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13 May 2021 < Back

The unsung heroes in the waterproofing world

So this is an article about the unsung heroes of the structural waterproofing industry, those that get their hands dirty, those with steel toe capped boots and hi-vis jackets. But to be even more specific, the experienced waterproofing technicians that have helped put into practice the critical waterproofing design countless times before.

Waterproofing can seem simple enough but it is the attention to detail that separates success and failure. How often have we seen it where a ground worker either already present on site, or tendering for other aspects of the job, declares they can do it for a much cheaper price which of course is music to the Quantity Surveyors ears?!?

Sometimes they might get lucky, but when it does go wrong they realise the cost of remediation for structural waterproofing can be extremely costly! It goes without saying it is much cheaper to get it right first time. I recently wrote an article about what large commercial contractors could learn about waterproofing from housebuilders and this illustrates this point perfectly.

Waterproofing design vs reality

Design is important, in fact it’s vital to the success of any waterproofing project but it must only be considered as the first rung on the ladder. But let’s be clear, when it comes to waterproofing if it is designed wrong, the chances are it is going to go wrong. Maybe not immediately and perhaps much further down the line once the installer/main contractor has long since distanced themselves from any liability.

However, the waterproofing design can be spot on, right down to the finest detail, and it can still go wrong. Why? Because the design and the reality of being in a wet hole in the ground are two very different things…

Adopting the right procurement model is key!

Thankfully more commercial contractors are gradually becoming aware and adopting the design philosophy as set out in BS8102: Code of Practice for Protection of Below Ground Structures against Water from the Ground. More and more often a waterproofing designer is being approached from the earliest stages of design. This must be heralded as a massive step forward and we will continue to play our part in encouraging more Tier 1 contractors to adopt this procurement model. But unless the detail is applied on site, then this step is meaningless.

However, perhaps the most concerning cases we hear about are where an appropriately qualified Certificated Surveyor in Structural Waterproofing (CSSW) designer has been instructed to do the design and once they have that box ticked, they promptly put the job to tender and look for the cheapest contractor – even if they have no experience in structural waterproofing!?!

Keeping water out of below ground structures can be problematic. The British Standard tells us that we should expect to encounter defects and that defects due to poor workmanship should be avoided. Perhaps the best way to avoid these defects is by ensuring you have a suitability skilled and experienced contractor.

There are a lot of product manufacturers and distributors out there and naturally, they will have their own recommended installers. However, how much vetting is actually carried out on the contractors of these schemes, or are these more of a manufacture loyalty scheme? How can you ensure you are picking the right contractor?

Don’t take the risk – use a PCA member

It goes without saying that taking the risk and appointing unqualified and unsuitably skilled contractors on large commercial waterproofing projects really isn’t worth it. And this risk can be avoided by doing it right first time.

Members of the PCA who specialise in structural waterproofing are proficient in a number of techniques that can be utilised to prevent water ingress in new and existing underground ground structures. Technical competence has always been one of the core values of the Association and it is expected that PCA members that trade in this sector must be able to demonstrate their competence by obtaining the CSSW qualification.

The PCA’s nationwide list of contractor members are carefully vetted before being awarded membership and are then subjected to rigorous ongoing auditing procedures. Members of the PCA can also offer Insurance Backed Guarantees for much of the structural work they undertake.

Furthermore the PCA audit process extends not only to the office but also includes sites visits too. We do this as we believe the people on site are just as important in promoting the high standards the PCA promotes.

By adopting reliable procurement models and ensuring the contractors you appoint are qualified, skilled and experienced, will ultimately reduce the risk of remedial works if, or when, things go wrong!

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