Coping systems are an intrinsic part of wall and edge protection and often provide specifiers with an opportunity to apply a final aesthetic frame to a building.
Choosing the right system is an important decision and here, Kevin Wallis, category manager – eaves solutions at Marley Alutec explains how architects and specifiers can get the balance right between aesthetics and durability…
From a material perspective, it goes without saying that aluminium can offer the durability and decorative attributes suitable for coping systems, however, merely citing aluminium on a specification may not ensure the service life intended.
Here are five key factors to consider that will help architects and specifiers make a fully informed decision:
The most important attribute of a coping system is its ability to remain weathertight. You could argue that a coping system that is not weathertight throughout its full life expectancy may not be fit for purpose, so it has to be the first line of inquisition. The integrity of a system will largely come down to the type of seal used at the joints.
Some coping systems use a rubber EPDM seal to make them weathertight. EPDM rubber seals rely on compression to maintain a weathertight seal; once the EPDM rubber’s compressible memory is lost, the system may no longer be weathertight, resulting in water ingress.
The best type of seal is a butyl adhesive seal, which will long outlast the EPDM alternative. The combination of compression and adhesion means that the system will remain 100% weathertight throughout its life.
Wind rating is another important consideration, particularly for installations at height. Nothing could be worse than having a coping system come loose and being blown away in the wind, posing significant risk to public health and damage to property. To be safe, specify a system that has been tested by a certified test centre to withstand winds above the highest speeds recorded in that area – which in the UK is 173mph.
It is worth considering ease of installation; this will directly affect the overall cost of a project and how closely the finished installation meets the original design intent. Composite aluminium is a good choice as it is extremely lightweight and rigid, meaning it is easier and safer to handle on site – particularly when working at height. What’s more, some of these systems can be easily modified on site using standard carpentry tools.
The next thing to consider is durability. Coping by default is almost always located in an awkward to access position. It is therefore important that it stands the test of time well, so that it doesn’t have to be replaced frequently and maintenance requirements are kept to a minimum. Therefore, look for long life expectancies – the best last for 50 years or more. It is also worth looking for manufacturers that offer colour-stable, architectural grade paint finishes and even Nano self-cleaning technology to keep maintenance costs to a minimum.
Finally, aesthetics must come in to play. For most projects, coping systems should provide a clean, crisp edge to frame the building.
Aluminium provides a smooth finish, however, some sheet aluminium systems can suffer from bowing (particularly on walls with a wide girth). Rigidity is therefore important to achieve a consistent uniform finish; ask manufacturers about maximum widths and get hands- on with the product if possible to test its flex.
Coping plays a crucial role in building envelope protection but unfortunately doesn’t always place highly on the design agenda.
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