Table of Coefficient of Expansion of Building Materials CLTE Coefficient of Linear Thermal Expansion for Common Building Materials
THERMAL EXPANSION of MATERIALS - CONTENTS: What is the definition of coefficient of thermal expansion?How do building materials change in dimension in response to temperature changes, sun, shade, ice, snow?How do the dimensions of different building materials vary with temperature, heat, cold?Table of Coefficient of Expansion of Building Materials
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Thermal coefficient of expansion of building materials:
Here we provide a Table of Coefficient of Thermal Expansion of Building Materials - what is the linear expansion of glass, metal, wood, masonry or plastic in response to temperature changes.
We include a discussion of the definition of thermal coefficient of expansion, how thermal expansion causes trouble in building materials, and how to use the data in the thermal expansion table to calculate changes in material size as temperatures change.
Table of Coefficients of Thermal Expansion of Common Building Materials
Sketch at page top and accompanying text are reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.
Definition of the coefficient of thermal expansion or CLTE, Coefficient of Linear Thermal Expansion
The linear expansion of a heated solid (or liquid) is measured by
α = the coefficient of linear expansion,
The coefficient of thermal expansion is defined such that α measures the percentage change in the length of the material per degree of temperature change. Be careful in comparing the coefficient of expansion of different materials from different reference sources for thermal expansion coefficients as various references quote α in degrees C, others in degrees F. Usually people use the term CLTE or Coefficient of Linear Thermal Expansion as expansion along the long dimension of a material is most likely to be greater and thus of greater concern in construction. CLTE may be expressed as a fraction or as a power of ten as you'll see in the table below.
The following simple formula for the coefficient of thermal linear expansion in a building material is written to measure the percentage change in length per degree of temperature change:
α = (Change in Length / Original Length) / Change in Temperature
One can write similar formulas to calculate the coefficient of thermal expansion of a material in area (applicable, for example in thermal splitting of asphalt roof shingles ) or to calculate the coefficient of thermal expansion of volume. But because so many building material failures and leaks derive from cracks or openings due to thermal expansion of materials in length, that is our focus here.
Comparison of Coefficients of Linear Temperature Expansion (CLTE) of Common Building Materials
CLTE Ordered by Name of Material
Ordered by Coefficient of Thermal [Temperature] Expansion
Coefficient of Expansion in inches of expansion per inch of material per degree F.
Coefficient of Expansion in inches of expansion per inch of material per degree F.
Definition of CLTE: The coefficient of
linear thermal expansion (CLTE) of any material is the change in the material’s length [and to a much lesser degree the width
or thickness] per unit change in temperature.
Special thanks to Bob Fankhauser <email@example.com>, a retired engineer / professional handyman and Habitat for Humanity volunteer who offered comments, suggestions, additions for vinyl CLTE (Coefficient of Linear Thermal Expansion), CPVC, PVC, cellular PVC, and vinyl (25 Feb 20-16) as well as helpful discussion concerning the wide variation in coefficients of expansion of materials given by various sources.
Readers can see from these building material coefficients of thermal expansion (also called coefficient of linear temperature expansion) that assembling a building component that uses multiple materials requires methods that allow for these differences in the degree of expansion as temperatures change. Failing to permit movement of abutting or connected building materials whose rate of thermal expansion varies significantly will lead to separation, cracks, leaks, or damage in many instances.
Examples of the problems caused by differences in thermal expansion of building materials are particularly seen in windows and skylights.
See SLOPED GLAZING DETAILS
At SKYLIGHT LEAK DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR we include an example of failure of roof flashing cement that has lost its ability to tolerate thermal expansion and contraction on the building.
As we discuss at CRACKS in FIBERGLASS SHINGLES, we have not found a source defining the coefficient of thermal expansion of asphalt roof shingles
- CONTACT Us if you can provide that information.
Reader Question: can thermal expansion of some building materials can lead to loud noises?
