(Written by Pallav K Mukherjee)
One of the biggest problems faced by the construction industry is lack of experts and this is one of the reasons behind the damp walls that are the bane of most home owners in the City Beautiful. This relatively young city with modern, no-fuss architecture continues to face the problem of seepage.
Let’s take a look at how and why water tends to creep into your walls, peeling off the brand new paint, and making your house look worn.
One of the main culprits is the plumber and his boys.
They go for larger machines (jack hammers) since they have to cut through foundation brickwork or thick masonry.
For vertical pipes in the masonry walls, cutting a 1 ½ inch wide chase going up through the roof slab is like an everyday job for some of them. And to hell with the broken DPC (Damp Proof Course, needed to prevent moisture from the earth rising up into the brick walls) at the ground level or the finished floor level.
Unless someone ensures that the 4” diametre pipes are laid out in advance while building the foundation masonry/walls, we are stuck with dampness problems. It’s also important to ensure that sleeves (a small piece of pipe which helps to join 2 pipes together within it) are made properly and are watertight.
The plumber feels (as do a lot of construction workers) that placing or packing cement or mortar in the joints is akin to water proofing the joint. Nobody has told them about silicone sealants. And flexible jointing systems.
So, if you looks at the building retrospectively, especially at those with a basement, you will realise that most of the water seepage problems are due to the plumber. He thinks that waterproofing of plumbing adjunct systems is not his responsibility or even his job.
So a bit of extra water in the drainage and sewerage literally guarantees leakage. The subsequent softening of the earth in turn leads to joints in pipelines breaking up – and leaking out more water.
Another big issue is that the inspection chambers (manholes) are not waterproofed inside out. Besides all joints into and out of the chamber are rigid joints. This is a problem because of earth movement. Unlike many construction workers at rest the earth is constantly moving below our feet. In fact there are almost 3000 plus earthquakes a year and almost a hundred a day. Even a truck movement on the road abutting the plot creates vibrations.
All pipes into and out of an inspection chamber (a manhole) have to be joined to be flexible.
You can also get readymade chambers (made of tough plastic) with multiple rubber socketed inlets (3 to 5 or more) and one outlet on the opposite side. They have been in use in the developed world for a long time now, but here in India, we have yet to catch up.
So get that MEP (mechanical electrical and plumbing) consultant or an enlightened plumber to prevent those annoying damp patches in your house. It’s a small step bit will go a long way in enhancing the life and looks of your house.
(The writer is a veteran architect and president of Chandigarh Architect Association)