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In building construction, a structure needs waterproofing since concrete itself will not be watertight on its own (but note concrete is easily waterproofed with additives). The conventional system involves ‘membranes’. This relies on the application of one or more layers of membrane that act as a barrier between the water and the building structure, preventing the passage of water.
However, the membrane system relies on exacting application, presenting difficulties. Problems with application or adherence to the substrate can lead to leakage. In the South Africa these membranes are rarely allowed below ground below the water table.
Over the past two decades, the construction industry has had technological advances in waterproofing materials, including integral systems as well as more advanced membrane materials.
Integral systems work within the matrix of a concrete structure, giving the concrete itself a waterproof quality. There are two main types of integral systems: the hydrophilic and the hydrophobic systems. A hydrophilic system typically uses a crystallization technology that replaces the water in the concrete with insoluble crystals. Various brands available in the market claim similar properties, but not all can react with a wide range of cement hydration by-products, and thus require caution. Hydrophobic systems use fatty acids to block pores within the concrete, preventing water passage.
New membrane materials seek to overcome shortcomings in older methods like PVC and HDPE. Generally, new technology in waterproof membranes relies on polymer-based materials that are extremely adhesive to create a seamless barrier around the outside of a structure.