Owning a commercial building is a constant maintenance project. It can be challenging to assess what your building needs, which elements should get priority, and how you should maintain the building to reduce the need for major repairs and renovations.  

A building’s outer layers, the building envelope, often requires the most maintenance. Here is an explanation of the different components of the building envelope, what kind of maintenance they may need, and other things to consider when maintaining your property. 

What is the Building Envelope? 

The building envelope is the physical and thermal barrier that separates the building from the outdoors. It is essentially what defines the building’s “inside” and what protects occupants from rain, wind, sun, and other elements. 

The building envelope has three main components: the roof, the wall, and the foundation. However, especially in commercial buildings, each of these elements is highly complex and has many different layers. The specifics will depend on the design of your building, but the basic elements of the envelope include: 

  • Roof:  Commercial buildings may have TPO, EPDM, PVC, metal, or other kinds of roofing systems. 
  • Roof Insulation:  As roof insulation can compress over time or be damaged by exposure to water, it is essential to consider it during repairs. 
  • Roof Framing:  This is the carpentry or roof trusses which provide the structure for the roof system. 
  • Coping Cap Joints:  At the top of the wall, these are the seals which prevent any water leaks from the roof from penetrating into the wall and causing issues.   
  • Masonry Wall:  This is the brick, stone or concrete portion of the exterior wall. 
  • Through-Wall Flashing & Barriers:  These are materials that control or prevent moisture penetration in the building.    
  • Expansion Joints:  These joints allow various components of the wall to move somewhat freely, which is beneficial because it prevents cracking. 
  • Wall Framing:  This is the carpentry which provides the frame of the interior wall.   
  • Wall Insulation: Insulation in the walls is meant to control the transfer of heat through the building. 
  • Doors: Exterior doors need to be properly integrated into the building envelope.   
  • Windows: Windows need to be properly integrated into the envelope as well. Their glazing is also important to improve the energy efficiency of the building.   
  • Foundation: There are many components to the foundation, including the ledge for the walls to sit on, gravel fill beneath concrete, the grading and slope of the ground next to the foundation, and more.   

Building Envelope Maintenance 

It is important to keep up with general building maintenance to ensure that the impact of moisture, aging materials, pests, material interactions and other issues are found quickly and addressed before they can become more serious issues. Here are a few things to consider about the proper maintenance of different elements of the building envelope: 

  1. Roof:  The maintenance that your roof will need depends on the type of roof that you have. Some types of flat roofing need more maintenance than others. If damage has occurred to your roof, you’ll need a roofing professional to assess the issue and make repairs. Single-ply membranes are often easier to repair than built-up roofing or other roof options. 
  2. Windows & Glazing:  Your windows and glazing systems may need repairs, or they may need replacement if they are outdated, poorly insulated or no longer serve your needs. 
  3. Insulation:  Minor leaks, ventilation problems, and humidity can all damage your insulation, rendering parts of it ineffective. Replacing small sections of insulation can be quite important, as even small gaps in performance can be significant heat leaks.
  4. Caulking: Even the best caulking naturally dries with time and begins to crumble or crack. You may need to replace all or some of the caulking on your windows and in other areas. 
  5. Painting: Sometimes, a fresh coat of paint is all your building envelope needs, and it can dramatically improve your building’s aesthetics. Regular painting is a cost-effective way to keep the building looking fresh. 

Why is the Building Envelope Important? 

The building envelope may be mostly unseen when you’re outside or inside of the building. However, each of these components is critical for the stability and safety of the structure. Your roof, wall and foundation systems manage the air, heat and vapour in the building. In the case of a fire, they contain smoke, and in the case of an earthquake, they resist forces. Generally, they should be built to withstand other disasters too.  

The building envelope also determines the energy efficiency of your building. Certain elements of the building envelope may also be important to make the building look appealing. Ultimately, these systems keep the building habitable, comfortable, and beautiful. 

Maintaining the elements of your building envelope is important to protect the overall quality and stability of your building. You made investments in these critical systems when the building was constructed, and they need maintenance in order to last longer or to meet modern standards for building construction. 

Get a Building Envelope Assessment   

It can be hard to keep track of how your building envelope is doing, particularly when many components are out of view. Therefore, it’s wise to get a building envelope assessment. During this assessment, professionals can help you determine what kind of maintenance each component of the building envelope may need moving forward. It can also reveal minor and major issues with any part of the envelope which may need immediate repairs. With a professional assessment, you’ll have the peace of mind that your building envelope is either in good condition or can be addressed before even more major issues develop. 

Reach out to West Coast Building Restoration for building envelope services, including restoration for residential, commercial and industrial buildings. We can help with a wide range of building envelope systems, including roofs, carpentry and insulation. Contact us today