An Evaluation of Bridge Deck Joint Sealing Systems in Virginia

Report No: 03-TAR7

Published in 2003

About the report:

The design and fabrication of bridge expansion joint (or movement) systems comprise a rapidly evolving industry. New designs are constantly being presented for trial, often on a piecemeal basis. Occasionally, failures of products occur without sufficient documentation, resulting in inadequate dissemination of the details of the installations to other potential users. It was believed that a systematic evaluation process involving users of joint sealing systems and the Virginia Department of Transportation's (VDOT) New Products Committee was required to ensure that up to date information on available products, their prescribed uses, installation procedures, and performance would be available across VDOT. The research procedure employed in this evaluation was a series of case studies of individual trials of joint sealing systems. Care was taken to ensure the involvement of all interested parties within VDOT and to include the joint manufacturer (vendor) in any experimental installation. The subject study was a limited evaluation of those joint sealing systems used by VDOT during the past several years. It did not include the full array of products available to the bridge engineering community, and it was not necessarily based on numerous installations of every joint system. Since the study concentrated on joint sealing systems, open expansion joint systems, including butt, sliding plate, and finger joints, were not evaluated. Larger modular joint systems were also excluded. The results of this study were mixed with regard to the performance of the generic systems evaluated. Each system has served successfully, and evaluations have shown failed installations of each. None can be assumed to last indefinitely. Adherence to recommended installation procedures is essential to attaining satisfactory service from a joint sealing system. The vendor should be required to have competent representation present during the entire time of the initial installation of any product. The individual in charge of the installation must be completely familiar with the details and the underlying logic of the operation. Bonding of the elastomeric component of the sealing system (which accommodates joint movement) to the faces of the joint is a critical factor in the performance of most systems. Due care should be taken in cleaning the joint faces, ensuring that the surfaces are dry, and properly applying any adhesive.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


  •  James W. French, Wallace T. McKeel, Jr., P.E.

Last updated: December 4, 2023

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