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Could learning how to damp-proof and waterproof structures be a valuable addition to your contractor resume? Depending on where you live, it can. Any location with a high water table, high soil moisture, or a lot of rain is going to have businesses wanting water protection. If you can hang drywall and paint it, you’ve got many of the skills you need to offer these services.
Damp proofing is meant to protect against soil moisture only while waterproofing also protects from rain. Damp proofing is often mistaken for waterproofing, but it’s important to know the difference for your marketing. An easy access road into the weatherproofing business is to start by offering damp proofing.
Damp proofing is done by applying an asphalt-based compound to exterior surfaces, usually a basement wall prior to backfilling. It can be sprayed or hand-applied. The IRC requires dampproofing as a minimum (PDF) for these surfaces to protect against water infiltration. Thus, if you are already working on basements or foundations you do this, but if you want to branch out into this area this would be a good place to start. From there, you can learn how to diagnose damp in underground spaces and move from there to full waterproofing.
If you pour concrete footings or basement walls, another way to approach the job is to use integral waterproofing. There are products available that form an impervious crystal matrix within the concrete to prevent the passage of water and vapor. These crystals grow denser when they come into contact with water. The same products can be used to patch over concrete cracks in basement walls. If you are unfamiliar with these products, a quick search for integral waterproofing will bring up several products. If you already have a concrete subcontractor, ask them if they offer an integral waterproofing mix.
Full waterproofing solutions work very well, but they require special application techniques. Rubberized coatings are basically like a rubber paint. The usual thickness for a good seal is 60 mils, but to get that thickness across all parts of the surface takes care. Coating manufacturers often include detailed instructions for how to handle voids and joints. Study these materials carefully and consider practicing with spare building materials before taking them out on the job. That said, once you know how to do it it’s no more difficult than applying dampproofing.
Another way to waterproof is to use bentonite panels. Bentonite is a special kind of clay that expands greatly in the presence of water. The idea is that if water reaches the clay layer, the clay will absorb the water and expand to stop further leakage. The panels are easy to install, but there is a catch. You’ll never know just how well a bentonite panel wall will protect against water until it actually does so. There’s no way to check a seal in advance. Nevertheless, their ease of installation and proof under fire, if installed right, make this another option for waterproofing.
These are the gold standard for waterproofing, but also the hardest to install. Rubberized asphalt membranes are thick, impervious to water, and stick to everything they touch. Everything. If you want to install membranes you’ll need to do your research and practice to avoid costly time and material overruns. Pay special attention to how much overlap needs to be done between membranes and if any additional mastic needs to be used to reinforce overlaps.
As you can see, there are a number of ways you can add waterproofing to your list of services for your business. Try choosing one of the options and spend a day researching how to use it and the costs of materials. As long as you live in a wet area, there will be a market for these products.