Australia: NSW construction industry: Perspective of an expert on waterproofing and diagnostic reporting (part 2 of 6)

Last Updated: 29 May 2019
Article by Helen Kowal

Interview with Paul Ratcliff - Waterproofing and diagnostic reporting

Over the coming weeks, I will be releasing a six part article series. The articles will document my discussions with building consultants who are in the know when it comes to the current state of the NSW construction industry and the high percentage of properties which are found to contain building defects arising from original building works.

These experts will give their perspective on the current situation, the failings, the positives and their views as to what can be done to implement change and help builders, developers and consumers alike.

Presently, in place is the National Construction Code (NCC), implemented with a goal of achieving a 'nationally consistent, minimum necessary standard of relevant safety (including structural safety and safety from fire), health, amenity and sustainability objectives efficiently'.

There is apparent work to be done to achieve the goals of the NCC.

Paul Ratcliff - Paul Ratcliff Building and Waterproofing Pty Ltd

What is your area of expertise?

General building consultant specialising in waterproofing and diagnostic reporting.

How long have you been involved in the construction industry?

I entered the construction industry when I was 18 years old - so 39 years.

How long have you been providing expert witness reports in building claims?

For about 20-25 years.

With the NCC in place, in your opinion, why do you think there is still such a high rate of defective work arising out of residential construction in NSW?

That is an interesting question, there are a number of reasons.

First of all, I think the quality of building deteriorated when it went to private certification. In my view, certifiers are not taking on board their responsibility to properly inspect the work at critical stages. That is borne out in number of complaints in relation to waterproofing and internal wet areas, an area in which are still a high number of defects.

Secondly, I think there is an over reliance on performance requirements which are vague. I understand why performance requirements are in the hierarchy of the BCA, second to the section 18D statutory warranties (s18D Home Building Act 1989), but, I don't think the performance requirements go far enough in describing the performance of the work. I think the functional statements and the objectives should be grouped together at the same hierarchical level.

Specifically, going to the 'Deemed to Satisfy' (DTS) requirements which are in relation to waterproofing AS3740 - 2010 (AS3740) and AS4654.2 - 2012 (AS4654.2), those standards are not current. They have not been kept up to date and there is no linkage between the standards and the complaints that are running through the Tribunal and the Courts.

An example of this, is in relation to balcony and planter box leaks. AS4654.2 does not address those issues that have been the subject of the complaints. To make the standards effective there needs to be a linkage between the two that make changes to ensure those items which are the subject of the complaints I see over and over, are being addressed. The NCAT could provide this data to the NCC and SAI Global so that reoccurring inadequacies are addressed.

As to AS3740, an issue arose in a complex of 103 over 55's units categorised as adaptable housing. AS3740 does not address the issue of control of mineralised salt in tile screeds in bathrooms and neither does AS3958.1- 2007. There is no guidance for a builder on how to control the movement of moisture through tile screeds. Whilst AS3740-2010 acknowledges that moisture may cause deterioration, it does not tell you how to comply with the performance requirements of FP 1.7 of the NCC. Consequently, the builder is not technically at fault because he has met the DTS provisions but he hasn't met the performance requirements of FP 1.7 under the BCA - so who is at fault?

Are these concerns being addressed in the upcoming changes to the NCC due to be released in May 2019?

No, AS 3740 & AS 4654.2 are not scheduled for revision in these upcoming changes.

I was involved in a recent 'Hackathon' conducted by Victor Dominello, discussing home owners warranty insurance premiums whilst addressing the increase in building failures. One of the questions asked was, 'Why is there so many complaints in waterproofing?'

Giving you some statistics, in 2018, there was $43 million paid out by the State government in 809 claims and over 527 projects. There are 19,000 builders eligible for HBC insurance and 34% of builders are not obtaining cover (under $25K) and 15% of new buildings do not have building insurance (most likely because construction is over 3 storeys). 2012 was the worst year for losses.

The outcome of the hackathon was that the Government were going to look at increasing premiums for high risk builders and focus on geographical areas. I stood up and said the underlying issues were education , the quality of the Australian Standards and the fact that the standards are not up to date, contain incorrect product selection, poor installation practices and deficient inspection and certification methods. These issues did not feature as causal issues.

The Government is not going to source of the problem and in my opinion, the hackathon was a waste of time. The result will be an increase in premiums and will not 'fix' one future claim.

Do you have any other concerns with respect to the increase in waterproofing defects?

The increase in health issues arising from mould. In my opinion, this is fast becoming the next asbestos dilemma. Too many people are living in dwellings affected by waterproofing issues with high levels of mould present. There is no way this can be good for you and there are already many related health issues.

What needs to be done to fix industry?

