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Commercial glazing systems

A commercial glazing system consists of specific types of insulating glass, sealants and an aluminum support and capping system that is installed in a manner prescribed by industry standards. It is the same type of system used in skyscrapers.

Many solarium companies use systems similar to carpenter site-built structures to keep costs down. They use materials that can be bought “off-the-shelf” at your local lumber store. Commercial glass contractors don’t use these “off the shelf” components because of maintenance problems and a short life expectancy.

The technique used to set the overhead glass in your sunroom affects:

Whether the sunroom is water tight or leaks.
Whether the wood in the sunroom remains dry or begins to decay and develops dry-rot.
Whether the insulating glass maintains its seal integrity or ‘fails’ and fogs up.

A commercial glazing system includes all of the following:
The overhead glass in encased in an engineered aluminum system.
Specific installation techniques and sealants are used to meet industry standards.

The lower edge of the glass unit must be supported by a vertical aluminum stop so that both pieces of glass are equally supported, preventing the separation of the two pieces of glass.
The dead air space of the insulating glass unit must be sealed from outside air with a silicone dual seal unit. This sealant does not degrade with UV and the structural silicone holds the two pieces of glass permanently together, preventing seal failure.

The insulating glass unit must be elevated above the gutter so that the edges can not come in contact with water. Water contact will degrade the seal and cause it to fail.
The primary seal against rain must have an internal back-up gutter to protect against severe weather conditions. If water does get past the rain seal, it is trapped in the gutter and is prevented from entering the interior of the room or contacting wood components. The gutter lets the water drain to the outside through a weep hole.

A commercial glazing system’s glass, sealants and aluminum parts thermally expand and contract together in a fashion that is compatible with maintaining both the dead air glass seals and primary rain seals.
No horizontal caps are used, preventing water, leaf and dirt build-up on the glass.

Glazing systems that are site-built by carpenters are problematic for the following reasons:
1. The glass adheres directly to the wood rafters with a double stick tape.
2. Without a backup gutter, the primary rain seal is relied upon totally for preventing leakage.
3. If the primary rain seal fails, water can rest against the dead air sealants of the glass unit, eventually causing seal failure.
4. Once inside and in contact with the wood, water can seep to the far reaches of the sunroom, showing up in unexpected places and making detection of the leak point difficult. Water trapped on wood parts can cause permanent water stains, decay and dry-rot.
5. Polysulfide, butyl and polyurethane sealants used by residential insulating glass manufacturers to maintain a dead air space are not intended for overhead glass installations and have a tested life expectancy of 6-8 years. The dual seal silicon units that Seattle Sun uses have a tested life expectancy of 40 years.
6. Overhead insulating glass compressed between wood on one side and aluminum on the other, and which is not properly supported, is subject to tremendous stresses as these three materials expand and contract differently during temperature changes. This movement will eventually cause the seal to fail.
7. Horizontal caps trap unsightly dirt, leaves and debris, and also block the flow of water – causing standing water at the caps and leaks into the room.

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