Basement Structures – The Basics.

Basement structures can be formed using varied methods and materials, each with implication upon resistance (or otherwise) to groundwater penetration, which in turn has an implication on the waterproofing design, with this also being influenced by proposed usage and site conditions.

If it sounds complicated, not to worry,  focus primarily on the fact that different structures provide different levels of resistance to penetration, and that this is one part of that which should be considered in producing a waterproofing design. Continue reading Basement Structures – The Basics.

Hail to the King (BS8102)

So it might be hard for most of you (ok perhaps all of you) to get excited about a British Standard, but this is not just any standard, this is British Standard 8102 (2009) Code of practice for the protection for the protection of below ground structures against water from the ground..!

For those of you still reading, BS8102 has importance in basement waterproofing, because as an ‘approved code of practice’, it has an elevated legal status versus all of the other design guides that are available.

What this means is that if we (or others) seek to sell services as designers or installers of waterproofing systems, and  do not comply either through choice or ignorance, and issues occur as a result, then it is likely that we would be found liable of negligence under duty of care.

Therefore, at least in my opinion, it is important to fully understand and act upon this guidance, which is not necessarily straightforward, but this is where dedicated designers and installers are beneficial in interpreting requirements within a given situation.


The Times They Are A-Changin’

As a contractor we are kept busy in part by the remedial basement waterproofing work that we undertake. To be fair this is something that we specialise in and so we may be approached with problem basements more than your average waterproofing contractor, but case in point, I’m writing this sat outside a property in Didsbury, Manchester, just waiting for a general contractor to arrive so that we can form trial holes to determine the build up of an external tanked deck, above a basement, which is causing issue in habitable apartments.

This is typical, and at the time of writing we have something like eight remedial waterproofing projects either on site or in planning. We are just one contractor.

So what’s going wrong? This is a question worthy of a long and separate post, but in brief, designs may be produced by those that often don’t have the requisite knowledge, spurred on by suppliers who’s primary interest in some cases is getting specified and selling product, with systems then being installed by inexperienced non-specialist contractors and problems ensue. No wonder.

‘Luckily’ at least for homeowners, where new homes are concerned these are usually covered by a ten year structural warrantee / insurance policy provider. These include NHBC (National House Building Council), Premier Guarantees (they also run the LABC scheme), and formerly Zurich. While Zurich no longer offer a policy, it’s less than ten years since they stopped and so there are still policies in effect.

A failure in a structural waterproofing system, in a house with this specific structural insurance, is generally covered under the policy, so again ‘luckily’ the cost of remedial works would be covered by the insurer.

I say ‘luckily’ because no homeowner ever feels lucky to suffer basement issues, distress would be a better description.

So in any case, insurance companies seek to manage their risk (spend less on claims) and at the same time to raise standards in house building, so that consumers are better served. Win win.

So what is the result of all of these basement failures? That’s right, standards have and are being updated.

I was employed a couple of years ago by Premier Guarantees to write their technical standards for basement waterproofing, and have presented to multiple teams of their building inspectors on what causes issues and how they can be prevented.

Following this, NHBC perhaps in some small way seeking to match the competition, are now updating their standards which we expect to be released early 2015, and they have been running a basement campaign with a view to educating their clients the house builders, as to what the issues are and why they are being addressed.

The major house builders should have a reasonable understanding in my experience because in many cases we’ve remedied issues for them direct.

So, the existing paradigm is changing. It is moving away from design and installation by non-specialists, towards the likes of us that do it day in day out, and know what is required to ensure no issues.

Exciting times.


For reference:

NHBC basement article

My work on the technical standards for Premier