Off the Wall
To Advance Correct Window Installations, One Installer at a Time
Recently, I dropped in on the carnival known as the International Homebuilders’ Show, in Las Vegas, to wonder in awe at the spectacle of the exhibit floor.
Size, apparently does matter, as a few well-known and obviously well-funded exhibitors competed for the prize for the most ostentatious booth. I’ve always had doubts about the message these lavish displays actually convey, particularly in the high-risk, low-margin world that is construction. Most attendees would have seemed to agree, based upon my observations, preferring to congregate around and interact with those exhibitors that kept their displays at a more human scale.
It was at one of those exhibits I had the opportunity to take in a presentation led by a man who just may be the most knowledgeable authority on proper window installations. And that’s no small claim, considering that a decade ago, there were obviously few, and seldom heeded, such authorities. A long, long time ago, flashing used to be considered an essential element of exterior wall construction. But at some unknown point in time, the practice—for the most part—disappeared, helping bring us to today’s difficult struggles with moisture intrusion problems, mold claims, litigation and a tightening insurance market.
Who knows(?)Larry Livermore, managing director of the InstallationMasters training and certification program, speculates the inexplicable loss of flashing detailing may have had something to do with the introduction of flanged windows, but nobody seems to know for certain. What is certain is that Livermore is today charged with the immense task of reintroducing the craft nationwide. That involves ultimately training tens of thousands of workers, which will be no small feat.
The InstallationMasters program is an effort of the American Architectural Manufacturer’s Association, whose membership represents many of the nation’s better-known window and door manufacturers. The primary objective of the InstallationMasters program is to promote and provide training to window installers to ensure that code- and standard-compliant flashing practices are employed in the field.
“Our target audience includes builders, window and door installers—anyone who has an interest in getting trained as an installer,” explains Livermore, who led the development and implementation of the training program, first introduced more than three years ago.
Ironically, the InstallationMasters program did not come about in response to today’s heightened concern over water intrusion and mold, but as an effort to bolster energy conservation in new and replacement window installations. Funded by manufacturer members with support from energy-conscious organizations such as the Department of Energy and Pacific Gas and Electric, the program initially was focused on the thermal performance of windows and doors. The project scope quickly grew to address the industry’s moisture intrusion problems due to improper window and door installations.
“Our members were experiencing a real hardship as it relates to service problems—a million dollars a year,” notes Livermore. “They didn’t create it but they were on the hook for it. We wanted to provide a service for our members. And we saw a good fit for manufacturers to step up and become a sponsor.”
To encourage wide-spread implementation of installer training, the program employs a two-step approach to training. Representatives of sponsoring manufacturers are certified to conduct installation training. In turn, those trainers deliver the program to the end-user. To date, more than 100 installation representing more than 70 companies have been taught how to present the program.
“The number one critical thing was to develop a manual and program that anyone could teach,” says Livermore.
How to installAt the core of the program is a 360-page manual that provides a thorough presentation of code and standard complaint window and door installation procedures. While much of the material is based on the relatively new ASTM window installation standard, E-2112, the fundamental lesson the manual teaches is that all exterior wall components must be installed in proper sequence, with critical attention paid to materials and details.
“One of the keys to flashing is to make sure everything’s compatible with the materials you use,” says Livermore.
The InstallationMasters program is also available as a self-study program to those meeting education and experience requirements. Delivered live, the program consists of two days of instruction followed by a certification exam. Those that successfully complete the program are awarded a four-year certification.
In its first three years of implementation, more than 1,500 installers have completed the program. Although initial participation has been impressive, the program still has a long way to go toward meeting its objective for wide-spread installer training. If Livermore has his way, the program will ultimately reach several thousand installers.
And the timing couldn’t be better. With the residential EIFS market already fallen victim to troubled construction practices, and mold and moisture intrusion issues of paramount concern to builders, the advancement of sound window installation practices is a positive step forward for the construction industry.
“What’s exciting is that people are becoming aware that they have a problem with window installation,” says Livermore. “When we tested this program, we found that workmanship is still important.”
Those who want to learn more about the program can visit http://www.aamanet.org.