What to Know About Curtain Wall Construction

Have you ever admired a building or home that has a floor-to-ceiling glass wall? You’re likely looking at a curtain wall. These thin and non-structural partitions are aesthetically pleasing and serve the purpose of keeping the elements out and the occupants in.


Let’s talk more about curtain wall construction, including an in-depth explanation of what it is and its benefits.

What’s a Curtain Wall

The Whole Building Design Guide explained that a curtain wall is “a thin, usually aluminum-framed wall, containing in-fills of glass, metal panels, or thin stone.” Consider the sweeping skyscrapers you see in the city. The sleek floor-to-ceiling glass wall framing windows are actually curtain walls.


But how do these walls hold up the entire building? They don’t. The framing is attached to the building structure and does not carry any of its load. While the curtain walls themselves are thin, they can hold up against the elements because the loads they take are transferred to the building structure.

Three Systems to Choose From

If you ever choose to build a curtain wall, you will have to decide between three distinct systems that are available: 


  • Pressure-equalized systems provide the best resistance to air and water infiltration by blocking all forces that can drive it across a barrier.


  • Water-managed systems have drains and weeps that mitigate water infiltration. However, there is no air barrier so water will still need to be swept away.


  • Face-sealed systems depend on a perfect seal between the glass units and the frame to mitigate water infiltration.

Understanding The Likelihood of Water Ingression

To comprehend the importance of a curtain wall, you need to understand what causes the ingression of water. It’s widely accepted that there are five major forces that can contribute to this: gravity, kinetic energy, capillary action, surface tension, and air pressure.


To withstand these forces, the curtain wall must also be glazed and incorporate drainage details, interior sealants, perimeter flashings, and more to be the most efficient. They must also hold up to the reality of thermal expansion of the variety of building materials, which can cause leaks.


The best way to avoid these undesirable results is to understand what kind of force the curtain wall will likely be under and make sure it has moving joints, seals, and gaskets to account for the thermal expansion that will naturally occur.

Benefits of Curtain Wall Construction

Curtain wall construction also has many benefits for business owners. According to Hunker, since curtain wall construction products are lightweight, they allow for more light to enter the building. They can also prevent air and water from penetrating the rooms and act as a firestop.


If the architecture of your build is one of a kind, you can also get custom walls built!


Preparing for your next build? Contact Garvin Construction Products to learn about our selection of curtain wall construction products. Curtain walls are our area of expertise, and the team is ready to help you understand your construction needs.





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