Structural membranes are very durable. Physical damage can be inevitable due to the environment or uncontrollable circumstances, and the age of the membrane should be taken into consideration as this can make it more susceptible to tears. Although it’s difficult to determine how long a membrane structure will last, there are signs to watch for when determining if your structure is weakening.
Primary Signs of Wear and Tear
1. Membrane appearance: Worn material is dull and appears to have a matte finish. Unlike standard top finishes, however, Tedlar®, a continuous film, provides superior protection of the architectural coated fabric and color stability. This technology has been used on architectural siding for decades and on architectural fabrics by Seaman Corporation for over 30 years.
2. How the membrane reacts to snow and rain: If the rain doesn’t roll off easily and snow is sticking to it, this is a sign the UV coating is degrading. The slippery nonstick Kynar® coating on a Shelter-Rite structure ensures that the snow will continuously slide off the roof of the structure. The anti-stick, nonstaining performance of Seaman fabrics also helps to prevent dirt and airborne pollutants from adhering to the fabric, making the tension membrane structure virtually self-cleaning as rain and snow shed off the structure.
3. Color: If a “pinhole” effect is visible when inspecting the membrane from the inside or the color is visibly fading from the outside, this is a sign of significant wear Tedlar® film offers a uniform thickness and does not show “pinholes.”
To Repair or Replace?
If the fabric skin becomes damaged by a puncture or tear it will no longer be watertight and a repair may be necessary. In some cases, a small worn area or rip can be fixed using a repair kit. A small rip is considered to be vertical and under three inches. If the rip is horizontal and over 12 inches, the repair is more difficult and may require a full re-cover. It’s important the same material used for the structure is used to perform the repair. A fabric building dealer that can also provide heat welding is the best option for larger repairs and will ensure the repair lasts longer. Both sides of the cover should be repaired as weather can affect the outside repair.
Smaller structures are often comprised of a single piece of material covering the entire structure. If a structural membrane replacement is needed for these structures, it’s recommended that the entire membrane be replaced. For larger or longer structures with several panels, these panels can often be individually replaced.
Properly maintained structures can offer long-term results. If you follow the supplier’s maintenance requirements, there’s a better chance you’ll have a high- performance architectural fabric for a long period of time. In all cases, it’s important to refer to the manufacturer’s warranty and consult with a professional to determine if it’s time to replace a damaged or aging structure.