The proper development of waterproofing specifications is essential due to the complexity of the waterproofing process, which integrates several building components.

Thorough specifications are a critical component of any successful waterproofing project. The proper development of specifications is essential due to the complexity of the waterproofing process, which must integrate several building components and trades. It is the responsibility of the architect and/or designer to ensure that all areas of waterproofing application are addressed. The materials and system application methods are important elements and should be chronicled along with excavation, substrate preparation, backfilling and sequencing of work.

A thorough specification will serve as an effective communication tool for all project participants. Specifications that encompass the scope of work enable the owner or owner’s representative, construction manager, applicator and inspector to effectively communicate with each other. They also serve as a communication path to the architect. The information about each component and divisions of responsibility should be provided in the specifications, which should be reviewed before and during the development process in order to attain a high-quality waterproofing system that meets the specific project requirements.

On below-grade applications, the specification should be divided into four sections that address excavation, surface preparation, waterproofing application and backfilling. MASTERSPEC or CSI format specifications address these procedures in the following divisions:

• Division 1 – Pre-Installation Meeting (excavation).
• Division 2 – Backfill.
• Division 3 – General Requirements (surface preparation).
• Division 7 – Waterproofing.

Preparation requirements vary by the type of material and application methods used, so it is important that the manufacturer’s requirements for substrate preparation are followed.

Pre-Installation Meetings

The intent of this section is to establish parameters of the pre-installation meetings. Typical projects may have as many as three such meetings, which serve to open the lines of communication between the project participants. Attendees should include representatives from the owner, architect, engineer, general contractor, subcontractors, material manufacturer and the inspection agency. The specifications should define when the meetings will take place and who should attend. They should also define the guidelines for excavation, sequencing and review of the completed concrete surfaces.

The purpose of these meetings is to resolve any questions or disputed areas in the specifications prior to project commencement and during the construction phase. The specifications should clearly define the following issues:

1. The required width of the foundation excavation.

2. Sequencing of concrete casting for:
• The footing.
• The slab on ground.
• The structural slab.

3. Sequencing of the backfill operation.

4. The waterproofing contractor’s inspection of the finished concrete. It is critical that divisions of responsibility are provided within the specifications detailing who is responsible for concrete repair.

5. The waterproofing contractor’s review of the surface moisture requirements.


Whereas Division 1 outlines the sequencing requirements of the backfill operations, Division 2 defines the technical requirements of this process. The backfilling process is a critical component to the success of a waterproofing system, and thus requires appropriate attention in the specifications. Damage created by improper backfilling is the most common cause of premature waterproofing failures. Damage typically results from the use of improper fill materials, such as rocks, frozen soil and miscellaneous debris. It also occurs from punctures created by backfill equipment such as loaders, bulldozers, shovels, etc. In some cases, backfilling operations have been completed prior to the waterproofing application, leaving the area exposed to moisture infiltration. This is often the result of an overanxious or uncaring subcontractor. Proper backfill requirements listed in the specifications can eliminate these types of errors by providing an enforceable document.

If it is determined that incorrect application materials and methods were applied, then corrective remedies would be required. The most important backfill requirement is that it is completed immediately after waterproofing is applied. This is critical for two reasons. In vertical applications, the backfill holds the membrane in place. It also provides ultraviolet protection for the waterproofing materials, particularly for those materials that are not ultraviolet resistant.

Some of the other backfill requirements that should be provided in the specifications include the following:

1. Require that the compaction of the backfill be conducted in accordance with ASTM D 1557, “Test Method for Laboratory Compaction Characteristics of Soil Using Modified Effort.”

2. Specify single-graded aggregate that is not less than ¾ of an inch in size.

3. Specify filter fabric, porous backfill and subsurface drains.

4. Limit backfill lifts to a maximum of 12- inch heights.

5. Specify field inspection of the backfill operation to guarantee compliance and ensure that no damage to the waterproofing occurs.

Specifications should cover the application methods and materials required for temporary protection of the waterproofing while members of other trades are working.

General Requirements

A successful waterproofing application is dependent on proper substrate preparation. Preparation requirements vary by the type of material and application methods used. Due to this fact, it is important that the manufacturer’s requirements for substrate preparation are followed. In this regard, specify that the concrete surfaces and finishes meet the manufacturer’s requirements.

The designer should specify proper substrate preparation in the concrete division of the specifications. Separate trades typically complete concrete placement and waterproofing application, and this can create confusion and problems - particularly in the areas of what is considered proper concrete preparation and whose responsibility it is to perform any repairs required before the waterproofing application can begin.

