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The civilization of a nation is generally judged by the type of buildings and structures it builds. Water is creator and also destroyer of the building. Waterproofing of a building therefore is very important and is seeking more attention in recent times. It is now understood that if water ingress is not stopped in time, then it severely damages the building. The life of a structure depends upon its stability and that is what is affected by the ingress of water.
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The construction is mainly in the hands of Civil Engineers and Architects. However, if the structures are not executed in a sound manner without flaws, the society has a right to condemn the work. One of the chronic problems in the construction industry is obtaining work free of discrepancies avoiding moisture penetration in the buildings. One is always worried to ensure that his/her building is free from unwanted moisture and wall is free of dampness, seepage, and leakage.
The concept of waterproofing or protecting buildings against the damaging action of water derives from the need to avoid water and humidity that act negatively upon construction and materials used in construction. This negative effect manifest in several ways, creating health problems, structural deterioration, corrosion which is like cancer in a building, facility damage and several other problems. Repairing a building damaged by water can be very expensive particularly RCC buildings getting affected by corrosion.
The goal of building waterproofing is to prevent as much water as possible from entering the building, and to provide outlets and drainage so that if water does get inside, it is not allowed to remain. Many designers while designing simply forgets that there are going to be water.
The best and the most effective approach for waterproofing are to adopt adequate care:
- While designing and detailing the building
- While exercising maximum care during construction
- While observing all precautions post construction
- And maintaining the building as per standard engineering practices.
Again using good quality materials is a pre requisite. Practice has established that minor problems relating to dampness, seepage and leakage can be effectively tackled/avoided by using materials of acceptable quality by skilled experienced artisans and skilled and meticulous supervision.
Since waterproofing is the treatment to a surface or structure to prevent passage of water under hydrostatic pressure, one should aim to lower the hydro-static pressure which will prove to be the most effective. Designs incorporating the rain screen principle and providing for pressure equalization offer the best assurance against water penetration. Internal measures can include membranes inside the walls, such as barrier insulation which keeps water out. Typically, building waterproofing is done in several different ways to create multiple barriers for water so that it cannot enter a structure.
Waterproofing of buildings is designed to prevent water from penetrating a building. Usually extensive waterproofing measures are incorporated in a building at the time of construction, to provide moisture control at the initial stage. Waterproofing may also be carried out after a building is built, to address problems as they emerge. Waterproofing is critical for a number of reasons. Now days there are specialized contractors possessing special skills, knowledge and technology for building waterproofing, providing restoration and maintenance who also gives warranty/guarantee for 10 to 20 years.
Today the material chemistry has revolutionized the construction industry like all other industries. The advancements in waterproofing materials and technologies have revolutionized the modern construction industry, not only with their ease of applications but also longer durability and less and easy maintenance aspects. Lot of research is also going on globally to prevent water intrusion into the structure. Many technologies, products and methods are being developed to make the buildings leak proof.
Waterproofing of a structure is a serious subject. The idea of “applying just any chemical and believing that waterproofing is done” was never valid and is no more valid even today however miraculous chemicals might have been invented… Complete study of a building and impact of elements on it is therefore must.
The most frequent causes of permeability are, porous or flawed material, badly sealed splices, cracks in structural elements, building defects and inadequate/improper surface treatment.
Again there can be different kinds of humidity, the one that gets in from the outside (because of rain or snow, different kind of water infiltrations, ground humidity or underground water), building’s own humidity (permanent or because of the construction) and the one produced gradually by the building (because of its service as well as due to condensation and water leaks).
Damages to the concrete as well as wooden structures and also inbuilt furniture also result in high cost of repair and maintenance and sometimes even more than the cost of the structure itself. Stitch in time saves nine. Prevention is therefore better than cure is best applicable in case of leakage and seepages. To minimize the problems of dampness, leakage and seepage, the best course of course is to take precautions in the initial stages itself.
There are various materials and methods depending upon the technology they employ. In India incl SE Asia “Brick Bat Koba” system is popularly used for waterproofing flat surfaces like RCC slab, terrace or chajjias. But it is also not a full poor waterproofing system.
Please remember even a hair crack is sufficient for water to enter any surface. One has to therefore treat the building with utmost care. Negligent handling like fixing of window grills or random hammering for any purpose which exert extra load on a building will lead to the formation of cracks or mobile towers fixed on a building add to the aggravation of leakage problem. Vegetation growth or root penetration in a structure is a serious problem and should be handled before it gets difficult. Roots damage structure in very serious way. These are some of the external reasons which lead structure to the deterioration and their functioning should be understood to decide the remedial action.
However in spite of using the best of materials, sometimes waterproofing may fail. There are various reasons for such failure. Some of them could be faulty design, mistake in diagnosing the cause for the leakage, inappropriate material used in the treatment, lapses in supervision etc. The entire 99% job done with perfection can fail just by one percent mistake. The mistake could be of any type, by anybody, but if the results are not 100% satisfactory, then the waterproofing job is likely to fail.
In existing buildings when you treat the building for leakage proper diagnosis of cause is must. There could be many reasons for the leakages. They should be detected first to decide the treatment and the products. One should not be happy with just curative or aesthetical treatment but should treat the fundamental cause, the preventive care.
The damages by leaking water are not limited only to the structure itself but also extend to the people who are making use of the building. Many serious sicknesses have their origin in the damp walls of the house where they live or in the premises where they work. WHO has released a report on it, after thorough study in the several cases, which points out that leakages pose health hazard and about 50 dreaded diseases have their source in the damp patches on the wall.
One should also not forget that Repair and waterproofing of a structure are two sides of coin. Appearance of crack itself suggests that all is not well. Leaking water again leads to the formation of cracks. In repair if waterproofing is not considered then it will not be long lasting work and it will fail, soon. The gravity force, surface tension and capillary action, control the movement of water, into the body mass of a structure. One therefore has to have sound knowledge of building physics. Waterproofing is very important form the point of stability of structure. Once it is damaged, then it cannot be brought back to its original status.
However the problem can be avoided or reduced to the minimum, if proper attention is paid in the material and construction procedure. Everything should also be done keeping in mid the maintenance aspect. The construction team should ensure quality during construction at the initial stages itself. I.e. Investigation Stage, Planning Stage, and Construction Stage, rather than taking it as-a repair work or defect attending work.
Proper observation should be made to deal with the subsoil water as well as storm water in the rainy season. If no adequate care is taken in beginning post treatment in arresting seepage is a difficult and cumbersome process in spite of the additional cost.
When waterproofing is done properly, it gives results. The approach has to be scientific and systematic. There is no short cut in waterproofing. All the steps and standards should be followed for getting the results. Successful waterproofing is achieved by using various products and techniques.
Waterproofing if not done in time then the problem gets aggravated in many folds. It should be done systematically, and with appropriate products as thereafter the results are magical.
Waterproofing of a building is a major activity. It may appear to be expensive, but it is not so. In fact it saves a lot of money which may otherwise go in drain for various reasons. One should always consider Life cycle cost rather than mere capital cost.
To get the job done is a job by itself. Broadly speaking it starts from assessing the work, then procuring the estimate, selecting a contractor, getting the work done in a systematic way. You therefore need a real good designer as well as contractor who not only possess technical knowledge but also execute the job successfully for which he has to posses many other qualities, equipments, tools etc. to deliver the goods.
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