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Home > Nature of the Construction Industry > Construction Chemicals > Substrate Support and Waterproofing Compound
Substrate Support and Waterproofing Compound

Substrate support

  • Gypsum BoardGypsum Board or Drywall
    This product is used for walls.  It is available from many manufacturers in a water-resistant or green board type, common gypsum board or simply drywall. Basically, the board has a compound of gypsum or other ingredients laminated on four sides with a paper-like covering. Remember, gypsum board, water-resistant or not, will disintegrate if water reaches the gypsum within the interior of the board.

  • Plywood
    This product is used for floors and counter-tops. It is basically a wood sheet laminated together with glue. Durable exterior grade that tends to resist moisture and should be used as a backing for tile. Various companies manufacture plywood in a variety of dimensions. There are advantages and disadvantages with their use as a backing material. This type of plywood is commonly referred to as particleboard.

  • Backerboard
    This product is used for walls, floors, and counter-tops. Backer board is also known by the name it receives from its manufacturer. It is also referred to as CBU (cement backing unit). Cementations boards are available in fiber reinforced or glass meshes reinforced and are made by various manufacturers. When a cement-based product is made into a relatively thin board (1/4" to 5/8"), the board would fall apart without reinforcing. Some manufacturers mix the cement with a reinforcing water-resistant fiber in the fiber-reinforced type. Other manufacturers encase the cement in a water-resistant mesh. The boards come in a variety of dimensions ranging from 32" to 48" wide and 36" to 120" long. Each has different qualities and capabilities.

  • Mortar
    Mortar can be used for all ceramic and stone applications. This is the oldest and sometimes best backing or substrate to receive a desired working surface. Basically, this is cement mixed with sand, water, and sometimes-hydrated lime in various ratios. Various manufacturers produce the ingredients either separately or in a pre-mixed condition. Regardless of the manufacturer, only certain types of cement and hydrated lime should be used for satisfactory results.

Waterproofing Compound
Waterproofing CompoundWaterproofing compounds are designed to stop water infiltration. These compounds or membranes can be extremely effective when applied on the exterior of a foundation system. There is a wide variety of waterproofing products available to homeowners. They are vastly different in their composition. Some of these products are urethane based, others are modified asphalts, some are clay based and some are rubber polymers. Most of these compounds have the ability to bridge cracks that might later develop in a foundation. This is extremely important. Some compounds can bridge much bigger cracks than others can. When installed properly, these waterproofing compounds can keep a basement dry for many, many years. 

Waterproofing is probably one of the most confusing aspects of residential construction. Thousands of homeowners think they have a waterproofed foundation, when in fact they do not. Waterproofing is generally not used by a majority of builders, due to its higher cost. In an effort to stay competitive, some builders will cut corners in areas where the homeowner cannot easily see the finished product. Waterproofing is a prime example of this, due to the fact that it is generally covered early in the job by the dirt around the foundation. However, the higher initial cost of waterproofing is well worth it.

Interior waterproofing methods, which are used after a leak has developed, are generally not as effective as a compound applied to the exterior surface of the foundation.

Is this damp proofing and not foundation waterproofing?
Foundation waterproofing is often confused with "damp proofing." Damp proofing is a process, which retards or slows water penetration into foundations. Applying unmodified asphalt coatings to the foundation surfaces of the area usually performs damp proofing. Most of these products become brittle when dry. Some of them can actually be dissolved by ground water. Virtually none of them have the ability to bridge foundation cracks. However, damp proofing compounds are generally very effective in stopping water vapor transmission. Untreated concrete or other masonry products readily absorb water from the soil around your house. This water travels through the concrete and evaporates from the inside surface of the basement wall. Frequently the walls will appear dry; however, the water is still being transmitted into your basement. Unless a water vapor barrier was installed beneath your floor, this same thing is happening with your basement concrete slab. That is why older houses frequently have "damp" feeling basements. The widespread use of damp proofing methods did not begin until the 1950s.

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