Seven crucial steps to get your project ready for an air leakage test (1)

7 crucial steps to get your project ready for an air leakage test

What You Need To Test

As you probably know, an air leakage test needs to be carried out on new-built residential properties for Building Regulations (as per Approved Document L1A). Air leakage testing is also known as air testing, air pressure testing and air tightness testing.

The Regulations

However, the requirements of Building Regulations Approved Document L1A have become more stringent over the last decade, as design air permeability (DAP) figures have increased – so decreasing the margin for error.
But it can be hard to know when a building is ready, in order to give your project the best chance to meet the performance standards set by the SAP calculation.

The Risk of Testing Early

ATTMA, the Air Tightness Testing and Measurement Association, recently released guidance that states that 70% of dwelling tests fail due to the testing company being called in too early.
This can be a costly mistake, and may mean paying for re-tests, as well as the wasted man hours and even penalties for delayed handovers.

So How Do You Know When To Have Your Air Leakage Test?

With pressure on you to complete the project on time, and delays out of your control from contractors, it can be tempting to carry out an air leakage test and “get it out of the way”. But as the above statistics show, this can be a case of less haste, more speed.
We always suggest carrying out air leakage testing when building work is 100% complete including snagging. This means windows and doors are fitted and the property is connected to power and water, but ideally without floor finishes and furnishing.

A Stitch in Time…

Our experience in testing new houses and flats has taught us that many failures are a result of minor finishes being incomplete.
Below, we have listed ten tips to help you ensure you are ready for an air leakage test.

  1. Know your target results

Make sure your SAP calculations have been carried out, and you have a record of the target result figure for each property to be tested.
You can find this number on your SAP calculations report and may be listed as a q50, DAP or Air Permeability Figure.

  1. Check Windows and Doors

All your windows and doors should be fitted and operable. Access doors, such as internal doors to garages, should be air tight, and can’t be sealed temporarily for the test. Trickle vents should be closed.

  1. Fit Loft Hatches

This is straightforward – just check any access points to the loft are fitted with the hatches to be used when the property is handed over.

  1. Complete bathrooms

All bathroom fittings should be fitted and complete. Bathrooms are a common hotspot for air leaks, with bath panels and pipe work being prevalent sources of air leakage. You should look to ensure air leakage paths are sealed before fitting the bath panel, vanity unit covers, extractors and any boxing in. For more tips on air leakage paths, see our recent blog here.

  1. Seal skirting boards

As a common source of air leakage, you should look to make sure all skirting boards are sealed with a silicone sealant. We recommend sealing skirting boards above and below for optimal results, as carpets and other flooring finishes will not prevent air leaks.

  1. Lights, Power and Appliances

Light switches, light fittings, appliances and plug sockets need to be properly fitted before testing, as temporary sealing of these is not permitted. When these elements are not fitted before an air leakage test, the air loss caused can lead to poor results.

  1. Kitchens

Kitchens should be finished, with appliances fitted, boxing in complete and extractors fully fitted. As with bathrooms, air leakage is common around pipe work. Another culprit of air leakage is the cavity left behind kitchen cupboards, where there are no skirting boards. It’s easily forgotten – out of sight, out of mind!

Avoid the Mastic Trap

Official guidance has set firm guidelines around what can and can’t be temporarily sealed. The main contractor has the responsibility to put temporary seals in place in line with the guidelines published by ATTMA here. Temporary seals can be achieved simply by using low tack masking tape.

The allowed temporary seals are:

  • Mechanical ventilation systems such as kitchen and bathroom extractor fans
  • Trickle vents
  • Air conditioning grilles
  • Passive ventilation such as air bricks, passive stacks and sub floor ventilation systems
  • Chimney flues

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Achieving the performance standards set by the SAP calculations is more straightforward when you have help. By involving us at design stage, we can review your proposals and drawings to identify potential problems.

We can also offer early testing and pre-test inspections to help maximise your chances of passing, and find out where issues are to avoid delays.

Each of the above air leakage paths can be avoided through good design and workmanship. It is essential that trades involved in the project such as plumbers, electricians and dryliners have a good understanding of the air leakage testing process and common pitfalls which can be avoided.

How We Can Help

At Soundtesting we are happy to provide you with general air leakage design advice and onsite guidance. Upon completion of your project we provide Nationwide UKAS and ATTMA Accredited Air leakage testing for domestic and non-domestic buildings to help you demonstrate Building Regulation Compliance.

To find out more about our air leakage testing service or if you wish to discuss your project please contact us on 0151 933 6186. To be sent a checklist for your next project, please contact us here

Speak to our experts

0800 123 4567

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