While designers strive to produce modern expressions and embrace new technology to achieve the “look of the future,” the specifier needs to be historian or archeologist of the firm. It is the specifier’s responsibility to ensure that materials applied on the project provide a long-term service life and contribute to the success of the project. One way to do this is through research of materials to determine their track record.

Remember that as a specifier, you get only one chance to do this right. One simple way to evaluate a product is to check its track record in similar waterproofing applications. Sources of information could include other designers, building owners, contractors or specialty consultants.

It could also be beneficial to ask specific questions of the manufacturers. The first question should be: Is the product manufactured by the seller or is the seller merely a distributor (under a private label agreement)? This is very common in the construction materials industry. Manufacturers typically private label some — and sometimes all — of the system components. This type of information is available through Dun & Bradstreet.

What is the manufacturer’s track record? Contact other designers or waterproofing contractors in your area or throughout the country to find out their history with these materials. This is a small industry and material performance — good or bad — is usually a topic of conversation. If you talk to other industry professionals or manufacturers it would also be important to find out if the product has a history of successful performance under comparable conditions for at least 15 to 20 years. Obviously, if the product has not performed in the past it is safe to assume it will have the same difficulties on your project. Designers should also be skeptical of other building component materials being marketed for waterproofing applications without a track record in similar conditions. No other building component is exposed to the conditions of waterproofing materials.

Another important consideration is whether the material has maintained a consistent formulation for the past 10 years. This is a significant concern at this time. Environmental regulations and depletion of natural resources have had a great impact on current material formulations. Products that we have relied on for hundreds of years are not as readily available. This has left the industry with unstable materials and formulations with no verifiable track record.