Flashing and Drainage
When one looks at a masonry wall, there is a certain uniformity to the entire system. Although there are variations, for the most part one block or brick goes on another in a very consistent way, and the products are fairly uniform in their design.
This holds true for the entire masonry wall, until you reach the flashing and drainage system, where the possibilities and product selection seem endless. From plastic sheeting, tar paper and peel and sticks, to stainless steel, copper and the newest "all-in-one" products, each item offers different installation techniques, benefits and warranties.
We recently asked several flashing manufacturer representatives why there were so many different flashing and drainage products out on the market today. While initial cost seems to be a main factor, they pinpointed four other reasons for the wide selection of products available in this particular niche of the market.
"If it's so important to build with masonry, and these brick people are talking about how long their bricks last, it really comes down to longevity. That's the important word," said Dick Lolley, CEO and president of Advanced Building Products Inc., which offers laminated copper and other flashing and drainage materials. "If I were the owner of that building, I would want the flashing to last as long as the brick lasts. That's what it's there for: to protect the cavity and protect that wall."
One way to seek out a long-lasting flashing and drainage product is through standardized tests.
"They should be using products that are tested by reputable labs and that have withstood the test of time products that architects can specify year after year that haven't had any failures," said Earl Bickett, general manager for Mortar Net USA Ltd., which offers the new TotalFlash all-in-one product.
Another way to seek out such products is to research the warranty available through the manufacturer.
"Check the warranty the warranty will always tell you about how long that product will perform to its specifications and, unfortunately, when you might begin to see problems," said Jeremy Douglas of Sandell Manufacturing, which offers copper flashing and other drainage products.
Ease of Installation
One of the main selling points for Mortar Net's TotalFlash and Victory Bear's Tri-Technology Flashing both "all-in-one" type flashing systems that include the flashing, mortar deflection, weeps and other items in one handy system is they claim to provide a quicker installation than traditional flashing and drainage systems, allowing contractors to save time and labor costs.
"What's driving this product early on are the mason contractors because they're seeing the benefit of getting all of the pieces at once, the benefit of the cost savings, and the simplicity of it," Bickett said. "If they were to buy all of the items separately, they would save a little bit of money by doing that, but it would cost them twice as much in the installation process. The installation and the reliability of the system are the true savings."
Mark Brown, national sales and marketing manager for the Victory Bear Tri-Technology Flashing, an "all-in-one" PVC flashing and drainage product, agreed. "It's a very easy-to-install system," he said. "If you're comparing apples to apples, for example for a two-inch [cavity], for weeps, vents, flashing, termination bar and everything else, we come in $2 to $3 under, installed. A lot of the price difference is installation."
Brown went on to explain that building codes are also a reason for the broad array of different flashing and drainage types.
"You have a variety of building codes," Brown said. "Schools, for example: In most areas, schools use copper because copper is forever. There are a lot of areas, simply due to the codes, that require stainless steel drip edges or stainless steel termination bars. I don't set the policies for building codes, but that is why most products are developed: to fit a niche in the building code.
"What we're facing, marketing wise, is we're changing the concepts and changing the mindsets out there," Brown continued. "It's not necessarily going to be me or my product that are going to change the mindset. What's going to happen in the future is you're going to see building codes are going to change the mindset of the people. And then products like mine will fall into place."
Brown also cited preferences and designer specifications as a final factor. "Architects are really the ones that have to be sold on [a product]," Brown said. "If they're going to hang their hat on it out the field, that's really where it all starts."
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