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Understanding Damp Proofing


Terry Kobatskyi

Terry Kobatskyi

Terry is a reliable project manager with over 15 years in construction field, who has started his career of working in the trenches. Learn More About Terry Kobatskyi

In the realm of home construction and preservation, grasping the concept of damp proofing is integral, primarily when talking about the endurance and stability of our houses. Over time, the term has often been confounded with waterproofing, leading to misunderstanding about their different roles. To protect our homes efficiently, we need to decode the core aspects of damp proofing and its uses.

Damp Proofing vs Waterproofing: A Clarifying Contrast

The cardinal difference between damp proofing and waterproofing lies in their respective protection capabilities. In essence, damp proofing‘s prime function is to prevent soil moisture intrusion. On the flip side, waterproofing prohibits both moisture and liquid water intrusion, therefore providing all-round protection.

As outlined by the International Residential Code (IRC), damp proofing is a treatment for concrete or masonry foundation walls that retain earth and wrap up interior spaces below the ground level. The main types of damp proofing materials are bitumen coating and acrylic-modified cement.

Adoption of Damp Proofing Depending on Conditions

Damp proofing has been an accepted practice in the construction industry for a long time. Even though it is less commonly suggested in the contemporary housing sector, it still remains a viable type of treatment in several instances. Provided certain conditions are met, damp proofing offers effective and enduring protection for many crawl spaces and basements:

  • Ensuring proper surface drainage. 
  • Correct setup of footing foundation drains. 
  • Absence of hydrostatic pressure, which can create water infiltration.

The Limitations Of Damp Proofing

The limitations of damp proofing require thorough understanding and heedful assessment. For instance, damp proofing may fail in sealing larger cracks or punctures created by form ties. It could also potentially suffer damage from rough or negligently handled backfill.

Applicability of Damp Proofing Depending on Needs

Selection of appropriate dampness prevention measures necessitates taking into account myriad factors due to variable local conditions. These consist of the local climate, water tables, foundation wall’s depth, and usability of the interior space.

For instance, damp proofing is a great fit for 36-inch frost walls in unheated crawl spaces, built on well-drained soil and incorporating a gravity drain system.

On the contrary, a house next-door with a 10-foot high foundation wall and a finished basement might require a comprehensive waterproofing system, considering the limitations of damp proofing against a significant amount of water infiltration.

Wrapping Up

Grasping damp proofing requires a good understanding of what it aims to accomplish, where it applies, and the limitations it bears. Even though it might not repel a substantial amount of water, it has its fair share of benefits, especially where it is necessary to keep soil moisture levels contained. Therefore, making an informed decision between damp proofing and waterproofing can ensure better home safety and durability.


  • Damp proofing, typically performed with an asphalt-based coating, primarily thwarts soil moisture, setting it apart from waterproofing that resists both moisture and liquid water. 
  • Despite damp proofing being less recommended in modern-day construction, it can be an apt solution in multiple settings, subject to maintaining adequate surface drainage, right foundation drains, and no hydrostatic pressure. 
  • Factors like local conditions, soil moisture, foundation wall depth, and usability of space, among others should influence the selection between damp proofing and waterproofing.