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Understanding Integral Waterproofing(I)

Integral waterproofing can be faster, cheaper, and more reliable than coatings and membranes. The California Academy of Science in

San Francisco used large quantities of crystalline waterproofing to seal the slabs and foundation walls. Mixed at 2.5% of the Portland cement content, the job used over 48,000 pounds of admixture to waterproof the 4,000 yards of concrete in the structure.

Concrete is one of the most widely used building materials, used on everything from residential basements and foundations to tunnels and water treatment plants. Although hard and dense, it is a porous material which makes it highly susceptible to damage and deterioration from water and chemical penetration. That’s why nearly all commercial and residential concrete projects specify some type of waterproofing system.

Traditionally, contractors apply either a spray-applied coating or a peel-and-stick sheet membrane to keep moisture out after a concrete structure is constructed. However coatings and membranes can be torn or damaged during backfill, could delaminate, decompose or deteriorate over time.

Instead of relying on membranes installed after the pour, an increasing number of owners and contractors are turning to integral waterproofing to make the concrete impervious to moisture. 

Integral waterproofing uses chemical admixtures, usually a dry powder or liquid added to the concrete mix at the batch plant or the jobsite. Some forms of integral waterproofing will even self-heal minor cracking.

Integral waterproofing offers a number of advantages over coatings and membranes. For instance, integral waterproofing can’t be torn or damaged during backfill, and will not delaminate, decompose or wear out.

By applying integral waterproofing, contractors can eliminate or seriously decrease maintenance costs for the entire life of the concrete structure. Because it offers such complete, long-lasting protection, integral waterproofing is especially useful in highly corrosive environments such as bridges constructed over bodies of salt water and high-consequence projects.


Integral waterproofing is extremely useful for blindside work—such as deep foundations and bored tunnels—where the waterproofing solution can be incorporated into the concrete batching process. It’s also useful for complex designs where sheet goods would be difficult to apply.

Their biggest advantages are the self-sealing ability, absence of seams, low overall cost and the fact that they are not compromised by poor site conditions, poor membrane workmanship or worksite damage. The ‘internal membrane’ cannot be scraped, punctured or torn, it lasts as long as the concrete.


The Price of Protection
For all these advantages, integral waterproofing is surprisingly cost effective. In fact, it saves so much time and money in the construction process that it’s not uncommon to shave months off the construction schedule. 

For instance, integral waterproofing was used in the below-grade portions of Singapore’s “Theatre on the Bay,” a performing arts center that would be subjected to significant hydrostatic pressure and a harsh marine environment. Crystalline Waterproofing replaced the originally specified membrane because of its ability to withstand the hydrostatic pressure and to protect the reinforcing steel against corrosion. But it also accelerated the construction schedule and saved the contractor more than two months.

Integral Crystalline Waterproofing products are typically 30% less expensive that comparable membrane solutions and can eliminate a few weeks from the critical path construction schedule.

There are no workmanship issues to be concerned about because there is no installation required. Since there is no installation, the general contractor eliminates an entire trade along with the requirements for space, access, scheduling, etc. Since no time is spent waiting for surface preparation and membrane installation, backfilling and other construction steps can proceed without delay.

There are other advantages as well. For instance, integral waterproofing products can be applied in almost any weather. There are few temperature restrictions; if temperatures are adequate for pouring concrete, integral waterproofing can be installed. Most importantly, it saves the time and expense of a separate waterproofing process. 

Additionally, excavation contractors can dig a smaller hole, since workers won’t need to access the outside of the building foundation. On large buildings, the excavation savings alone are often enough to justify integral waterproofing.

Lastly, nearly all integral waterproofing products can be considered “green.” There’s no off-gassing, no VOC’s, no chemicals leaching into the soil. It can easily be recycled along with the rest of concrete.



Email: Linda@goodcrete.com
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