In building construction, waterproofing is a fundamental aspect of creating a building envelope, which is a controlled environment. A building or structure is waterproofed with the use of membranes and coatings to protect contents as well as protecting structural integrity. The roof covering materials, siding, foundations, and all of the various penetrations through these surfaces need to be water-resistant and sometimes waterproof. Roofing materials are generally designed to be water-resistant and shed water from a sloping roof, but in some conditions, such as ice damming and on flat roofs, the roofing must be waterproof. Many types of waterproof membrane systems are available.
Walls are not subjected to standing water, and the water-resistant membranes used as house wraps are designed to be breathable to let moisture escape.
Walls also have vapor barriers or air barriers. Damp proofing is another aspect of waterproofing. Masonry walls are built with a damp-proof course to prevent rising damp, and the concrete in foundations needs to be damp-proofed or waterproofed with a liquid coating, basement waterproofing membrane (even under the concrete slab floor where polyethylene sheeting is commonly used), or an additive to the concrete. A potential problem in earth sheltered houses is too much humidity, so waterproofing is critical in these houses. Water seepage can lead to mould growth causing significant damage and air quality issues. Properly waterproofing foundation walls is required to prevent deterioration and seepage.
The penetrations through a building envelope need to be built in a way such that water does not enter the building, such as using flashing and special fittings for pipes, vents, wires, etc. Some caulkings are durable, but many are not a reliable method of waterproofing.
Also, many types of Geo Membranes are available to control water, gases, or pollution.
Sometimes the water proofing membranes which are used to keep water out of buildings are used to keep water in, such as pond or pool liners.
Waterproofing should not be confused with roofing since roofing cannot necessarily withstand hydrostatic head while waterproofing can.
The standards for waterproofing bathrooms in domestic construction have improved over the years, due in large part to the general tightening of building codes.
Bituminous waterproofing systems are designed to protect residential and commercial buildings. Bitumen (asphalt or coal-tar) is a mixed substance made up of organic liquids that are highly sticky, viscous, and waterproof. These systems are sometimes used to construct roofs.
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