You need to look at a six year cycle.

What needs to happen immediately are updates to AS3740 and AS465.2. These standards need to be brought up to date to reflect proper and workmanlike manner, not minimum standards. The standards do not presently provide for a 'system', if they are going to be a DTS system solution, they need to adopt a system that the builder is confident the DTS is going to work.

There should be a different system for waterproofing a bathroom in a timber framed bathroom compared to low movement construction, ie concrete slab and brick walls. But, if you go to AS 3740 there is no delineation between building structure types. Further, regarding manufacturing, there is no delineation between which materials you should be using for which job. If you are going to have a DTS system, you need to have solutions in there that builders, architects and designers can rely upon, so they can have confidence that the system is tried and proven and will work.

To succeed, you need to get standardised systems in place and what would flow from that would be checklists for certifiers so they know what they are to look for when they go out to inspect. If the building industry adopted a systems approach in the waterproofing which was incorporated in the Australian Standards, builders would then have a baseline for what is going to work, through education (i.e. TAFE courses) project managers will know the systems, waterproofers will install adequate systems because they will know what they have to do to make it work, and certifiers will know what they have to look for.

In two to three years, the standards could be updated to include a systems approach which incorporates checklists.

Three years after implementing a systems approach into the Australian Standards you would start to see a reduction in claims. Waterproofing defects don't normally manifest until year three but, you would find a change in the industry after year three and after year six, you would see a sharp decline in waterproofing defects.

Can you suggest any other ways to improve the system?

Another thing that needs to be implemented is a membrane register. Australia seems to be the dumping ground for waterproofing membranes that are not fit for purpose. Under section 18B(1)(b) of the HBA, it is an implied warranty that 'all materials suppliedwill be good and suitable for the purpose for which they are used'. Many materials, including membranes, have not been tested by CSIRO or Branz. They say a product complies but, when push comes to shove, they don't comply. A certifier asks for confirmation that materials have been tested and they haven't been tested, the developer is then left in the lurch.

A membrane register should be maintained by the Office of Fair Trading. If a membrane continually results in claims it should be taken off the register. This would result in the manufacturers ensuring their products are fit for purpose and are only being used in areas where they are capable of performing. It would also mean that manufacturers would take more care in selecting who they sell product too and how it is used.

Further, there needs to be the creation of standardised data sheets, so architects and designers can go to a manufacturer with information that is laid out in the same format. Some manufacturers spin data or don't give you the necessary information, if there were standardised data sheets for different membranes, everyone would be working to the same information and this would provide clear information for designers of systems, to make sure that the materials are used appropriately.

Putting it simply, if you use the right product for the right project, this won't cost any more and will save rectification costs. If there was a systems approach which works, this would solve all of these issues.

The cost of purchasing all of the referenced standards in the BCA is approximately $3000 to $4000. Then, in a month's time, there will be another update that immediately means the current standard is out of date. All of the standards, and updates should be made available to builders electronically as a part of their annual builders' licence fee. You would then get builders building better. If builders have access to all of the referenced standards in the BCA, then there is no excuse.

In summary?

You need to introduce systems to make it work. If there are approved systems for all critical wet areas, an architect can then have confidence that the design of the system has been properly considered, a builder can have comfort that if they use any one of the systems, that system will work and the certifiers will know what to expect and what to inspect. TAFE can then train waterproofers and all other associated trades to understand the systems and their requirements.

How creative can you be in your area of expertise with rectification scopes? Is it possible to come up with a unique solution that will solve the problem, reduce potential rectification costs for a builder and achieve the results the consumer is looking for?

In my experience with waterproofing failures and writing scopes of work for repair, you either fix it or you don't. There is no in between with water issues. Water always runs down hill and will always come back unless you fix it properly. There may be different ways that you can go about it and different materials you can use. But, you need to have a membrane that is on a stable substrate that forms a barrier to water coming into a building with flashings that direct the water out of the building.

Out of interest, what is the worst or most unusual defect you have seen in your time reporting as an expert on building defects?

I would have to say a job in Canberra where ?'ultra floor' was used. The construction was a high movement substrate and the membrane that was applied, was an acrylic based coating system which was applied in winter. What could possibly go wrong?

Acrylic membrane products, when laid, require 24 degrees Celsius and 55% relative humidity to cure. This is not going to happen in Canberra in the middle of winter. The system they used involved concrete footings and steel columns with concrete planks laid and then fibre cement sheeting laid over the top. It was like a micano set and leaked like a siv leading to a corrosion of the steel columns. It was a disaster.

For further information please contact:

Partner, Helen Kowal
Phone: +61 2 9777 8321
Email: hek@swaab.com.au

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions