Installation accessories are an on-hand must-have

Jim Snyder
October 17, 2016
COLUMN : From the Field | Strategies & Practices
Some installation accessories, such as these exterior trimout components, are only available from the fenestration manufacturer. (Image courtesy of Jim Snyder, WindowJim)

As an industry, we constantly preach proper installation of our fenestration products. The consequences of improper installation are frustrating and costly.

Given a quality fenestration product, skilled installer and window/door manufacturer installation instructions, a proper installation should, perhaps, be inevitable. But an underlying and underappreciated element of proper installation is having the correct installation accessories available at the time of installation.

Too often, installation accessories are not considered until the day of or, worse yet, the minute they are needed. While stopping to get the right tools can disrupt job progress, bypassing the accessories altogether or even using make-shift substitutes that can affect installation performance isn’t the answer.

Years ago, not knowing any better, I used an all-purpose flashing tape on a project because that’s what I had on the truck. Upon returning the next day to continue work, I found much of the flashing had rolled off and was lying on the ground. It was ironically fortunate that the tape failed so quickly so that I could replace the flashing with the proper self-adhering flashing (and method) before it became a bigger problem.

Yet, planning for installation accessories is much more complex than keeping a stock of sealants on-hand. It involves dozens of supplemental products, which are frequently job-specific. Because of the complexity, planning for these accessories should happen well before installation day.

Plan to Accessorize

Many of the all-purpose construction products used for window and door installation are available locally, yet many brand-specific accessories are only available from the fenestration manufacturer, such as exterior trim-out components, installation brackets or optional nail fins.

There are some “in-betweens,” such as coil stock and sealants, whereby aftermarket will suffice if clearly compatible. Still, there are times that the fenestration manufacturer’s available option may be a better solution (e.g., for an exact color match, or to save jobsite time such as ordering pre-installed jamb extensions).

As a result, selecting the proper installation accessories can get confusing, especially considering the fenestration product, installation application and the different resources for the supplemental products. Fenestration manufacturers clarify some of this confusion in a couple of ways.

First, they offer more of these installation accessories than ever before to supplement their primary products. Self-adhering flashings, sill pans and even shims may now be offered. This not only benefits the dealer and installer with one-stop shopping, but also by helping them identify items that otherwise might have been forgotten when placing the order. Additionally, in some cases, it also helps with material compatibility.

Second, fenestration manufacturer installation instructions are also becoming less generic when it comes to describing installation accessories. For instance, they may call out use of their accessory product or they suggest a specific aftermarket product brand.

In other cases, the instructions may call for an accessory that is compliant with a particular standard specification. Thereby, you can look for that specification on the aftermarket product label such as ASTM C920 for sealants (in some applications).

Sometimes, we become so focused on ordering windows or doors correctly that we overlook some of the accessories, yet they are just as much a part of proper installation. Review products offered by your suppliers. Think through every detail with your installer. Make accessory checklists for each job. Tie it all together by having a company meeting on this very subject to bring it to the forefront. Taking these measures and respecting the value of installation accessory preparedness will save installation time and reduce errors.

Jim Snyder is an AAMA-certified FenestrationMaster and InstallationMaster who shares his years of installation field experience as an industry writer, speaker, trainer and project/product consultant for dealers and manufacturers. A member of various industry organizations, Snyder also is involved in instructional document creation and revision. Contact him at jim@windowjim.com.