Ever wonder how long waterproofing has been around? Amazingly, it has been part of human dwelling construction for over 13,000 years, viewed by a number of people as the third oldest trade, behind only carpentry and masonry. It came about from the desire to protect our shelters from the elements, and not surprisingly, has seen vast improvements over the ages.
The agrarian revolution saw a decrease in small hunter-gatherers groups as many formed larger social units and “stayed put” in more permanent locations. This resulted in a more productive form of agriculture and excess grain from the harvests needed to be stored, and protected from moisture. Waterproofing was necessary to prevent the produce from being spoilt.
The neolithic revolution, a few thousand years later, saw the rise of water transportation to allow exploration, fishing and trading. The primitive boats were sealed with bitumen emulsion from the surface of peat bogs, ensuring they were waterproofed.
Around 3600 BC, the ancient Egyptians built the first monolithic structures, and The Great Pyramid of Giza remains the largest man made masonry building in the world. In the 1970s, archaeologists exposed the original waterproofing on the limestone foundation blocks. A bitumen emulsion had been applied in coats with dry reed fibre applied in cross layers. Each year, the Nile would flood and surround the pyramid, yet when it was opened in the 1800s, the tombs were completely dry.
Despite Egyptians showing amazing waterproofing skills milleniums ago, waterproofing failures in the 21st century are widespread. They are the biggest problem facing the construction industry and cost hundreds of millions every year to fix.
Almost 80% of all complaints against builders relate to water penetration and the resulting damage. And the vast majority of these are because of their failure to waterproof effectively.
Our next article will address why these problems occur. In the meantime, if you require a specialist to fix your waterproofing issues, view our list of fully qualified and reputable contractors.