Can the high heat (100F today) cause a building material to expand/contract and cause a loud boom and vibration. - Angela 7/22/11
Interesting question, Angela; I can imagine that very hot metal roofing installed without allowance for expansion/contraction, or even a thin metal storage tank that is nearly empty could make a loud noise on being heated. But loud boom and vibration - if it is recurrent you'll be able to track down the noise to a source (let us know what you find as it may help other readers)
If the building was damaged by something else like structural movement you'd expect to see cracks or stuff out of plumb/square.
If the noise was due to a dangerous gas explosion (sewer gas or LP or natural gas) you need an expert on site immediately.
Reader Question: I don't understand coefficients of thermal expansion
can we have the answers in plain english please?
Sure, glad to oblige.
When you heat various substances, most of them expand, or get bigger.
The just how much bigger something gets is a function of the amount of temperature change and the properties of the specific material itself. Different materials expand at different rates.
Because the increase in size (thermal expansion) in a material can cause problems like breaks and cracking, especially where the material is bound tightly by something else, designers pay attention to the thermal expansion data of the materials involved.
The table above gives, for many substances found in or on buildings, the Coefficient of Expansion in inches of expansion per inch of material per degree F.
In plain english, the coefficient of expansion is the amount of increase in size of a given material for each degree Fahrenheit that its temperature increases.
Example: if the COE for pure copper is 0.0000093, that means that if we heat any specific volume of copper, say one cubic inch of copper, by one degree F, the copper will get bigger by 1 x 0.0000093. So our one cubic inch of copper would now occupy a slightly larger space = 1.0000093 cubic inches.
Some Common Building & Material Failures We've Seen that Appear to Track to Thermal Expansion-Related Damage
Cracked exterior brick veneer walls (built without an expansion joint)
Cracked leaky metal roof valley flashing installed in too-long strips with no provision for thermal expansion
Cracked automobile windshields that occurred not due to impact but when the vehicle was left in hot sun
Cracked skylights or other building windows that were improperly constructed or installed, exposed to hot sunlight
Cracked glass bowl used to heat substances in a microwave oven
Reader Question: industry standard temperature change range for exterior building materials located in the states where there is snow
(Apr 8, 2014) Temp said:
What is the industry standard temperature change range for exterior building materials located in the states where there is snow in the winter?
This sounds like an interesting question but before I research an answer I'd like to understand what you are actually asking. Are you asking what is the temperature range to which building materials are exposed in states where there is snow? Are you asking what is the range of coefficients of expansion? What country are we asking about? - our website has readers in about 270 countries.
A basic question about temperature ranges by geographic area is something we can certainly find from a national weather service. What am I missing?
(Apr 9, 2014) Temp said:
Sorry for being too vague. I just wanted to find out what the construction industry uses as a minimum and maximum range of temperature for computing the projected thermal expansion of an exterior cladding material over its lifetime to allocate expansion joints within the wall system. An example would be for an aluminum cladding installed, lets say in Chicago during winter. Does the engineer/ architect allow for the historic temperature lows and historic temperature highs? Or is there a set range of let's say 100°F?
Interesting question, I don't know. I'd think that because most building products are used across a very wide range of climates, e.g. just in the U.S., vinyl siding is installed from Florida to Northern Maine and perhaps in Alaska, that the product engineers design for the full range of weather exposures.
About siding "gaps" and gap width, siding is normally overlapped more than enough that thermal movement won't open a (leaky) gap; 1/4" clearances are left at the J-channel at siding ends, and siding is "hung" on the wall, not nailed to the wall, so that it can move and not buckle as temperatures change.
Above: vinyl siding being installed on a Two Harbors MN home, February 2016 - working at temperatures well below freezing and often at 0 °F .
VINYL SIDING BUCKLED WARPED where we point out that vinyl siding may be installed at 0 °F during winter and may reach temperatures of 100 °F or more in summer.
