What is a building Envelope?
A Building envelope is a physical separator between the conditioned and unconditioned environment of a building (indoors from outside). The envelope is resistant to air, water, heat, light and noise transfer and is made up of a building’s walls, roof, doors etc. This is one of the most critical pieces of any structure, and a strong envelope will protect against structural damage. A building’s envelope is key to the comfort of those within it, its structural integrity, and energy efficiency. By focusing on moisture management and using high-quality building materials by a trusted inspector, your building’s envelope should remain vital for many years.
Where does the Envelope typically fail, and what to look for:
Siding: Typically made of vinyl or metal but also stucco, stone or wood, siding needs to be adequately sealed with caulking joints and quality building paper. Make sure there are no cracks, bubbles, mould or mildew on your siding.
Roofing: A roof must follow strict building codes, whether sloped or flat. Check your attic for water stains, ensure shingles are lying flat and not cracked, damaged or buckling, and that the roof isn’t sagging or growing moss.
Windows and doors: Major entry points for buildings are vital to monitor. Moisture can seep in through damaged caulking and improper installation. Signs of problems include stains, condensation, and drafts.
Flashings (weatherproofing): A key component to structural longevity, flashings is the term used to describe thin pieces of material to block water from a structure or a joint such as around chimneys, windows and doors. If sections look damaged or start to rust, it may be time to replace them.
Eavestrough and downspout: Eavestrough and downspouts guide water away from a building. Cracks, disconnections, blockages, and inefficient slopes can all cause significant issues.
Decks: Unstable railings, uneven planks and creaky joints are all indicators that a deck needs to be repaired or replaced. Pay close attention to the boards underneath as well; if these start to rot or become damaged, the deck can collapse.
Foundation: A building foundation is designed to hold massive amounts of weight; any signs of distress, such as visible cracks, signs of rot, mould or water stains need to be addressed as soon as possible to avoid significant issues. Left to deteriorate, damaged foundations can lead to sagging and warping of floors and ceilings inside, windows and doors not fitting, and the potential for the eventual collapse of the building itself.
Consistent monitoring of the areas highlighted above will keep your building’s envelope in good repair, allowing for structural soundness and improving your energy usage, which is crucial for the sustainability of the environment and the building itself.