Fluid-applied air barriers

Photo Credit: Tyvek

Fluid-applied air barriers are materials that are applied in liquid form and then harden into a durable, protective layer on a building’s exterior. They are designed to prevent air and water infiltration while still allowing for proper ventilation.

A building’s envelope is its outer layer, which includes the walls, roof, and foundation. Protecting this envelope is crucial for maintaining a comfortable and healthy indoor environment, as well as for ensuring a building’s longevity and sustainability.

Fluid-applied air barriers offer numerous benefits for building envelope protection, including improved air leakage and moisture control, increased energy efficiency, and enhanced waterproofing and weatherization.

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In this blog, we’ll discuss the advantages of utilizing a fluid-applied barrier, common challenges associated with them, building codes you need to be aware of, how they can help promote sustainability in your building, and conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis of utilizing a fluid-applied air barrier.

Let’s get started.

The Advantages of Fluid Applied Barriers

Fluid-applied air barriers create a seamless layer that prevents air and moisture from entering a building’s interior. This reduces the risk of mold and mildew growth, as well as other indoor air quality issues. 

Let’s explore some more common advantages of installing a fluid-applied air barrier.

Energy Efficiency and Sustainability 

Air leakage can account for up to 30% of a building’s energy usage. Fluid-applied air barriers reduce this leakage, leading to increased energy efficiency and lower energy costs. 

Additionally, by preventing moisture infiltration, they help to maintain a building’s structural integrity and prevent the need for costly repairs.

Durable air barrier

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Enhanced Waterproofing

Fluid-applied air barriers are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions and prevent water infiltration. This helps to protect a building’s structural components and prevent damage to interior finishes.

Thermal Bridging and Condensation

Thermal bridging occurs when heat escapes through a building’s exterior walls, leading to higher energy costs and a less comfortable indoor environment. 

Fluid-applied air barriers reduce thermal bridging by creating a continuous layer of insulation. They also prevent condensation from forming on interior surfaces, which can lead to mold growth and other indoor air quality issues.

Exterior Insulation

Fluid-applied barriers also act as a vapor barrier, preventing moisture from entering a building’s walls and causing damage.

Now that we’ve extensively explored the advantages of fluid-applied barriers, let’s talk about some of the challenges commonly associated with them.

Vapor Barriers

Photo Credit: PCI Magazine

Common Challenges with Fluid-Applied Air Barriers

There are two main challenges associated with these type of barriers.

Some building materials may not be compatible with certain types of fluid-applied air barriers, which can lead to problems such as adhesion failure and water infiltration.

Also, fluid-applied air barriers can be affected by temperature and humidity levels during installation, as well as by harsh weather conditions after installation. This can impact their effectiveness and longevity.

If you’ve been in the construction industry for long, you know how crucial it is to follow code in your area. Let’s talk about some general ones to keep in mind, as we can’t speak directly to your city.

Building Codes and Standards

Building codes and standards are put in place to ensure that buildings are safe, energy-efficient, and environmentally friendly. 

Compliance with industry standards is essential in the construction process, and fluid-applied air barriers are no exception. 

Without further ado, here are some important codes and standards related to fluid-applied air barriers.

Outdoor Weather-Proofing

Photo Credit: Sika

Compliance with Industry Standards

Fluid-applied air barriers must comply with industry standards such as the Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA), American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), and the International Code Council Evaluation Service (ICC-ES).

The ABAA is a non-profit organization that sets standards for the design, installation, and inspection of air barrier systems. 

ASTM is a globally recognized organization that sets standards for materials, products, and systems used in construction. 

The ICC-ES is an independent evaluation service that ensures that building products comply with the International Building Code (IBC).

Building Code Requirements

Building codes are mandatory requirements that set standards for construction practices, materials, and design. Most building codes require the use of air barriers to control air leakage and moisture intrusion. 

For example, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) requires air barriers in commercial buildings.

Testing and Certifications

To ensure that fluid-applied air barriers comply with industry standards and building codes, they must undergo testing and certification processes. These tests evaluate the product’s performance in terms of air leakage, water resistance, and durability.

One such test is the ASTM E2357 Standard Test Method for Determining Air Leakage of Air Barrier Assemblies. 

This test determines the air leakage rate of an air barrier assembly under specified pressure conditions. 

Certification bodies such as the ICC-ES, ABAA, and the Canadian Construction Materials Centre (CCMC) provide certification for fluid-applied air barriers that meet the required standards.


Fluid-applied air barriers contribute to sustainable building practices in several ways. By reducing air infiltration and increasing energy efficiency, they can help reduce a building’s carbon footprint and contribute to a healthier indoor environment. 

Additionally, fluid-applied air barriers can help extend the lifespan of a building, reducing the need for maintenance and repair and reducing waste. They may also contribute to LEED certification points for sustainable building design and construction.

leed certification

Photo Credit: UC Merced

Cost-Benefit Analysis

The cost-benefit analysis of fluid-applied air barriers is an essential consideration when planning a construction project. 

The initial investment costs for fluid-applied air barriers can be higher than other building envelope systems. However, the long-term maintenance and repair costs can be significantly lower, leading to greater savings over time.

In addition to maintenance costs, fluid-applied air barriers can also help reduce energy costs, improving the building’s overall energy efficiency. 

By creating a more airtight building envelope, less energy is required to heat and cool the interior, reducing energy consumption and costs.

Another benefit of fluid-applied air barriers is their contribution to sustainability in building practices. 

By reducing energy consumption and improving building envelope performance, fluid-applied air barriers can help reduce a building’s environmental impact. Furthermore, the materials used in fluid-applied air barriers are often eco-friendly and can be recycled, making them an excellent option for sustainable building.


In summary, fluid-applied air barriers are an effective solution for improving the performance of a building’s envelope. They provide a seamless, flexible, and durable protective layer against air and moisture infiltration, while also contributing to energy efficiency, sustainability, and long-term cost savings.

Compliance with building codes and industry standards is crucial for ensuring the quality and reliability of fluid-applied air barriers. Testing and certification processes help validate their performance and durability, and manufacturers offer a range of options to suit different types of substrates and applications.

The cost-benefit analysis of using fluid-applied air barriers is favorable, as the initial investment is offset by energy savings, reduced maintenance costs, and improved occupant comfort and health. Sustainable building practices can further enhance their benefits, as they contribute to reducing carbon emissions, promoting green building certifications, and increasing property value.

The future outlook for fluid-applied air barriers in building construction is promising. As the demand for sustainable and energy-efficient buildings grows, fluid-applied air barriers are likely to become an increasingly popular choice for enhancing building envelope performance.

Advancements in material science, installation techniques, and testing methods are expected to further improve the performance and durability of fluid-applied air barriers, making them even more reliable and efficient. The integration of digital tools and monitoring systems can also enhance their quality control and maintenance practices.

Overall, fluid-applied air barriers are an essential component of modern building design and construction, providing a high level of protection, energy efficiency, and sustainability. Building professionals and owners should consider incorporating them into their projects for improved performance and long-term value.

Need a fluid-applied air barrier for your next commercial project? Contact us.