All You Need to Know About Curtain Wall Materials and Systems
Being the outermost layer of the building envelope, the curtain wall is your first line of defense against the elements. It is important to contact specialized curtain wall contractors for professional installation, repair and maintenance. Quality materials and workmanship will prevent major damages to the exterior and interior surfaces while optimizing their lifespan, property value and appeal. To select the right curtain wall materials and design, it is important to understand what the system involves.
What is a Curtain Wall?
The curtain wall or outer façade of your building protects the interiors and occupants from the elements. Being a non-structural cladding system (frame) designed to primarily resist air and water infiltration, wind and seismic forces; it is separate from the external wall and only supports its own weight. Therefore, lighter materials can be used to enhance aesthetics as well as reduce construction and maintenance costs. In traditional construction, external walls formed the outer façade and were your only form of protection against the sun, rain, wind and snow.
Types of Curtain Wall Systems
Curtain wall systems are typically designed with extruded aluminum framing and most commonly combined with materials like glass, stone veneer or metal panels. Louvers or vents may be added to allow light and air. They may be classified into categories based on fabrication and installation.
- Stick or unitized system: In traditional stick systems, the curtain mullions (frame) and glass or opaque panels are installed and connected together piece by piece. In the modular or unitized system, larger units, typically one storey tall and one module wide are assembled and glazed in the factory. They are then shipped and erected on the building. Finally, these vertical and horizontal modules are connected with the adjoining mullions.
- Face-sealed, water-managed or pressure-equalized rain screen system: Normally, pressure-equalized (PE) rain screen systems provide the highest levels of resistance to air and water infiltration, with water-managed systems being the next most reliable choice. The difference between the two lies in the pressure equalization chamber between the exterior and interior barrier which reduces water penetration and allows any moisture from within to weep out. Face-sealed systems on the other hand, depend on sealing integrity and are least reliable.
Common Curtain Wall Materials
- Vision glass – double or triple glazed, with low-e or reflective coatings
- Spandrel (non-vision) glass
- Stone veneer
- Fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP)
- Louvres or vents
Curtain Wall Design
Designing curtain wall frames and panels is a complex task as it involves load transference, thermal insulation, water resistance, ensuring panel adherence to frame, preventing dirt accumulation and allowing for windows to be opened. In addition to all this, curtain wall design must comply with local building codes, including providing safe access for regular inspection, maintenance and repair.
Choosing the right curtain wall company to install, repair and maintain your building envelope makes all the difference. At Zero Defects, we regularly assist our building owners and managers in Toronto with façade restoration and repair. Years of building restorations experience enables us to select appropriate solutions for rehabilitation, and work with your budget and timeframes.
To enhance architectural aesthetics, structural integrity and protection of your building façade, contact a trusted Curtain Wall Company in Toronto.