former field service technician, I recall the names that insulating glass assemblers gave sealant and sealant application equipment. They often referred to the sealant with names such as glue, putty, goo and others. Thankfully, I never heard it called toothpaste. But those terms illustrate the fact that many operators had no idea of the importance for their tasks, or the correct requirements for sealant application. Imagine how they might view the importance of their jobs if they knew the impacts that seal failures can have.

Consider, too, your company’s lost profits due to in-house remakes, warranty replacements and field service calls over failed IGUs. Imagine if there was a way to eliminate some of those costs in the future.

Different types of sealants have different functions but, in most cases, they’re there for structural reasons. Sealant holds the IGU together both during assembly and for the life of the door or window. Secondly, it serves as a barrier, keeping moisture out of the cavity and, in some cases, to help keep the insulating gases in. Does your production staff understand these matters and the requirements for the sealants that your company uses? Does your staff understand the need for clean and dry glass to assure long-term adhesion? Do they understand the difference between adhesive failure or cohesive failure? Are there guidelines in place to assure that sealant stock is rotated and not used beyond its expiration date? It’s important that your IG department supervisor and production associates understand the required specifications, including what physical conditions cause sealants to adhere and cure—like the minimum and maximum application temperatures and, in some cases, the requirements of heating and compression. Some may think that this information is common knowledge on the production floor, but you can’t afford to take this for granted.

In a recent white paper regarding today’s adult education needs, the author divides the adult learning groups by five discrete profiles. She described the group that was in the most need of training and skill development as “High Opportunity.” I recommend a walk-through of your glass department to ask questions. While you’re at it, take advantage of the opportunity to reduce your warranty costs.

Mike Burk is the North American technical representative for Sparklike.

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  1. Womp womp its a joke get over yourself

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