Damp or moisture can seriously affect the integrity of a structure or building; not to mention, damage essential finishes, fixtures and fittings of the building. Damp proofing is therefore a process by which moisture is prevented from passing through walls or rising through the foundation and floor of a building to its interior. Before outlining the importance and methods of damp proofing, let’s look at the causes of damp in buildings.
Most instances of moisture damage in buildings are recorded in areas with either generally high humidity or areas bordering wetlands. Some cases of moisture damage have also been experienced in high rainfall or wet climate regions – more than 60 inches of rainfall annually.
Poor plumbing is another cause of damp in structures. Leakages occurring in pipes running through walls or across the floor, cause build-up of water in the area surrounding the pipe. With time, depending on the size of the leakage, moisture patches will start showing on the walls and floors.
Leaks in gutters and holes in roofs allow water to seep through into walls and cracks. In a well-constructed concrete building, this will not be much of a problem because of concrete’s water tightness. Speaking of construction, buildings and structures with weak foundations are the most prone to moisture damage. A weak foundation is subject to moisture attack from multiple sources; from underground moisture rising-up to external water damage seeping through.
Damp proofing can be done in various methods – the most obvious one being provision of a Damp Proof Course (or DPC). DPC is basically any water repellant material. It could be plastic sheets, bitumen, concrete or even metal. The concept involves placing the material between the building component and source of dampness.
Provision of a cavity wall is another way of damp proofing. It protects both the wall and the foundation masonry by preventing movement of moisture between the outer and the inner walls.
Chemical methods can also be employed for damp-proofing. Water-repellant compounds such as; Magnesium Sulphate, Zinc Sulphate, Potassium Silicate or Sodium Silicates; are used for surface treatment. They are usually applied in layers and only effective in cases where the moisture is only superficial.
Pressure grouting is effective for sealing cracks on concrete floors and foundations hence preventing water seepage. Another method is mixing of concrete with certain chemical compounds like calcium chloride, to enhance its water tightness.
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