basement water penetration

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

3 thoughts on “The Times They Are A-Changin’”

  1. Always enjoy reading your posts. Like you we also get involved in remedial work to existing basements. However, we notice the failures of work by so called experts is on the wain and more contractors are employing specialists on new basement constructions – so the long process of education is getting through.
    One local authority recently asked us to host a seminar on the subject as more properties are now being built with basements in their area (semi-rural) and their building inspectors had little experience. these seminars are a monthly event with attendance (depending on the subject) averaging 20. Over 80 attended including architects, designers, engineers builders and of course inspectors.
    I believe if more local authority building control departments did the same the message would get across very quickly

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind comments Keith! I’ve done a couple of talks for local Building Control guys, one officer said that he was going to have nightmares after seeing what I showed them! This was a few years ago now but as an example they had not ever seen a channel inspection port before despite the number of cavity drainage conversions going on in their area, and this despite having meetings with supplier representatives on site to talk through the works.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s