Schipper, Peggy S., Janine Black, and Tony Dymek. "Foamed rigid vinyl for building products." Journal of Vinyl and Additive Technology 2, no. 4 (1996): 304-309.
Stovall, Therese K., Thomas Petrie, Jan Kosny, Phillip W. Childs, Jerald Allen Atchley, and Kimberly D. Hulvey. An Exploration of Wall Retrofit Best Practices. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), 2007.
Friedman, Avi, and Vince Cammalleri. "Prefabricated wall systems and the North American home‐building industry: North American survey of prefabricated panel systems conducted to examine the characteristics of the products and to determine their weakness in acquiring acceptance by the average builder." Building Research and Information 21, no. 4 (1993): 209-215.
Try the search box below or CONTACT US by email if you cannot find the answer you need at InspectApedia.
coefficient of expansion data for nylon
The coefficient for nylon is off by a factor of 10, should be .0000447 ! - Glen Blanston 10/8/12
Thanks so much Glen, we can use all the careful reading and technical editing assistance we can get. I've posted the correction.
(June 11, 2014) Anonymous said:
thermal expansion coefficient relates to length and not volume (see above answer)
Actually in general material expansion is in all directions, though I agree that expansion across longer dimensions produces the more obvious change in dimension.
(May 29, 2015) JVC said:
Hi, I am building a steel railing with a redwood hand rail. Some of it is straight and one sections descends a winding staircase. I know the steel will expand and contract mostly because of temperature changes and the wood will move more because of moisture. I think I will cut the wood into sections like control joints in concrete and maybe put stretchy caulk in the joints. Does anyone have any experience with this situation?
Your approach sounds reasonable.
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Solar Age Magazine was the official publication of the American Solar Energy Society. The contemporary solar energy magazine associated with the Society is Solar Today. "Established in 1954, the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society (ASES) is the nation's leading association of solar professionals & advocates. Our mission is to inspire an era of energy innovation and speed the transition to a sustainable energy economy. We advance education, research and policy. Leading for more than 50 years.
ASES leads national efforts to increase the use of solar energy, energy efficiency and other sustainable technologies in the U.S. We publish the award-winning SOLAR TODAY magazine, organize and present the ASES National Solar Conference and lead the ASES National Solar Tour – the largest grassroots solar event in the world."
Engineering Toolbox website, provides a more extensive table of coefficients of linear expansion at http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/linear-expansion-coefficients-d_95.html
Western Washington University Thermal Expansion is described and defined in a clear article that also gives both linear and volumetric coefficients of thermal expansion at 20 degC. for a variety of materials at http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~vawter/PhysicsNet/Topics/Thermal/ThermExpan.html
Bob Fankhauser <firstname.lastname@example.org>, 503 206 9824 Cell, a retired engineer / professional handyman and Habitat for Humanity volunteer who offered comments, suggestions, additions for vinyl CLTE (Coefficient of Linear Thermal Expansion), CPVC, PVC, cellular PVC, and vinyl (25 Feb 20-16) as well as helpful discussion concerning the wide variation in coefficients of expansion of materials given by various sources.
