Joints & Joint Problem In America

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Everything is Bigger in America – Including Joints and Joint Problems!

Bigger Joints and Bigger Joint Damage & Problems in America - Learning from American Experience

The ‘Sealing, Waterproofing & Restoration Institute’ known as ‘SWRI’ is an informative North American technical trade association with an equally useful and informative website for reference to movement joint sealants, waterproofing and repair methods and materials - for more information visit:

A few years ago, the SWRI commissioned a ‘Survey of Problems for Construction Project Management Teams’, for all-kinds of new and refurbishment works on both building and civil engineering projects, and one very interesting conclusion was:

“We have come to realize that our projects show more problems with expansion joint seals than all other product categories combined - yet, expansion joint seals are a miniscule part of most of our projects in terms of the overall construction costs.”

In fact, another recent USA estimate was that up to 95% of building defects are related to joints, this despite the joints representing only around 1% of the original building costs!


Everything is Bigger in America!

This is certainly a well-known old saying from the UK - and in many ways this is true:

- America most certainly has ‘Bigger Buildings and Structures’ and many more of them, than we do here in the UK, and this is true for almost every single type of different building and functional civil engineering structure – from office blocks, parking structures, through stadiums to bridges!

This is a simple matter of scale, due to the larger area (land area x ~50) and far bigger (x~6) population in the USA. In America there is also a bigger percentage of the population with cars and generally these are also bigger cars and trucks.

As a result, in America there are:
  • Bigger buildings for residential, commercial, health, leisure, education, sports and manufacturing facilities etc.
  • Bigger civil engineering structures for transport infrastructure like bridges, tunnels and parking structures (American for car parks!), airports, docks and harbours, water supply and waste, power generation etc.
plus in America:
  • This very significant difference in scale is also true for the necessary movement joints too! – Bigger expansion joints are necessary to accommodate the bigger joint movement, with bigger movement cycles, which results in bigger potential problems and bigger potential for damage – and damage!

The result of all of this is that in America the potential for damage and the extent of actual damage due to problems with expansion joints is also much bigger – This is especially the case if these joints are not adequately designed, with suitable joint sealing systems installed, to adequately accommodate the movement and meet their specific performance requirements.

This increase in potential joint problems and damage in North America is also magnified and the increase is even bigger, because of the fact that there are also big differences with the more extreme North American topography and environmental exposure, plus the far more extreme climate, which gives much bigger temperature variations, with much higher temperatures in Summer and much lower temperatures in Winter.

Also very importantly for joint design and joint sealant system performance and durability, the USA has very much bigger and far more frequent and significant seismic events that not only completely destroy buildings and structures with occasional epic events, but there is a very high frequency of ‘minor’ seismic events. This means that in large parts of the most susceptible areas of the USA and in particular the Western and Southern states, the design codes require far greater building movement to be accommodated by the expansion joints as well.

All these factors combine - and so it is very true to say:

“Everything is Bigger in America – Also Including Building Joints and Joint Problems”!

Bigger Joints and Bigger Joint Damage & Problems in America - - Learning from American Experience

It was to meet these very demanding North American performance requirements that the Emseal range of wide and high movement capability, expansion joint sealing systems has been developed, including the Emseal seismic grades for ultimate high movement systems.

For more than 25 years Emseal systems have been continuously developed, fully tested and well proven in practice. Emseal has never stood still and developments have continued, to meet almost every application and requirement for wide and high movement expansion joints on all types of buildings and civil engineering structures. Work has also been specifically focussed on the joint sealing system’s ease of design, and installation, in order to meet these more extreme American structural and environmental conditions, which are generally far more onerous and demanding than anywhere in the UK.