Commercial building owners are responsible for ensuring their properties are up to scratch for tenants in every way. Correct waterproofing is an important part of this promise given the damage that leaky walls and roofs can cause to the occupant’s business. Research has shown that while waterproofing accounts for only one per cent of a building’s overall costs, damage from water leaks accounts for up to 80 per cent of a building’s defects.

By preventing leaks, correct waterproofing not only ensures building safety, but also helps prevent loss of rental income caused by the building becoming uninhabitable for the tenant.

5 common waterproofing issues in commercial buildings

1. Issues from above

No matter where the business is located in the building, it is always exposed to risk of water leaks from above.

For instance, the top floor can be affected by puddles forming on the roof. This is especially true of flat roofs, which collect water when it rains, with the water potentially seeping into the ceiling space to cause a leak. Stagnant water on the roof can also damage the structure through wear and tear. Alternatively, lower floors may suffer from the effects of faulty workmanship on the floor above; deficient tiling or defective plumbing can result in huge issues for the floors below, including cracks, mould and structural defects.

2. Incorrect waterproofing

Waterproofing must be installed correctly during the development stage. Many leakage problems are caused by poor waterproofing, which can result in moisture build-up, leading to quicker degradation of the building. It can also damage the property and equipment of tenant businesses.

3. Balconies

Balconies and terraces must be waterproofed carefully and correctly to prevent future seepage and leaks. Regardless of the direction of rain, any outside area open to the elements will get wet and incorrect waterproofing will only allow water to get straight into the building through the open pores or cracks.

4. Windows

Windows are one of the most vulnerable points for water to get into buildings. Inadequate waterproofing will drive rain straight through especially when the conditions are also windy, even if the windows are shut.

5. Ignoring the need for maintenance

Ongoing maintenance is an important facet of building upkeep. Even the smallest leaks must be attended to immediately as they have the potential to grow into much bigger ones that will cause much more expensive damage. This also means checking balconies, windows, cracks and any other issues that may crop up, and immediately repairing them.

How to minimise water damage

1. Inspect your roof regularly

Regular inspections of roofs, especially flat roofs will ensure problems are detected and resolved immediately. Experts recommend that a commercial roof should be inspected at least twice a year. During the inspection, vents, drains and any rooftop elements where water may be able to enter the building should be checked. Any water stains or cracks should be thoroughly inspected as they are a good indication of where water may be pooling or even getting into the building.

2. Regularly check the drains, plumbing and irrigation

Leaks in drains, plumbing and irrigation are hard to spot, making regular inspections an absolute necessity in building maintenance. Draining systems and plumbing should be checked for any blockages or drips and any leak, however small must be fixed immediately. An expert should be consulted to resolve the problem.

3. Ensure all seals are maintained

Windows, doors and walls are highly vulnerable to leaks, requiring building managers to constantly check all window seals, door seals and even wall systems. Concrete is a porous substance and can allow water through. Occasionally, leaks may not be visible, but moisture could still be getting through the wall. If water damage is found, get the experts.

Projex Group is the Australian and New Zealand distributor of the Wolfin, Cosmofin and Koster range of waterproofing systems.

Image: Balconies and terraces must be waterproofed carefully and correctly to prevent future seepage and leaks