Improper waterproofing can cause building envelope failure

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Improper waterproofing can cause building envelope failure

Facade and envelope employee water testing building envelope

Even a small amount of moisture that penetrates a building envelope during construction or occupancy can cause extensive damage. Water penetration usually is a result of improper construction, faulty installation or the use of low-quality, unsustainable materials.

Proper waterproofing starts with good design. If a building’s design is not up to par, even the best installation and materials will not help. For example, moisture penetrations in a foundation wall calls for a detailed design. Proper installation of the correct materials is essential, but the design is the foundational part of any building project.

Design problems aside, common building envelope errors involve using the wrong materials or improper installation of the materials. Even top-of-the-line construction material will not work properly if it is misused. It’s often difficult to find immediate problems with materials, but over the long term, they can lead to significant water damage and failure of the building envelope.

Contractors who cut corners or skip steps on the construction process are inviting structural, financial and even legal problems for building owners.

The most common waterproofing problems involve roofing and windows.

Waterproofing the roof

The right roofing is the most important defense against rainwater penetration. Even so-called flat roofs, which are the most common design for commercial buildings, should have a ¼-inch-per-foot slope to prevent standing water. Pitched roofs are great for water control. If they are not designed correctly, though, ice dams can form in cold climates. Proper underlayment material is an essential design feature for waterproofing roof systems. The underlayment is an added layer of protection.

Because the roof is always exposed to the elements, roofs need to be inspected and repaired regularly. A typical commercial roof membrane can last 20 years, but if it is designed, installed and maintained correctly, it can last 30 years.

Waterproofing windows

Improper installation or the omission of flashing on windows is also a common problem. Poor waterproofing around windows can let in moisture that causes extensive damage. Over time, even a small leak can result in windows and entire walls needing to be replaced. That is just from moisture damage and does not account for the safety hazards from mold and mildew.

Internal condensation and HVAC systems

Accumulation of internal condensation is another common waterproofing problem. Improperly designed HVAC systems can cause condensation buildup. Ceiling tiles that curl at the edges and corners indicate the presence of moisture. Condensation also builds if ductwork comes loose or insulation isn’t correctly attached to the ducts.

At Façade + Envelope, our mission is to provide world-class building envelope consulting and engineering services at the forefront of the latest industry standards. Contact us today to find out about our waterproofing services for new and existing buildings.

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