Issues caused by waterproofing

It’s essential to all buildings no matter how big or small. Although waterproofing plays such a large role, it only accounts for approximately 2-3% of the building cost. So you might find yourself asking, “but if waterproofing plays such a large role, why does it account for so little of the total cost?” If waterproofing is carried out to a poor standard, there are multiple complications that can follow, such as:

1. Safety.

If we go back millions of years ago, I’m talking about the caveman era. Housing and shelter were built for safety from the cold and harsh weather conditions. Moving forward to today, we are still building housing for the same reasons, although the design of a house has changed. When waterproofing fails, this can severely threaten the structural integrity of a building. In turn, making the property unsafe, inhabitable & start a number of lawsuits and insurance claims for the landlord.

2. Un-inhabitable

If a dwelling is unsafe, you probably shouldn’t stay there. Poor waterproofing can not only lead to structural damage but also  “concrete cancer” & mould. Mould can lead to serious illness if not removed quickly for those who are asthmatic or have allergies. Exposure to mould can also cause irritation to your eyes, nose, lungs and throat.

3. Water Leaks

Water leaks can be considered one of the worst problems caused by poor waterproofing. Leaks may seem like a small problem that’s easily fixed but it’s what that leaking water can do that makes it such a problem. For example, water and electricity don’t get along. A water leak in an area near electricity has the potential to cause a power outage or worse, start a fire. An undetected leak could damage carpet or create a mould patch leading to dramas mentioned above.  



So these are some of the outcomes from poor waterproofing, safety, water leaks and making a dwelling un-inhabitable, so what are the causes? Poor workmanship is a big one however, not the only one. Below are the 4 main causes of waterproofing failure.

1. Issues from above

It looks amazing, a modern architecturally designed building with a flat cantilevered roof. The only drama with this design is after rain, it can take some time for that water to evaporate unless the building itself lends a helping hand. If puddled rainwater leaks into through the roof this can cause structural damage.

In multi-storey building’s, if the roof plumbing has a defect it is possible for leaks to occur creating a funnel of problems. Water leaks into the slab, gravity takes over causing the leak into the floor below. If this remains untreated the leak begins to affect the floor below and so on.

2. Lack of Maintenance

If you are drinking a cup of coffee and there is a crack in the cup causing you to burn yourself every time you take a sip, I doubt you will continue to use the cup. Minor cracks and leaks should be addressed with the same urgency. A crack in concrete has the potential to cause major damage in a short period of time. As water hits the re-enforcing steel in the concrete, oxidisation occurs causing the steel to rust. This is known as concrete cancer. As the steel swells from the rust, the concrete around the slab continues to crack and turn frail. That small crack you ignored through the dry season has just become a major issue in the wet season and chances are, it’s too late. But don’t just look to the floor or roof for maintenance, window sills, door frames and lighting fixtures should also have the potential to cause you a headache as some of these elements are directly exposed to the elements of weather.

3. Poor Workmanship

Believe it or not, waterproofing is a specialised field. Although some plumbers and tilers offer this service, it might be worth doing some digging to make sure they have had the correct training and certification to do so. If you allow non-certified tradesmen to complete your waterproofing and a problem occurs, you may be liable for the damages. There is a strict installation methodology that must be adhered to when installing waterproofing. This includes the preparation of the surface & the product specifications. State laws should also be checked as for when you need to use a certified tradesman. In QLD, if the value of the waterproofing being carried out is more than $3,300, you must use certified tradesmen. However, Just south of the border in N.S.W, the value of the work can be as high as $5000 before you call a professional.

4. Wrong Membrane

A waterproofing membrane is the piece of material placed onto the walls, ceiling, or any area where waterproofing is required. The material is designed to stop any water from getting through and can consist of plastic, rubber, paper or coated fabric materials. For each particular surface, there is a required type of membrane that should be chosen by a professional. Flexibility, salt air, UV,  chemicals and more need to be considered when choosing the correct membrane. Avoid doing your own waterproofing as something as simple as applying the membrane the wrong way could cause problems.

