A Danrae Group Guide to Waterproofing through the Decades

Colorful building

As a leader in leak detection, waterproofing, remediation and preventative maintenance, Danrae Group delivers exceptional solutions for strata, civil, commercial, government and construction with proven processes – and by staying on top of new innovations in waterproofing.

While new techniques and processes are less frequent these days, waterproofing is a far cry from its earliest inception… in most cases.

We take a look at some key moments in waterproofing – and how they relate to today’s waterproofing techniques.

River Nile in Egypt

Ancient ways


Humans have always sought shelter from the elements – and waterproofing stretches almost as far back. One of the earliest incarnations appeared not in dwellings, but in boats.

When communities began fishing, trading and travelling, they needed a watertight mode of transport. They sealed their marine craft with bitumen, a natural petroleum tar. In ancient civilizations including Mesopotamia, bitumen was also utilised as mortar and a waterproofing agent in construction – and it was a key ingredient in medicines.

Egyptians also found eclectic uses for bitumen. They employed it as a waterproofing sealant in the limestone foundations of the pyramids… and as a balm in the mummification process.

Bitumen proved a robust waterproofing solution, and by the 1800’s, bitumen in liquid form was commonly used in roof waterproofing, most often when mixed with materials such as jute or straw.

Hand in white mittens holding a brush with bituminous mastic

Becoming an industry


Waterproofing membranes today exist in liquid and sheet form. The modern waterproofing industry began in the 1900’s, when liquid membranes were first manufactured commercially. There were several innovations over the remainder of the 20th century, as designers sought to improve the performance and longevity of waterproofing membranes.

Key moments occurred during the 1940’s and ‘50s when liquid waterproofing coatings were developed from mixed materials including rubber and resin.

Throughout the 1960’s and ‘70s, acrylic, acrylic emulsion, styrene butadiene and unsaturated polyester varieties emerged, each aimed at improving quality and durability.

Elastomeric membranes for roofing were first developed in the 1970’s. The following decade saw further evolutions in polyurethane and copolymer based membranes with enhanced waterproofing characteristics. Flexible systems of water based membranes took off in the ‘90s and these featured low toxicity and in general, greater UV stability.

Flat roof installation with propane blowtorch

Enduring waterproofing materials


While advanced techniques are a far cry from ancient ways, some aspects remain. Bitumen for instance, is still a component in waterproofing, just as it was for the Egyptians and Mesopotamians.

As we recently profiled, torch-on is a flexible waterproofing membrane containing bitumen and a variety of polymers.

Both varieties – Styrene Butadiene Styrene (SBS), a rubber modified asphalt, and Atactic Polypropylene Plastic (APP), a plastic modified asphalt – are heat activated and applied via blow torch.

Much closer along the timeline, many of today’s liquid roof coating membranes have strong similarities to the moisture-cured polyurethane based liquid membranes that arrived in the 1980’s.

Thermographic image of a pipeline

Contemporary waterproofing technology


Contemporary waterproofing features exceptional waterproofing products including PVC, butynol, rubber and TPO sheet systems, solvent based polyurethanes, water based membranes and flexible systems such as torch-on modified bitumen.

Research and development over the years – plus our expansive capability – ensures the Danrae team understands which membrane is best suited for property type, location and environment.

We also use a variety of high-tech technology methods in leak detection, including Electric Field Vector Mapping (EFVM) and InfraRed Detection.

Danrae has a commitment to first-class waterproofing solutions. If you have a waterproofing issue or new construction, contact us for a premium solution, from the waterproofing experts.

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