A guide to waterproofing your home

Whether your home is brand new or has been around for generations, one of the most important things is that it is properly waterproofed.

Water damage not only causes untold problems to the structure of the house, greatly affecting its sell on value, but can also damage your own personal property and valuable possessions. It can also damage the paint work and finishings in your home.

Large waterproofing jobs, particularly on your roof, can be extremely expensive so it is advisable to perform regular checks on all areas of your home, where water may cause damage, and stop any potential problems before they escalate.

The Property Care Association, or PCA, have more specific information on different types of roofing and can put you in touch with licensed experts should you have an immediate problem with your property.

How can I waterproof my property?

There are many different areas of your home where it is vital that water is kept at bay, and in each of those areas there are various methods of waterproofing.

This guide will examine the most vital areas in the home, and we also have tons of easy and popular ways of dealing with potential water damage to these areas.

Brickwork

There are many different ways you can go about treating the brickwork of your house which will prevent water or moisture getting into your home and there’s an added incentive – treating your bricks will also save a packet on heating bills as the warmth cannot escape!

An easy way to seal your brickwork is to repaint the outside brickwork of your house using a specialised outdoor paint, which are more hardy and weatherproof than regular paint.

Painting your house is a job you can definitely do yourself but, depending on how big your house is, it can be quite a mammoth task so be aware of certain things before you begin, such as:

  • Always plan and timetable the job. In order not to be daunted by the size of the task you should split the workload into sections using existing features such as bays, parapets, lintels, down pipes and window frames as natural breaks.
  • Pick a certain area and complete that area before taking a break. It will seem less mountainous because you are concentrating on a series of small segments, rather than the house as a whole, and it will also naturally disguise the joins between the new paint and old should you choose to do the job over a longer period of time.
  • Also, don't paint in strong sunlight as water-based paints will dry too quickly, or on windy days as irritating dust particles and debris being blown around in the air will stick to the wet paint work!

Painting aside, which you can do yourself, there are also many new technological developments and special waterproofing compounds which will protect your house from any moisture damage. Usually these need to be applied by professionals.

One of the best is called Never Paint Again Clearshield. It is a treatment which goes on top of your ordinary house brick without altering the colour or appearance of the brick in any way. The Clearshield makes the porous external walls of the house totally water tight and maintenance free, and is suitable for use on brick, stucco, concrete or stone walls.

The compound of the Clearshield forms a silicone barrier in the millions of microscopic holes within your walls which ordinarily allow moisture to pass through. After this kind of seal is applied to your home, any rain will simply roll off the brickwork in a fashion similar to that of a non stick frying pan. Thanks to technological advances, these sealants will also last for up to 20 years.

Some of the benefits of using a Clearshield, or an equivalent product, is that it insulates your home, lowering your heating bills. It also totally eliminates penetrating damp, protects your health from damp air, and prevents erosion of the bricks, particularly in coastal homes. To find out more information about Clearshield visit the Never Paint Again website, or call free on 0800 970 4928.

Damp proofing

Damp proofing is the term for a series of treatments undertaken to prevent the growth of rising damp in your homes walls.

Rising damp is very common in basements but can also be prevalent in older brickwork. What it literally means is that damp is trapped within your walls, and is seeking a means of escape through evaporation.

This usually happens when moisture penetrates cracks, tubes and other tiny passage ways in your walls. The moisture will move then through the pores of the masonry, seeking a means of evaporation. It will continue to rise until it reaches a height, where unless no evaporation is possible, gravity takes over and pulls it down again. This height is seldom more than 1.2 metres.

There are different ways of dealing with it but one of the stages may involve ripping down your internal plasterwork to treat the affected area behind, so do be aware it can be a messy job.

What causes rising damp?

Rising damp will occur in any structure not properly protected against it. Properties that are not protected are usually old and the protection originally in place has now expired, or the property may not have been protected in the first place.

How can I protect against rising damp?

The most common form of treatment for rising damp is to damp-proof your house or affected areas typically involves the installation of a chemical Damp Proofing Cream (DPC).

This will usually necessitate hiring a professional damp proofing company who will asses your property and then perform the work using specialist injection equipment. They will usually also re-plaster your walls using a salt retardant additive beneath the plasterboard.

The cost of having this done varies greatly depending on the specific details of your property. Factors such as how many rooms are suffering from rising damp, how big the areas are, and whether or not the areas are on the ground floor or higher floors which necessitate bigger equipment, will have bearing on the final price.

