In 1845, a surgeon figured out if he used a little adhesive on a piece of cloth, a “bandage” could be used for wound care, the first tape was invented. Through the 1900’s, the evolution of tapes continued. 1925 saw the development of masking tape used in painting. In the 1930’s, scotch tape was invented. This clear tape was hugely popular and had many uses. Water resistant duct tape was invented during World War II, originally designed to seal military ammunition cases. More recently, the tape evolution has exploded into the construction industry.
What’s simpler than tape? An adhesive strip used to seal something in or seal something out by bonding materials together. I remember my first experience using a construction tape, it was Tyvek’s seam tape used to seal Tyvek house wrap seams. I also remember those early years sealing the exterior of windows with that product. There have been many mistakes made that have advanced how we use pressure sensitive adhesives, and I’m sure there will still be more lessons to learn.
I recently had a project where we had some taping failures. We were taping seams of Siga’s Majvest using their Wigluv tape in cold weather, temps below freezing. The tape failure had me questioning, was it the tape, how the tape was being applied, or the temps during installation.
I decided to do a quick test to see if the low temperature application of the product was causing the tape to fail. I simply taped two small scrap pieces of Majvest together using the Wigluv tape. I tried to use a similar pressure to what we were applying in the field and under similar temps, around 20°F. A day later, I tried to peal the tape off the WRB. The tape destroyed the WRB while trying to remove it, question answered, it’s an installation error.
This got me thinking, how do other construction tapes perform during installation in cold weather. Sounded like a good backyard wingnut test.
There are three formulas of tapes in use today. The most common, and probably the best overall choice for most instances are acrylic tapes. These include 3M’s 8067, Zip Systems Tape and from Europe, Siga’s Wigluv and ProClima’s Tescon Vana products. Acrylics are usually the most expensive of the construction tapes, most can be applied in cool temperatures (what is cool to me might be cold to someone else). They have a strong bond to many different materials and are more environmentally friendly. It can take a few hours, or up to a few days for the bond between the adhesive and surface being taped to fully set.
A second type are the butyl tapes, these include Tyvek’s Straight Flash and Flexwrap and Protecto Wrap Super Stick. These tapes work better at slightly warmer temps, many are recommended to be installed above 40°F. They don’t bond as good to rough surfaces and should not come in contact with any solvents. On the plus side, they are usually cheaper than the acrylics and make an effective air barrier.
The last type is rubberized asphalt. Protecto Wrap’s BT25XL and Vycor Plus are both rubberized asphalt products. These are the least costly of the three types of construction tapes. In my experience, they are not effective in cold temperatures and can bleed and high temperatures.
I’ve always been a fan of using one manufacturer’s products as one assembly, for instance, when using Zip Sheeting as a WRB, I prefer to use Zip’s tapes. Tyvek housewrap uses Tyvek tapes, and so on. Each individual product of these systems is tested as a complete assembly and if installed per the manufacturer’s instructions, have the best chance if there is a warranty claim. That being said, many of these tapes can be used as part of an unrelated assembly. Using ProClima’s Tescon Vana tape to seal the seams of two pieces of plywood for instance. Some manufacturers have a list of compatible materials their tapes can be used with. Wigluv is not recommended to be used with GE’s Silicone II Window and Door, Henry’s 212 All Purpose Crystal Clear or Tremco’s Spectrem 2 products. Do your research, find out what construction products may have a negative effect on the tapes you use.
One other piece of advice, follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing. Most will require the tape to be rolled or an equivalent amount of pressure applied all along the entire surface of the tape. This is called “wetting” the tape, the pressure helps the tape adhesive to come in contact with all the surface under the tape, not just the high points.
My wingnut test. There have been a few tape tests discussed on Green Building Advisor and Fine HomeBuilding magazine. Great articles by Martin Holiday showing both his and Peter Yost’s test results. My testing is going to include twelve different tapes being applied outside at below freezing temperatures. I will be applying the different tapes to common building materials including OSB, plywood, Zip sheathing, XPS foam and two different pieces of fiberboard sheathing, one primed, the other not. I will also see if the tapes stick to a mechanically fastened and fully adhered WRB. I will apply to each material, roll the tapes and let set for several days outside in the cold. Then try to peal the tape away.
