Water damage is one of the biggest environmental risks buildings face. It can affect structures in virtually any environment, spread quickly and cause widespread damage before anyone notices. Given those risks, selecting the right building waterproofing materials is crucial.

Construction firms today have many waterproof membranes to choose from, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Project managers must go over the following seven considerations to make the right choice.

1. Costs

A material’s costs are its most straightforward consideration. Only 8.5 percent of construction projects finish on schedule and within budget, so teams should avoid overruns wherever possible.

Determining waterproofing material costs is more complex than simply comparing prices per square foot. Some items may have higher initial prices but require less maintenance, lowering building operational expenses over time. Similarly, if a more expensive material is easier to install, it could save money long term by reducing labor costs.

Project managers should also consider if they’d need multiple layers or additional infrastructure to make a waterproofing system work. Some suppliers may also offer larger bulk discounts for some materials than others, so it’s important to also factor in the project’s scale.

2. Ease of Installation

How easy a waterproof membrane is to install is another key factor to go over. In addition to saving labor costs, easy-to-install systems offer several important advantages over more complex alternatives.

The more complicated an installation is, the more likely someone will make a mistake. Rework accounts for 9 percent of total project costs, so avoiding these errors can save a lot of time and money. Remember that error prevention also hinges on the workforce’s experience. Ease of installation sometimes depends on how much the team has worked with it before.

Installation failures impact more than just project costs. An improperly installed membrane is more likely to leak, jeopardizing the building’s future occupants and harming the construction firm’s reputation.

3. Above-Grade vs. Below-Grade

Project managers must also consider whether their building waterproofing materials must be above-grade or below-grade. At first, it may seem that any reliable system should block water regardless of where it is in the building, but that isn’t the case.

Above-grade applications like rooftops and balconies typically face significant temperature variations. Consequently, their materials must withstand a wide range of temps, including below-zero conditions. Exposed membranes must also be UV-resistant and aesthetically pleasing.

Below-grade waterproofing doesn’t need UV protection, pleasant appearances or extreme temperature resistance. However, it’s often a far more complicated undertaking. It must bind with the building’s foundation, keep out harmful solvents and avoid sinking.

4. Site-Specific Environmental Concerns

Similarly, environmental considerations vary between sites. Heat, rainfall, humidity and other climate-related factors can affect the waterproof membrane’s efficacy, so teams must adapt to site-specific conditions.

Projects in areas with heavy rainfall or near bodies of water that may lead to wetter ground likely need heavier-duty waterproofing. Buildings in particularly sunny locations require more UV and temperature resistance for above-grade waterproofing than others. Seasonal weather risks like hurricanes and flooding must also play into these considerations.

Construction teams should plan for more extremes in these conditions to make buildings more resilient to climate change. That’s especially important for projects in the northern U.S. and mountainous regions, where temperature changes are more dramatic than in other states.

5. Material Durability and Longevity

Construction firms should also compare different materials’ durability. Suppliers may not advertise specific figures for longevity, but there are a few ways project managers can determine it for themselves.

Waterproof membranes with fewer seams will generally last longer because they feature fewer weak points. As a result, liquid membranes can be more durable than solid ones, provided teams install enough layers. Redundancy is another factor to consider. Materials like thermoplastics come in single layers, and that lack of redundancy can make them more susceptible to failure.

The most durable materials may incur higher initial costs, but the resulting improvements compensate for those expenses over time. High durability means fewer repairs and less energy consumption, reducing ongoing costs.

6. Compatibility With Other Materials

Building waterproofing materials must also be compatible with any other project items. Binding is the most important aspect of this compatibility. The membrane must adhere completely to the surfaces it’s protecting. If it doesn’t, it can create bubbles or air pockets that are more susceptible to water damage.

It’s also important to consider how the other building materials may change over time. Bamboo, while sustainable, will shrink if it dries out, weakening joints that could cause a waterproof membrane to come off or warp, limiting its effectiveness.

After teams know what materials they’ll use for different building parts, they can research how they may interact with various waterproofing systems. Some solutions will bind better with certain materials than others, so the best option varies between projects.

7. Local Regulations

As with any other choice in construction, project managers must also review applicable laws and regulations. The International Building Code (IBC) requires different levels of dampproofing for varying situations, and many other rules vary similarly. Given how different these codes can be, project-specific review is crucial.

Construction firms should begin reviewing applicable building codes before purchasing materials. Remember that state and local laws can also apply, not just federal regulations. Projects trying to meet specific industry standards or certifications may face additional requirements.

Consulting legal experts or using specialized software to audit a project for regulatory compliance may be necessary. Noncompliance can be costly and cause significant delays, so it’s best to take the time to be sure before acting on anything.

Find the Right Waterproof Membrane

Choosing the right building waterproofing materials for a project can be more involved than it initially seems. Project managers that know what to consider can start early and cover all their bases before making costly mistakes.

Optimal waterproofing systems make a huge impact on a project. They can lower costs, streamline tasks, ensure regulatory compliance and protect the clients who will eventually occupy the building. Taking the time to choose the right method will make things easier to work on and pay off in the long run.