Understanding Waterproofing and the 'Building Envelope'
At its core, waterproofing is the process designed to prevent water from entering into a structure. Typically waterproofing is done in various layers and stages to create a set of barriers such that water cannot penetrate the structure. A structure is waterproofed by the use of membranes and coatings to keep water out of a building while also protecting its structural integrity. A combination of such stages is referred to as creating a “Building Envelope”. This is why the compatibility of materials, their interactions, the interconnectivity of building spaces also become important to the process. Waterproofing is intended to offer protection from weather, seepages from ground while considering the vertical travel tendencies of water in a structure.
Common Mistakes in Waterproofing
Choosing the wrong waterproofing material: Each one of the available waterproofing materials has a specific use case. Choosing the wrong chemical will result in failure sooner or later. For example, waterproofing expansion joints in larger structures require material that should be flexible enough to stretch along with the building. In a composite joint where aluminium meets wood or concrete, you need materials that are compatible with all the surrounding materials.
Faulty External Plastering: If the external plastering of the building envelope is carelessly done, it could result in ingress points for water. For example, the holes provided in the walls for scaffolding are sometimes not filled properly nor corrected after filling.
Incorrect Diagnosis of a Leakage:If leakage is detected during waterproofing, it is critical to diagnose it correctly. The source of the leakage is not always located near the visual marks of it. After entering the body mass, water flows in all possible directions. Diagnosing a leakage correctly is the first step to fixing it.
Lack of Preparatory Work: Preparing for waterproofing is almost as important as the task itself. It involves cleaning the surface to remove dust, filling all the holes, cracks and cavities, repairing the damaged sections, relocating the embedded pipes, among others.
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Why waterproofing is critical
While it is well known that waterproofing is critical, the reasons why it is so are not as well understood. And while there are several building contractors around the country that claim they specialize in building waterproofing, especially for new construction services, it is important to be on the same page with them about the purpose. From the point of view of a home buyer, building waterproofing is important because:
It’s not just about keeping the building dry: Good waterproofing is not just about preventing seepage into a building, it is also about reducing internal humidity, and making a building more comfortable to work and live in. It protects objects inside the building from damage as a result high humidity such as corrosion of household electronics or other metallic items.
Structural integrity: Water breaks concrete down. Not only does the lack of good waterproofing start looking bad, but it results in the building getting weaker. The concrete erodes, exposing matrix materials and base concrete. When you waterproof concrete you are also protecting the re-bar inside the concrete from rusting and eroding.
Mould and mildew: Good waterproofing prevents mould and mildew and fungal attacks from getting into the walls and floors. This makes waterproofing essential to the health of those who live in the building.
Reduces maintenance costs: With waterproof structures, you have a lot less work to do when cleaning up after a heavy rainstorm. Basic maintenance is much easier when the there is good waterproofing.
Higher property value: Should the time come to sell your property, a waterproofed building is a good selling point. No one wants to buy a house with seepage problems.
Your builders approach to waterproofing must address these reasons to go for waterproofing, not just as a checkbox, but as a core part of the building process.