The Tapes Used. The tapes were selected by three metrics, what I was able to purchase in my local market, tapes I have used in the past, and suggested tapes, I posted about this test on Instagram several weeks before the actual test, I had a few suggestions and one person mailed me a sample they thought should be used. Thank you, Michael Anschel. Here’s the list of tapes:
Proclima Tescon Vanna
Zip Flashing Tape
Benjamin Obdyke Hydroflash
Benjamin Obdyke UV Tape
Tyvek Seam Tape
Protecto Wrap Super Stick
Tyvek Flashing Tape
Barricade Utli Flashing Tape
Protecto Wrap BT25XT
The Video Footage. I used my GoPro camera to shoot 15 minutes of me pulling tapes off the different surfaces. Originally, I was planning on pulling the tapes off outside, it was -10°F during this time, I chose to bring the test boards into my basement. Pealing tapes requires you to have your hands exposed, 15 minutes outside at those temps wasn’t going to happen. I did take a quick thermal image of the test boards before I began, as you can see, the test samples were cold during the process.
The video contains 15 exciting minutes of me pulling tape. If you find this appealing, knock yourself out. For those of you who don’t have 15 minutes of time to waste, I’ll describe what I found. There were a few surprises and several disappointments.
With the exception of one tape, I was able to remove every tape from every surface, most without too much effort. I was slightly surprised by this, I thought for sure there would be several that I would destroy trying to remove, especially off the plywood. The one I could not remove, Siga’s Wigluv off XPS foam, totally baffling.
The biggest disappointments. One disappointment was totally expected, application of a rubberized asphalt tape in cold temperatures. The Protecto Wrap BT25XT would not stick to any of the surfaces, as a matter of fact, several of the pieces blew off the test surfaces as I was applying other tapes.
One other tape only had a weak bond to the various surfaces, the Barricade Utli Flashing Tape. This is a disappointment to me because this is the tape I used a lot earlier in my career. Barricade house wrap and tapes were readily available at my local lumberyard, this was back before I understood the differences in WRB’s and tapes. I built several homes using this family of products, I have not had any call backs, but seeing the results of this tape’s performance in cold temps makes me nervous.
One additional tape that did not perform as I expected, the Benjamin Obdyke UV tape. To be fair, this tape would typically be used in an open cladding system using Benjamin Obdyke’s UV water resistive barrier. I did not have that WRB to use during the test. This gets back to how I feel about using specific tapes with specific WRB systems from the same manufacturer.
The biggest surprise! Protecto Wrap Super Stick, this butyl tape stuck well to many of the surfaces, some of the bonds were just as tough to pull apart as the best tapes tested. I added this tape at the request of a local friend who uses it on nearly all his jobs, I did not expect these results, a pleasant surprise.
Expected Performance. I’ve used many of these “better” tapes in cold temperatures, not on all the different surfaces, but on enough where I had an idea they would perform well. They are all acrylic tapes. There are three I would use on any of my jobs, the first two (number 3 is the best of the best), are 3m’s 8067 and Zip’s Flashing Tape. The 8067 seemed to be little affected by the cold temperature application. I have lots of experience with this tape, I could not notice any difference in the application between cold and warm weather. I did notice a slight decrease in the Zip flashing tape used in the cold, though it still stuck well to most of the surfaces.
The best of the best. Siga’s Wigluv! This is one impressive tape. Couple drawbacks with it though, it is the most expensive, but you get what you pay for, and I cannot source it locally. I have to order online. As a side note, I recently used Siga’s Fentrim tape for the first time. I thought Wigluv was impressive, Fentrim has it beat. I’ve been using this tape to seal my interior air/vapor control product to the concrete slab at the Barndominium project, some of the tape was applied in temperatures below 0°F, very sticky, even at those temperatures.
Overall, if you’re using pressure sensitive adhesives in cold or very cold temps, I would recommend using the acrylic based tapes, with the one exception, Protecto Wrap’s butyl Super Stick also performed well. I used to choose the tape based on the budget of the build, I no longer do that. As I said earlier in this post, tapes are designed to keep something in or something out. Often, what they are keeping out is water, and that’s the number one killer of buildings. In my opinion, this should not be the place to save money. Install the best tape (and best WRB system) you can, perform you’re own back yard testing, find the system that works best for you.
To be continued…because I was surprised by all the tapes inability to fully bond to the plywood, I will continue the test by re-applying the best and worse tapes to the plywood surface at more normal temperatures. I will have a future “shorts” posting on those findings, stay tuned.