In the scheme of things, waterproofing is cheap. However, as outlined above it is not a task to be taken lightly. When waterproofing has failed, the outcome can be catastrophic. If you have water leaks and you need a remedy, seek professional help and ensure they are certified to perform the work on your property. Don’t leave a leak to chance, it is something that should be inspected as soon as possible. Just because it has only just started leaking does not mean the problem has only just occurred. The water may have been pooling on the roof for some time and damage may already be caused.

With over 35 years in the industry, BRS’s team of highly trained staff can determine most waterproofing problems during an initial site analysis.

Waterproof BRS services include:

Building Waterproofing

Balcony Waterproofing

Roof Waterproofing


Common causes of concrete cancer and remedies

It’s ugly, it’s pretty hard to stop and chances are, it’s not going to be cheap to fix. It can start with a subtle crack, then you might see signs of rust or discolouration, next, it becomes brittle and if you leave it for too long it could end up costing you a fortune. It isn’t just something that looks horrible either, it can put people in harms way. I’m talking about concrete cancer.

Concrete cancer is the result of moisture mixing with the steel that reinforces the concrete, this causes the steel to expand and the concrete to crack. Contrary to popular belief, concrete cancer is not always caused by poor craftsmanship, there are numerous reasons that contribute to concrete cancer. Below are the most common:

You will also find below:

Concrete Cancer

#1: Poorly poured concrete & insufficient concrete cover.

If the concrete is not sealed properly after it has been poured, water may leak into the concrete and come in contact with the steel that reinforces the slab. Moisture and steel don’t get along, the steel will begin to rust and expand, obviously, as the steel expands the concrete that surrounds the steel begins to crack and displace. In its early stages, it may feel brittle underfoot, cracking as you walk on it or you may see signs of rust and discolouration. It’s not something that stops or stays in one area, it spreads and can start from deep within a slab not just on the surface.

#2: Poor Waterproofing

Waterproofing is the process of making a slab waterproof or water-resistant. It is a control put in place to avoid rain, moisture and leaking into the slab causing concrete cancer and hindering the structural integrity of the building. Poor waterproofing can cause a lot more than concrete cancer such as health risks from the mould, allergies and fungal infections. 

#3: Incompatible reinforcing metals used in the slab

When incompatible metals are in contact by an electrolyte such as water (mixed with concrete), an effect called electrolysis occurs. The dissimilar metals then set off a galvanic reaction that causes the weaker metal to corrode. As the corrosion progresses, the reinforcing steel begins to expand. The flow on effect from rusting steel is as above. The steel expands displacing the surrounding concrete, then the concrete cracks and becomes frail. One thing to remember is that the cracking could go into the slab to begin with, and remain undetected for some time. This is why it’s important to have a professional come to inspect your property at the first sign of concrete cancer.

#4: Reinforcing bars too close to the surface

Have you ever poured water on concrete and noticed without any sunlight the water disappears? The water is actually being absorbed into the concrete (like a sponge). Like wood and other materials, as concrete heats up, it expands and as it cools down, it retracts. While the concrete is in an expanded state, moisture or water may seep into the concrete. If the reinforcing steel bars are to close to the surface of the concrete, they are more likely to come in contact with any moisture causing oxidation. Oxidation creates rust, rust causes concrete cancer.

#5: Stress fractures from excessive weight

If a section of a slab has been used to bear an excessive amount of weight but the concrete was not designed for it, a common side effect is stress fractures in this particular area of the slab. When stress fractures occur, there is an open path for water and moisture to flow and sit. If this water is deep enough and comes into contact with the reinforcing steel the concrete is at instant risk of concrete cancer.

Structural/Cosmetic Repairs

Concrete Cancer Remedies

You do not have to be a structural engineer to identify concrete cancer, however, getting the professional opinion of a qualified expert for concrete cancer rectification is certainly recommended. If you suspect you may have any signs showing or issues mentioned above, acting sooner rather than later could save you a small fortune. BRS have many years’ experience in structural and cosmetic concrete repairs giving them the ability to refine the best suitable concrete refurbishment method for each project.

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