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
Analysis of Modern Paints, Thomas J.S. Learner, Research in Conservation, 2004 ISBN 0-89236-779-2 [Chemistry of modern paints, overview of analytical methods, pyrolysis-gas chromatography signatures of basic modern paints and their constituents, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy for paint analysis, direct temperature-resolved mass spectrometry, and analysis in practice - technical reference useful for forensic paint science, focused on art works -DF]
Understanding Ventilation, John Bower, The Healthy House Institute, ISBN 0-9637156-5-8, 1995 [General building science-DF - ** Particularly useful text. Mr. Bower has retired from the field but his book continues to be important]
Certainteed Weatherboard fiber cement siding and trim products - see certainteed.com/ or see certainteed.com/resources/sidingandtrimspecsheet.pdf
"Moisture Control in buildings: Putting Building Science in Green Building," Alex Wilson, Environmental Building News, Vol. 12. No. 5. [Good tutorial, "Moisture 101" outlining the physics of moisture movement in buildings and a good but incomplete list of general suggestions for moisture control - inadequate attention given to exterior conditions such as roof and surface drainage defects which are among the most-common sources of building moisture and water entry.--DJF]
Paint Handbook: testing, selection, application, troubleshooting, surface preparation, etc., Guy E. Weismantel, Ed., McGraw Hill Book Company, 1981, ISBN-10: 0070690618, ISBN-13: 978-0070690615, [Excellent but a bit obsolete paint theory and practice, also a bit light on field investigation methods, out of print, available used-DF] How to select and apply the right paint or coating for any surface. The first major reference to help you choose the correct paint or other finish to do the job best on a particular surface exposed to a particular environment. Experts in the field give full advice on testing surface preparation, application, corrosion prevention, and troubleshooting. The handbook covers wood, metal, composites, and masonry, as well as marine applications and roof coatings. A ``must'' working tool for contractors, architects, engineers, specification writers, and paint dealers.
Paint and Surface Coatings, Theory and Practice, R. Lambourne & T.A. Strivens, Ed., Woodhead Publishing Ltd., William Andrew Publishing, 1999 ISBN 1-85573-348 X & 1-884207-73-1 [This is perhaps the leading reference on modern paints and coatings, but is a difficult text to obtain, and is a bit short on field investigation methods - DF] Provides a comprehensive reference source for all those in the paint industry, paint manufacturers and raw materials suppliers, undergraduate and postgraduate students, and industrial paint users. R. Lambourne was in the Research Department at ICI Paints Division and the Industrial Colloid Advisory Group, Birstol University, UK.
Seeing Through Paintings, Physical Examination in Art Historical Studies, Andrea Kirsh, Rustin S. Levenson, Materials in Fine Arts, 2000 ISBN 99-051835 [ forensic science, technical reference, focused on art works - DF]
Sealants, Durability of Building Sealants (RILEM Proceedings), J.C. Beech, A.T. Wolf, Spon Press; illustrated edition (1995), ISBN-10: 0419210709, ISBN-13: 978-0419210702 This book presents the papers given at the RILEM Seminar held at the Building Research Establishment, Garston, UK in October 1994. The book provides an opportunity for researchers to review up-to-date progress towards the achievement of the objectives of the standardisation of laboratory techniques of sealants in the variety of service conditions to which they are exposed.
Soiling and Cleaning of Building Facades (RILEM Report), L.G.W. Verhoef (Editor), Routledge; 1 edition (November 3, 1988), ISBN-10: 0412306700, USBN-13: 978-0412306709 The report of a comprehensive investigation by RILEM which examines all aspects of the cleaning of facades, subject to soiling by both biological and non-biological agencies. The contributors are international authorities working in this field giving essential advice to all those who need to know how to approach the problems connected with the soiling and cleaning of building facades.
Staining, Prevention of Premature Staining in New buildings, Phil Parnham, Taylor & Francis; 1996, ISBN-10: 0419171304, ISBN-13: 978-0419171300 The appearance of ugly staining early in a buildings life, ruins an otherwise pleasing appearance, tarnishes the image of the owners and gives rise to costly refurbishment works. In this book Phil Parnham raises a number of questions that should be considered whenever a new building is being designed or built. These are: * why has staining become so prominent; * what causes premature staining; which parts of new buildings are likely to be affected; * how can it be avoided? By using a number of highly illustrated case studies, the author answers these questions and ends by suggesting measures that should be taken by all design and construction professionals to prevent premature staining.
"Weather-Resistive Barriers [copy on file as /interiors/Weather_Resistant_Barriers_DOE.pdf ] - ", how to select and install housewrap and other types of weather resistive barriers, U.S. DOE
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: email@example.com. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
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