29th January 2020
Hawkins’ first CILA event of the year took place in the middle of January at the Reigate Office, and focused on both escapes and ingresses of water in luxury properties. Participants were treated to four CPD presentations from two of Hawkins’ investigators, Dr Andrew Prickett and Mr Andrew Reeves, as well as two of CILA’s chartered adjusters, Helena Evans and Simon Burley.
Dr Prickett started the afternoon with a talk on water leaks in luxury properties. From footballers’ mansions to high-end apartment buildings, Hawkins is able to investigate failures in materials, whether that failure is in an accessible swimming pool plant room, or hidden away behind bespoke marble bathroom walls.
With luxury buildings also come custom-fit luxury items. Not all escapes of water are caused by pipework; Dr Prickett has investigated many types of materials failures, from cracks in aquarium glass, to shower walls which were improperly sealed around flatscreen televisions in millionaires’ bathrooms. Novelty swimming pools are a trend Hawkins has seen in luxury homes, hotels and gyms. These include infinity pools with glass sides, swimming pools that cover themselves with the press of a button (and some engineered water displacement), and pools constructed in non-standard shapes. Pools made of concrete are more expensive, but prone to subsidence and cracking if they are not maintained well, while pools constructed using liners experience problems if the liner tears. In novelty infinity pools and aquariums, materials like glass and silicone often expand and contract due to temperature and wear overtime, which also shortens their lifespan.
Dr Prickett described how compression joints in pipework are properly made, fitted and tightened. He also brought in his very own ‘favourite piece of pipework’ from his own house’s bathroom, which was renovated recently and illustrated the problems he experienced with show-and-tell photos.
Civil Engineer Andrew Reeves presented on the forensic investigation of basement waterproofing failures. As well as material failures in pipework, liners or waterproofing systems, civil engineers look for causes of water ingress related to the structure of neighbouring buildings, sewers and tanking systems. Mr Reeves cited a case where a homeowner bought the property next door and joined them to create a mega basement.
But what do the Building Regulations have to say about that? Mr Reeves pointed out that the only requirements for basements in the Regulations state: “The walls, floors and roof of the building shall adequately protect the building and people who use the building from harmful effects caused by: (a) Ground moisture and (b) Precipitation including wind-driven spray.”
However, in Approved Document C: Site Preparation and Resistance to Contaminates and Moisture there is no official guidance on basements. Whether you are building a mega basement or waterproofing a more standard-sized area, there are, thankfully, three types of barriers that can be used. For best (and driest!) results, Andrew suggests combining Type A with type B, Type B with Type C, or Type A with Type C, to ensure that your basement is less at risk of water ingress.
There are also three grades of waterproofing, which give a helpful guide to what your basement needs might be:
Grade 1: Some seepage and damp tolerable (e.g. an outdoor, underground car park)
Grade 2: Damp areas tolerable (e.g. a swimming pool plant room)
Grade 3: No water penetration tolerable. Ventilation or dehumidification necessary. (e.g. a basement home entertainment room)
Following the morning’s presentations, CILA members were treated to some more practical CPD, led by Dr. Prickett and Dr. Christabel Fitzpatrick in Hawkins’ water lab. They put their joint-making knowledge to work to see which group could make the loosest joint and get their metal hosing to fail at the lowest water pressure. This proves that although some joints look tight enough, it is very easy to think that a poor joint is water-tight, and only realise it is not when you get splashed…
The afternoon concluded with presentations from CILA members Helena Evans on cause and recovery and Simon Burley on mitigation and policy cover.
Hawkins would like to thank everyone who attended. If you would like to attend a regional CPD event at a Hawkins Office, please contact us.