Did you know that waterproofing represents 1.8% of a building’s construction costs, but accounts for a whopping 83% of building defect complaints?
The recent Sydney storm that tore through the region in an unexpectedly damaging start to the cooler season left a stream of warehouses and buildings in Sydney’s western suburbs and beyond damaged. Could this have been you?
While homeowners, strata managers and builders alike bear the cost of damaged buildings and sunken roofs, it is with some relief that our team here at Andersal are pleased to report we had no call-backs from past projects during April’s downpours. As a long-standing team of experienced concrete repair and waterproofing contractors, we’ve had our fair share of call-ups for spalling repairs after waterproofing services have failed in the midst of a heavy downpour.
The Sydney storm has shown us that without proper waterproofing treatment, there are several ways that water can penetrate and absorb into the external facade of a building to leave it unprotected and open to damages and defects in the long-run. We thought it was time we shared some of our findings on those factors that will help to protect your building against unexpected water damage this stormy season.
The number one cause of building defects in Australia
Waterproofing defects and failures, including internal water damage and water entering from the outside of a building, are the number one cause of building defects facing Australia’s construction landscape today.
Defects from ineffective waterproofing represent a huge cost to business, who beyond the frustration of having to manage building issues long after construction is complete, are losing a large chunk of their profit margins to waterproofing rectification and rework services.
With winter looming ever closer, the unpredictability of Sydney weather once again stands to test the waterproofing of a building structure and its waterproof capabilities. Whether you are looking to waterproof public works, roofing, or the external facade of a concrete building, follow this guide to make sure your building is waterproofed the right way, first-time round.
What are waterproofing membranes?
The traditional system of waterproofing a building’s facade involves ‘membranes’, which rely on the application of one or more layers of polymer-based materials that act as a barrier between the building structure and any external water streams.
In this way, waterproofing membranes work to protect the structural integrity of the building’s facade, while preventing any external and internal water damage. The process of applying the membrane needs to be exacting and thorough, as with anything involving the human hand there is, inevitably, a margin for error that can lead to difficulties later down the track.
Why do you need to waterproof concrete structures?
If the waterproofing membrane on your structure fails, the damage it can cause can lead to concrete spalling or concrete cancer. You may have seen this before, marked by an evident “cracking” in the external appearance of a concrete structure. What you might not realise is that water damage can actually penetrate the steelwork of a building’s structure, causing not only concrete spalling, but rusting and structural problems. Older membrane materials in particular; such as PVC and HDPE, are less resistant to water and can cause the surrounding concrete to crack, which undermines the strength of the building as a whole.
Common types of waterproofing defects
The tell-tale causes of waterproofing damage and defects across building and construction sites and heritage sites are many and varied, including:
The Waterproofing Membrane reaches the end of its effective service life:
A waterproofing membrane unfortunately does not offer a permanent solution against water damage. Over time, its effectiveness will decrease, leaving the concrete more susceptible to water seeping through and cracking the concrete surface. Because of this, knowing when to re-apply the waterproof membrane is crucial to prevent damage to the structure.
Building settlement, building movement or expansion joints can cause the waterproofing membrane to tear or loosen from structural edges or flooring, which allows water to affect the structure. This may be exacerbated by the selection of an inappropriate membrane, such as one that has inadequate elongation properties.
Lack of contractor expertise:
When planning the construction of a site, waterproofing services are commonly overlooked in the planning and construction phase. Failure of the previous maintenance or repair job is often caused by incorrect diagnosis from an inexperienced contractor.
Failure to fix the root cause of the problem is more often than not fuelled by an inadequate understanding of the issue, inappropriate waterproofing membrane product selection, or a lack of installation expertise in order to obtain the job.
There is a known shortage of skilled contractors in Sydney’s building and construction industry. Cost-cutting measures during the building process, or in future ongoing maintenance does little to save you money in the end.
Contractors may cut costs by omitting recommended primers, or by selecting inferior and inadequate waterproofing membrane products. There are many installation techniques that are important to the performance of the waterproofing system that may have been overlooked in a cost-cutting procedure that can lead to future damage down the track.
In all likelihood, skimping on money in the build phase will inevitably end up costing you more as quick fixes add up over time, versus one high-quality waterproofing repair done right the first-time around.
How do Waterproofing Membranes work?
To protect your concrete structure from water damage and concrete cancer or spalling, you not only need to correctly diagnose the problem, but you need to select the right product and waterproofing membrane for the job.
How are Wolfin Waterproofing Membranes different?
Wolfin Waterproofing Membranes are the number one go-to waterproofing membrane used across our team here at Andersal for a majority of our waterproofing projects. Wolfin is a German made waterproofing product that has been used in Australia since the late 1980s, with a far-reaching application across residential, commercial and engineering products for the repair and waterproofing of roofs, basements, balconies, decks, lift pits and water tanks.
With Wolfin Membranes Australia (WMA) controlling all Wolfin membrane system installations across Australia, there is a high level of quality control across the board. Andersal waterproofing contractors are a licensed Wolfin applicator, meaning our team are subject to tight workmanship supervision and thorough final inspections on all waterproofing projects here in Sydney.
Andersal have applied the Wolfin waterproofing system across many concrete waterproofing projects throughout Sydney. The Wolfin Waterproofing Membrane was used in Andersal’s waterproofing service on the garden beds, pits, road sections and podiums of the NSW Conservatorium of Music.
Wolfin was chosen for its exemplary performance in public works waterproofing, offering superior performance for landscaping projects and permanently damp areas where water from the earth can seep in. Importantly, these membranes offer a unique set of qualities designed to protect residential and commercial buildings, including:
Unique Bitumen Surface:
Wolfin Waterproofing Membranes top the list of bitumen compatible waterproofing membranes. What this means is that bitumen membranes; such as driveways and pavement, do not affect the application or strength of Wolfin.
High-Quality Composition malleable to any weather conditions:
These membranes are single layered and homogeneous, high polymeric waterproofing membranes that don’t require enhancement additives across different weather conditions and seasons. This means that Wolfin Waterproofing Membranes keep the same composition for years to come, and are perfectly suitable waterproofing solution to the variable and intense nature of Australian UV rays.
Resistant against Micro-Bacteria to protect from Tree Roots:
Wolfin Membrane Solutions have substantially passed the test against root penetration; offering superior chemical resistance against inorganic and organic chemicals. This element of Wolfin Membranes works to ensure your concrete structure is UV stable and acid resistant when required.
With a view to self-sufficient structures, Wolfin membranes are designed specifically to meet the harsh conditions of the Australian environment, and offer product and labour guarantees for many years to come.
Waterproof your building for longer this winter
This winter, be selective with the waterproofing membrane you apply to your building structure. Beyond choosing the right membrane for the job, it is important to note that the strength of your waterproofing membrane relies on the applicator installing it. Ensuring your waterproofing membrane is installed by skilled applicators can mean the difference between surviving the temperamental weather conditions of winter, or being washed away in the storm.
All-in-all, the difference between waterproofing failures and those waterproofing services that stand the test of time speaks most to the strength of the waterproofing membrane used, and the longevity of the workmanship employed.