If possible, try and ask someone you know who has had a damp-proofing treatment done in their home if they recommend the company they used. If you don’t know anyone who has had this treatment then The PCA will be able to supply you with a list of contractors in your area who all belong to the Government endorsed Trust-mark scheme. Some contractors are now using electro osmotic damp proofing, rather than the more tradition chemical DPC method.

What is the electro osmotic damp proofing method?

This type of treatment uses small electrical charges to move the moisture within the wall. The electrical charge repels the rising moisture molecules down the walls and harmlessly back into the ground. As long as this tiny positive charge is maintained, the protected walls remain dry and totally free of damp.

Professionals in this method then run small titanium wires around your house, with certain sections inserted into small holes drilled in your walls. The wires are connected to a computer system which monitors the condition of the wall at regular intervals and can provide the owner with a valuable history of the effectiveness of the damp proof course. The installation of this system is easily achieved and the costs of running it are similar to the cost of running your doorbell!

Gutters

Efficient gutters are mostly ignored but if you have a problem with your guttering it can cause major problems to your home.

When a gutter becomes blocked the rain water builds up and overflows from the gutter, damaging bricks and mortar on your outside walls. It can also seep through the bricks causing damage to your household furnishings and paintwork.

But waterproofing your property is easily done with well maintained gutters.

One of the main problems with guttering is that the channels become clogged with leaves and other debris. At least once a year make sure you clear your gutters from all wet leaves and debris using a trowel or a scraper.

The build up of leaves and rubbish in a gutter can also provide a home for windblown seeds to lay root, meaning that weeds start to grow naturally in your gutter. This also leads to a blockage, which is why it’s important to clear the gutters regularly.

Gutters are susceptible to cracks, buckling and leaks as well. You will also need to inspect the various joints and brackets of the guttering regularly to make sure they are not leaking.

If they are, you can tighten the screws which hold the brackets in place or replace the brackets themselves. If you have old, cast-iron gutters you may need to replace the sealant that goes around the joints to ensure that no water escapes and also paint them regularly with a bituminous paint, which will prevent against moisture and corrosive erosion.

If you have PVC gutters which have holes in them you may be able to patch them up with sealant available in good hardware stores. If that fails to stop the problem you may need to replace that section of guttering.

If any of your guttering problems persist, or you would like to get your guttering checked by a professional then ask a friend or neighbour to recommend someone who has previously done similar work for them, or visit the Yellow Pages for a list of roofing and guttering specialists in your area.

Roof protection

Aside from guttering there are many important ways to ensure that your roof is offering you and your home the utmost protection against water damage.

A well protected and insulated roof can also save you money on your heating bills as it will stop heat leaving through gaps in the roof. If you have a flat roof, or part of your roof is flat, then you must be absolutely sure that it is waterproofed as flat roofs are particularly susceptible to damage.

The huge financial cost involved in replacing an entire roof means that most people usually go for a simple patch-up job if a problem occurs. There are, however, ways to secure the long term future of your roof without running into tens of thousands of pounds.

First of all you should inspect your roof twice a year, ideally before and after winter, and look out for the following things in order to stop potential problems before they begin:

Nobody likes a dirty flasher

Flashing is the metal used to seal bends and joints around vents, skylights, chimneys etc. Make sure that it is not leaking or damaged as water can get in underneath the flashing and drip into your house and cause lots of problems. It is estimated that up to 90% roofing leaks occur because of faulty or deteriorated flashing.

Missing tiles or shingles

Look for any roof tiles or shingles that have either blown away, cracked or deteriorated due to bad weather. You will need to replace any that go missing or are badly damaged straight away.

Loose tiles

Make sure the tiles that are in place are securely fastened and sealed to the roof. It is especially important to check the tiles around the roof edge as this is often where rain and wind can do the most damage.

Another top waterproofing tip is to use an insulator, e.g. a spray-on foam insulation which goes underneath your roof.

What if I still have a problem?

If you have damp proofed your home, your gutters are working, your brick work is sealed, and your roof is in fine order, then you should be prepared for any kind of wet weather.

But if you still have a particular or unusual problem when waterproofing your home then it’s always advisable to consult with a roofing expert to decide upon the best course of action for your particular circumstances. The PCA will be able to supply you with a list of contractors in your area who all belong to the government endorsed Trust-mark scheme.

And remember, though it may not seem urgent, waterproofing isn't a job to put off. That is, of course, unless you and your family fancy donning a rain mac in your living room!

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