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Integrity Testing of Roofing and Waterproofing Membranes

How to find the leaks you know about as well as those you dont

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Remo R. Capolino, P.E., RRC Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Shelton, Ct

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Methods of Integrity Testing


Spray Test (Commonly called Water Test) z Flood Test z Capacitance or Impedance z Nuclear Meter z Infrared z High Voltage z Low Voltage
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Which Method Is Right?


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Depends upon many factors:


Building structure Roof Configuration Roof Materials

BE CAREFUL!!!

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How To Solve The Puzzle?


Understand each test. z Know the conditions. z Match the test to the conditions.
z Water Cap. I Red Low V
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Flood Nuclear High V

Spray Test
The most basic. z Results are Interpretive z Least technical. z Equipment is garden variety water hose. z Training is minimal.
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Candidate for a Water Test?


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Spray Test In Progress


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Flood Test
Low tech. z Results are Interpretive z Few pieces of equipment required. z Be patient.
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Are the Roof Drains or the Membrane Leaking?


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Electrical Capacitance
Used to monitor moisture in the paper and lumber industries. z Capacitance meter measures the ability of a material to maintain a charge separation. z Air has a dielectric constant = 1. z Roof materials range between 4 and 6. z Water has a dielectric constant = 60+/-. z Results are Interpretive.
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Electrical Capacitance
Very sensitive to water. z Roof surface must be dry. z The meter is more sensitive to moisture near the roof surface and less sensitive to moisture at the deeper roof levels. z Gravel thickness can affect the readings. z Continuous readings. z Conducted during the daylight.
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Electrical Capacitance

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Nuclear
Nuclear meters emit a stream of high velocity neutrons that are about the same mass as a hydrogen atom. z When a neutron strikes a hydrogen atom, it gives up some energy and rebounds at slower speed. z The nuclear meter is sensitive to these slower neutrons and records the slower neutrons.
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Nuclear
Neutrons rebound off hydrogen atoms in water and asphalts (hydrocarbons). z Nuclear meter does not know which slowed neutrons rebounded off of water or asphalts. All it does is count the slowed neutrons and provide a digital reading. z Core samples are required to establish a baseline.
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Nuclear
Before nuclear readings are taken, a grid is marked on the roof surface. Usually, it is a 10 by 10 grid that is parallel to at least one roof edge and each grid point is marked by a dot of spray paint. z Readings are taken and marked on the roof and the roof plan. z Many times a pattern evolves and lends itself to marking areas on the roof surface.
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Nuclear
Results are Interpretive z Conducted during the daylight. z Digital readout for analysis. z Grid points can be used help layout areas of wet roofing. z Requires a licensed operator.
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Infrared
Infrared Thermography is a continuous process that senses the energy emitted from roof top surfaces. z Infrared scanners (cameras) have optical scanning devices that show infrared energy in real time on a screen.
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Infrared
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Wet insulation loses much of its insulating value. In the winter time, more heat will pass through wet insulation than dry insulation. In the summer time, after sunset, the wet insulation will hold heat longer and appear as a hot spot. The different thermal images show as different colors on the screen. Results are Interpretive.

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Infrared
Since the scan is continuous, outlines of suspected wet areas can be marked with a high degree of accuracy. z Core tests should be done to verify suspected wet areas. z Infrared is usually done in the evening or during the night.
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High Voltage
New to the United States. z Several years in the United Kingdom. z Relatively high voltage (and low amps). z Uses the moisture that has passed through the membrane breach to complete the circuit. z Results are Definitive - Breach in membrane can be pinpointed.
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High voltage testing


ground membrane ground

Electricity at sufficiently high voltage will arc across holes in the membrane, provided that ground is close to the underside of membrane
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High Voltage
The deck must be electrically conductive: Either metal deck or concrete deck. z The membrane must be an electrical insulator: TPO, PVC, NBP, EIP. z To detect a membrane breach, there must be a moisture path from the membrane surface to the deck.
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High voltage testing

membrane

Electricity at sufficiently high voltage will arc across holes in the membrane, provided that ground is close to the underside of membrane
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High Voltage
Only tests on exposed membranes. z No water source required. z Immediate pinpoint results available. z Repair breach and retest.
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Low Voltage
New to the United States. z Several years in the United Kingdom/Europe. z Low voltage and low amperes. z Wet Membrane Surface. z Smooth Membrane Surface. z Results are Definitive - Breach in membrane can be pinpointed. z Repair breach and retest.
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loop

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loop current flow

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membrane insulation vapor retarder decking

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Membrane Integrity Testing


There are a number of systems to select. z Match the system to the conditions and your needs. z Eliminate as many variables as possible. z Choose between the interpretive tests: water, flood, nuclear and infrared or the direct, pinpoint tests: low or high voltage. z Give yourself the opportunity to make a sound decision.
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Thank You For Attending Remo R. Capolino, P.E., RRC Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates 2 Trap Falls Rd Shelton, CT

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