Wrinkles are all too common when installing a new geomembrane. Small wrinkles can turn into cracks under pressure. That, in turn, can compromise the integrity of an entire geomembrane installation and cause a costly amount of damage. In this article, we take a closer look at why geomembrane wrinkles form and how you can avoid them in the first place.
What causes geomembrane wrinkles?
Geomembrane wrinkles can form when air gets trapped beneath your geomembrane during installation. The membrane may look flat initially. But, the trapped air will heat up in the sunlight and expand until it pushes the geomembrane up into a wrinkle. Another reason is that geomembranes arrive from the factory with inherent creases or poor layflat properties which will manifest themselves into wrinkles during the installation process.
What can be done once a wrinkle has already formed?
There’s no simple or cheap way to remove wrinkles once they form. The best option in many cases is to cut and re-weld panels in the field. However, that presents its own challenges and is typically very expensive. You also can’t straighten out a wrinkle simply by putting weight on top of it. That only increases the chance that the wrinkle will develop into a full-fledged crack.
Quality is key
So, how do you stop wrinkles before they start? The key is to choose a high-quality geomembrane that is produced consistently with good layflat and camber. Geomembranes with good layflat and camber are less prone to wrinkles than those that are not. Even the best heat sealer won’t be able to stop a poorly manufactured geomembrane from generating wrinkles in the field.
Knowing details of the geomembrane source
The best way to ensure you have a high-quality geomembrane product is by knowing the details of the source—the geomembrane manufacturer. Details during geomembrane production make a big difference when it comes time to fabricate and install a geomembrane. For example, a geomembrane that was produced without camber will be much less likely to wrinkle during installation than one with camber. Eliminating camber ultimately depends on the alignment and winding of geomembranes during the manufacturing process at the factory.
The winding of the final geomembrane for storage and shipping also makes a difference. If the fabric isn’t wound properly by your manufacturer, that can lead to shrinkage.
Additional precautions you can take
- Unreinforced geomembranes – Wrinkle formation also depends to a large extent on the properties of your geomembrane. Unreinforced geomembranes are more likely to develop wrinkles since they have no fabric reinforcement to provide structure and stability during manufacturing, fabrication and installation.
- Environmental conditions in the field – It is advisable to take precautions in the field that can help prevent wrinkles such as aiming for optimal times of the day to install panels when temperatures are cooler either night or in the morning. IAGI and other industry Associations have developed guidelines that address this issue.
- Temperature – Temperature, during fabrication and deployment in the field, can cause thermal expansion of your geomembrane even before the panels are installed.
Avoid wrinkles from your future geomembrane installations
The best way to eliminate wrinkles from your geomembrane installations starts with choosing the highest quality geomembrane manufacturer for your project. At the end of the day, proper manufacturing and fabrication are essential to preventing wrinkles from developing in your geomembrane.