Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Stop water from seeping into your buildings before it finally stops you - Engr. Osaz’ ENOBAKHARE

Beautiful structures with ground water seeping profusely into the ground floors and walls from the earth are like beautiful ladies suffering from acute bacterial infections; they may look good outside but inside, it’s a whole different condition. Have you lived in a house where floor/wall dampness or water wakes you up in the morning and embarrasses you before your visitors in the evening? You would probably understand that water can be a serious problem when it finds its way into the wrong places. 
Enter some buildings and you would feel the dampness even from your simple sense of smell –very unpleasant. Ground Water/moisture has been observed to flow against gravity when it seeps through open pores in the earth up into voids and very tiny air spaces in the foundation elements and then into the interior of the building in an action known as capillarity. 
Although this great ability of water/moisture can be effectively developed into new technologies for cooling buildings naturally during hot weather conditions, however uncontrolled movement of water/moisture in and around a building often end in a big mess.

Poor water control into a building from the ground can cause foundation failure over time. Little by little, secretly and later openly, the foundation begins to deteriorate rapidly with cracks surfacing and then collapse eventually if left unattended to. But there are a number of solutions to avert such ugly incidence; each depends on the peculiarity of the situation. 

Most foundation footings and ground floor slabs in Nigeria are made of concrete. It has been observed that as concrete dries and set during construction, it normally leaves tiny pores which winks in moisture from the earth and transport them upward to the surface. Hence a permanent solution lies in the use of damp-proof materials like bituminous felt, polyurethane membranes, nano-technology penetrants, crystalline sheets, plastic sheets, epoxy or a combination of any of them to cover the surface or contact point of the concrete exposed to the ground at the bottom or by the sides so that moisture would have no direct contact with the element at any point in time.

Before installing any damp-proof material to stop water ingress into the building’s interior, it is important to study the water flow pressure under and around the sub-structure. It won’t be sensible for instance to use bituminous felt where the flow pressure of moisture is relatively high. Once you do that, initially it stops the flow but in a matter of years, the moisture soaks and tear-up the felt, then the threat resumes again. 

Epoxy, crystalline and acrylic coatings are particularly useful where the moisture does not contain much salt and in low or moderate capillarity flow; else the salt begins to break the coating and over-staying water between the layer of the covering material and the earth weakens the material giving rise to leakages. But good quality polyurethane and plastic sheets are very suitable for use under any flow condition, anywhere in the country. They can last for the active life span of the building without much distortion.

However It is important to note that no matter how effective a damp-proofing material is, if not properly installed, the result may be worst than before the intervention; hence the service of an expert is highly recommended especially where a correction or renovation work is to be carried out.

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