Window protection is the responsibility of every subcontractor and must be monitored and enforced by the general contractor at all times.
Various types of window protection have been implemented over the years with varying degrees of success. These protection methods have included everything from installing windows after all painting and plastering has been completed to covering the windows with products such as oil, paper and plastic sheeting. Anything and everything that could protect glass has been considered. The following is a brief history of the major points of window protection.
Originally, windows were not installed into their frames on most residential projects and buildings until the majority of construction, including the painting and plastering, was complete. By making sure that the windows were not subject to construction process, it was guaranteed that they would not be harmed by it. Unfortunately, this method of protecting glass is no longer practiced in the residential construction industry, though some commercial projects still practice this method.
Soaps and Oils
The first major innovation in the field of window protection came in the form of soaps and oils. These products offered fair levels of protection, but brought with them substantial difficulty when trying to get them off the glass. It was challenging to remove these items without damaging the glass and insulated glass seals, or staining the walls below the windows. The inferior durability of the soaps allowed the oil based products to quickly become the protection of choice with many plastering contractors. However, this method of window protection came to an abrupt end when it was discovered that insulated glass units were adversely affected. The high solvent content of some of the oil based products, as well as the extremely hot water used to remove the protection, had a damaging effect on the sealant in these units. Another obvious drawback of this method was that it was only a viable solution for exterior protection, leaving the issue of interior protection unaddressed.
Paper and Tape
Today, paper and tape are the protection of choice for interior protection. They are commonly used around the perimeter of windows to provide limited protection from construction debris. This type of protection leaves the center of the window exposed, subjecting it to construction debris and increasing the possibility of future damage when the window is cleaned.
Another popular method of window protection is the use of plastic sheeting material. This has the potential of being a very effective system, given it is left in place during the entire construction process. Unfortunately, some plastics are cut away by interior subcontractors to allow fresh air into the home or building. Offending subcontractors rarely replace or repair the plastic prior to commencing work in the surrounding area. This type of protection must be checked (and replaced as needed) continuously to be effective.
Sticky Plastic Sheeting
A newer type of plastic sheeting material exists which has a sticky tack backing and is applied to each pane of glass, leaving the glass protected even when windows are opened for fresh air. The window frames are then protected with tape, which helps hold the plastic onto the glass. The major shortcoming with this type of protection is some of these plastics can not be left on for extended periods of time or in hot climates. In these cases, if they are not removed in a timely manner they will be very difficult to remove without damaging the glass.
The latest strategy for window protection involves the use of liquid products, which are brushed or sprayed onto the window and frame. The major hurdle in the use of this type of production is the difficulty involved in removing these products, sometimes months after application. Due to this issue, sheet materials (such as paper and plastic) are the most popular and effective means of window protection currently used in the construction industry.
Anyone with experience in the construction industry will agree that windows must be protected during the entire construction process. The enforcement of this protection is the responsibility of every general contractor. All sources of scratched glass must be aggressively investigated by the builder to determine the actual cause. It has been common practice for builders to blame the plastering contractor for any scratched glass on the exterior of the building, and to blame the window cleaner for any scratched glass on the interior of the building. In cases where the accussed party is innocent, this approach does nothing to solve the real problem. The only acceptable solution is to hold the guilty party responsible and force them to correct their procedures to avoid similar issues in the future.