The designer can eliminate these issues by providing language stating that concrete placement and repair be completed in accordance with ASTM D 5925. This is an excellent reference guide that contains a list of remediation measures for identifying and repairing fins, bug holes, form kick-outs and similar surfaces that are unsuitable for the application of waterproofing. Reference to this standard in the concrete section and waterproofing section will eliminate potential problems during the project. The designer should also require that the waterproofing contractor approve the surface in writing prior to installation. Other preparation items to be listed in the specifications include:

1. Do not permit the use of concrete curing compounds, certain form release agents, or concrete admixtures that are not approved by the waterproofing manufacturer.

2. Specify the schedule of concrete pours to provide for proper curing time prior to waterproofing application.

3. Specify concrete surface quality and finishes (float, steel trowel) that meet the manufacturer requirements.

4. Require the concrete contractor to exercise care when pouring concrete over waterproofed systems. Provide that there shall be notification of any damage to the waterproofing system given to the waterproofing applicator prior to the concrete pour or covering.

5. Specify water stops.

6. Specify cement cants and chamfered corners if required.

7. Any solvent-bearing concrete sealer should only be specified and applied after approval in writing by the waterproofing system manufacturer. A solvent-bearing sealer applied in normally specified quantities could migrate through the joints of the wear surface, changing the viscosity of the waterproofing system.

Improper backfilling procedures can cause of premature waterproofing failure. Damage typically results from the use of improper fill materials, such as rocks, frozen soil and miscellaneous debris.


Part 1 of the waterproofing section should include standard language pertaining to general requirements. These requirements would include submittals, manufacturer requirements, weather conditions required for application and the scheduling of waterproofing and backfilling. This section should also specify the application methods and materials required for temporary protection of the waterproofing while other trades are working in the area.

Part 2 of this section should list the products required for the waterproofing systems. A brief description should be provided for all products listing information applicable to the application - i.e., size, type, thickness, psi, etc. Reference the ASTM number for all products.

• Type I Asphalt: ASTM D 449
• Type I Coal Tar: ASTM D 450
• Type IV Glass Felt: ASTM D 2178
• Woven Glass Fabric: ASTM D 1668
• Coal Tar Saturated Organic Felts: ASTM D 227
• Liquid Applied Membranes: ASTM C 836
• Extruded Polystyrene: ASTM C 578 In reference to extruded polystyrene, it is recommended that Type VII EPS with a minimum of 60-psi compressive strength be used on framed slabs under a wearing surface and Type I EPS as a protection layer on vertical surfaces.

Specify the following accessory materials:

• Protection board.
• Drainage panels.
• Termination bars.
• Fasteners.
• Filter cloths under concrete slabs.

Part 3 of this section should reference the surface conditions required for waterproofing applications. Surface preparation and acceptable moisture conditions should be in accordance with the manufacturer’s requirements. Test methods to determine existing surface moisture should be specified.

The application section should reference the following items:

1. Specify the installation of the flashing and reinforcing materials prior to the membrane.

2. Specify the type of flashings, reinforcing materials and possible flashing termination fixtures to be used when detailing flashings at all openings, projections and other terminations. Make sure they are appropriate to the methods and systems specified.

3. Specify appropriate means for anticipated substrate movement. This can be accomplished through appropriately designed and placed control and expansion joints.

4. Follow the manufacturers’ guide specifications and details for applicable materials and application methods.

5. Specify that the manufacturers provide approvals as to the intended use of the system and details. This approval can be in the form of a written statement of “suitability of use.”

6. Establish the manufacturers’ limitations and requirements during application for weather conditions such as temperature, rain, snow and wind.

7. Specify immediate installation of protection board so there is no damage to the system from other trades. Use the manufacturers’ requirements as to the type of placement. Generally accepted protective cover is obtained by means of:

• Horizontal protection: asphalt/organic felt protection boards, ⅛ inch to ¼ inch thick, depending on required protection.
• Vertical protection: polystyrene bead board with minimum of 1-pound density and 1 inch thick.

8. Specify subsurface and below-grade prefabricated drainage systems in accordance with the manufacturer’s approval and requirements. Some manufacturers neither require nor approve these systems. A properly sloped concrete surface - ¼ inch per foot or more - will typically remove 95 percent of all water to the drains.

9. Drain configurations and installation elevations should be properly detailed and approved by the waterproofing manufacturer.

10. Require a flood test on all horizontal applications for a minimum of 24 hours and a maximum of 72 hours using no more than 2 inches of water. Tests are typically completed prior to application of the protection board for easy access to system repairs.