Waterproofing: how to get the knowledge
There’s no excuse for non-compliant waterproofing. Andrew Gollé explains the avenues that are available for people to get educated on waterproofing according to the BCA and Australian Standards.
My previous column discussed the many localised variances in waterproofing practices throughout the country. In some places, these local practices have developed from superseded methodologies. Unbonded reinforced screed over builders’ plastic has evolved into liquid membrane application below the screed.
Other local practices have followed market influences – adopting the use of grated channels, ceiling mounted rain heads and varied shower base construction types. These include things like step down showers in North Queensland, tiled hobs in WA and Type 2 walk-through showers in Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland.
Regardless of what’s popular, the absolute bottom line is that the BCA (Building Code of Australia) and referenced Australian Standards are mandatory, and they must be followed as the minimum requirement.
The BCA (Volume 2, Part 2.4.1) states:
‘To protect the structure of the building and maintain the amenity of the occupants, water must be prevented from penetrating:
Behind fittings and linings or,
Into concealed spaces of sanitary facilities, bathrooms, laundries and the like.’
The BCA (NCC) references two Australian Standards as the ‘Deemed to Satisfy’ technical documents – these are:
AS 3740-2010 and Amendment 1- 2012 Waterproofing of domestic wet areas; and
AS 4654.2 – 2012 Waterproofing membranes for external above-ground use.
Localised practises must comply with these Standards and the BCA performance provisions – and most do. Membrane applications below screed and above screed are both acceptable under AS 3740-2010, with both design details documented in the Standard.
How do we achieve uniform compliance, nationally? Certainly state and territory regulatory authorities play a role, however current licensing requirements are disjointed, and in most states licensing still isn’t required.
Many local authorities and building surveyors across Australia do request waterproofing application certificates now though, in order to ensure and certify compliance with the BCA and Australian Standards. Certifiers require that certificates be issued by a ‘competent person’, whose work is covered either by the scope of their license, or by their formal qualifications.
In most states, a licensed builder can currently issue a waterproofing certificate on contracted work, under their contract. Qualified Construction Waterproofers and Wall & Floor Tilers have the formal qualifications within current Certificate III trade competencies.
Training and qualifications are regulated under the National Qualifications Framework.
CPC 31411 – Certificate III in Construction Waterproofing contains the following core competencies:
CPCCWP 3001A – Apply waterproofing process to below ground level wet areas
CPCCWP 3002A – Apply waterproofing process to internal wet areas
CPCCWP 3003A – Apply waterproofing process to external wet areas
CPC31311 – Certificate III in Wall and Floor Tiling contains the core competency:
CPCCWP 3002A – Apply waterproofing process to internal wet areas
Plumbers don’t have the formal qualifications listed above in their framework, and therefore shouldn’t be issuing waterproofing application certificates as a ‘competent person’. Builders should ensure that tilers who are issuing certificates carry the current qualifications for their trade.
How do I get qualified as a ‘competent person’?
There are a number of avenues available to secure a formal qualification as a Cert III Construction Waterproofer – which is right for you will depend on your experience and current qualifications.
CPC 31411 – Certificate III in Construction Waterproofing is offered through selected Skills Tech (TAFE) colleges as a four year apprenticeship, under a state government training contract with a suitably qualified host employer or group employment company. This course suits inexperienced candidates, and covers the full range of competencies including generic competencies applicable to other Cert III trades, such as:
Work effectively and sustainably in the construction industry;
Plan and organise work;
Conduct workplace communication;
These are accompanied by trade-specific core competencies relating to waterproofing, as mentioned above. There are fourteen core competencies, with five electives to make up the Cert III qualification. This qualification is recognised nationally when delivered and issued by a Registered Training Organisation (RTO).
The next avenue involves a Recognition of Prior Leaning (RPL). RPLs are for experienced punters with a minimum of four years of practical experience in all forms of waterproofing. Waterproofing is, normally, a specialised trade. Most practitioners apply waterproofing either to internal wet areas and decks, or below ground and external wet areas. Quite often gap training or practical exercises are required to show evidence of full competency for the complete qualification.
Master Builders NSW, as an RTO, offers a four day qualification course. This course offers all fourteen core competencies with five electives, including:
Frame and fit out of wet areas
Install sealant devices
Concreting to simple forms
This course is aimed at partially experienced practitioners, with two years’ waterproofing application experience supported by other industry qualifications. Accredited tilers, architects, builders, engineers, project supervisors and waterproofing applicators with partial competencies often attend these courses. Master Builders NSW accredited over 200 candidates in this category in 2014.
Courses have been conducted in Sydney, Ballina, Dubbo and Newcastle, and the first course in Northern Tasmania was run in 2014 too. The courses are planned for NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, SA, and WA for 2015.
The short course focuses on the requirements laid out in AS 3740 and AS 4654.2, with practical applications. Practical exercises entail framing and setting a bath with a 100mm shelf, as required by Standards, as well as sheeting with F/C and installing hobs, barrier angles, connector sealants and bond breakers. Installation of mortar screeds, puddle flanges and plumbing combinations are also incorporated requirements.
Parex Davco generously sponsors and supplies technical support and all waterproofing and ancillary materials. They have been delivering material compatibility seminars as part of the course, and prove a vital direct link between applicators and a manufacturer.
Waterproofed bays constructed in the practical exercises are forensically demolished and inspected, to assess dry film thickness, connector sealant application and bond breaker effectiveness. Bays are then converted for use as planter boxes, with waste and overflow relief – negative pressure membranes and below ground systems are applied.
Having participants with varying experience levels and backgrounds enhances the outcomes of this course, particularly as open forum discussions on local issues are encouraged.
What about me? I just want to know what’s compliant!
Industry associations provide seminars focussing on the BCA and Australian Standards compliance in Australia. These aren’t qualification courses, but they are informative seminars. These sessions are aimed at builders, design professionals, waterproofing practitioners and building surveyors. State regulatory authorities also provide open forum seminars on BCA changes.
As well as ensuring that installers have formal qualifications, it’s also important to educate other stakeholders on the regulatory requirements. Builders and waterproofing applicators often complain about arguing with certifiers about compliant practices. Why? We should all be on the same page. The BCA is the BCA, and the Standards are in print – local preferences shouldn’t interfere.
Master Builders NSW delivers one day CPD courses in:
Best practice for builders – internal and external application compliance, and practical design solutions.
Compliance and inspection – wet area defects and inspection techniques.
The Housing Industry Association (HIA) provides four half-day technical courses on waterproofing compliance. Each course runs for four hours and rewards course participants with four CPD points, as per the state requirements. These courses are available nationally, and cater for localised applications of techniques, albeit with a focus on Standards and mandatory compliance. The courses on offer are:
Waterproofing Wet Areas – AS 3740-2010 compliance and practical design solutions.
Waterproofing External – AS 4654.2-2012 compliance and efflorescence defects avoidance.
Wet Area Inspections and Defect Identification – AS 3740-2010 compliance, visual defect inspections and the Shower Leak Detection Test protocols.
Wall and Floor Tiling Troubleshooting – AS 3958.1-2007 compliance and defect avoidance. Functional failures and cosmetic defects.
Contact Master Builders or the HIA in your state to enquire about or register for the above courses.
Maintaining currency in qualifications ensures that competent persons are issuing waterproofing application certificates. Participating in industry forums helps to ensure a level of uniformity in compliance. Practitioners, designers, supervisors and certifiers should be prepared to reference and use the Australian Standards as justification for their decisions – they shouldn’t rely on local preferences… So go out and get the knowledge!