Emergency Waterproofing: What to Do When Your Commercial Building Is at Risk

As a professional waterproofer, I’ve faced many high-pressure situations where quick thinking and immediate action were crucial. Emergency waterproofing is one of the most challenging aspects of my job, but it’s also one of the most rewarding when I can help save a commercial building from significant water damage. In this article, I’ll share my experiences and provide a guide on what to do when your commercial building is at risk of water damage, along with some valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Recognizing the Signs of Imminent Water Damage

The first step in any commercial waterproofing situation is recognizing that your building is at risk. Here are some common signs that indicate immediate action is necessary:

  1. Visible Leaks and Puddles:
    • Water pooling around foundations, inside basements, or dripping from ceilings is a clear sign that water has infiltrated your building.
  2. Unusual Dampness or Moisture:
    • Persistent damp spots on walls, floors, or ceilings can indicate a breach in the waterproofing system.
  3. Mold and Mildew Growth:
    • Rapid growth of mold or mildew often points to hidden water leaks and excessive moisture.
  4. Water Stains:
    • Discoloration or water stains on walls and ceilings suggest ongoing water intrusion.
  5. Bubbling or Peeling Paint:
    • Paint or wallpaper that bubbles or peels away from the wall can be a sign of moisture seeping in.

Immediate Actions to Take

When you identify any of these signs, it’s crucial to act swiftly to minimize damage. Here’s a step-by-step guide based on my professional experience:

  1. Identify and Stop the Source of Water:
    • Locate the source of the leak or water intrusion. This could be a burst pipe, a broken window, or a damaged roof.
    • If possible, stop the flow of water by shutting off the main water supply or covering external entry points with tarps or other waterproof materials.
  2. Clear the Area:
    • Move furniture, equipment, and valuable items away from the affected area to prevent further damage.
    • Ensure that electrical appliances and wiring are safe from water contact to avoid electrical hazards.
  3. Call a Professional Waterproofer:
    • Contact a professional waterproofer immediately to assess the situation and begin emergency repairs. Time is of the essence in preventing extensive damage.
  4. Document the Damage:
    • Take photos and notes of the damage for insurance purposes. This documentation can be vital for claims and repairs.
  5. Remove Standing Water:
    • Use pumps, wet vacuums, or mops to remove any standing water. This helps prevent mold growth and reduces further damage.
  6. Ventilate and Dry the Area:
    • Open windows and use fans or dehumidifiers to circulate air and dry out the affected areas. Proper ventilation is crucial to minimize moisture levels and prevent mold.

Emergency Waterproofing Techniques

Once the immediate risks are mitigated, here are some emergency waterproofing techniques I employ to protect the building:

  1. Temporary Sealing:
    • Apply temporary sealants to cracks and gaps in walls, roofs, and foundations. These sealants can provide a quick fix until a permanent solution is implemented.
  2. Waterproof Membranes and Tarps:
    • Use waterproof membranes and tarps to cover large areas exposed to water. These materials provide a barrier against water penetration.
  3. Drainage Solutions:
    • Set up temporary drainage systems to redirect water away from the building. This can include using sandbags, trench drains, or sump pumps.
  4. Installing Dehumidifiers:
    • Place industrial-strength dehumidifiers in affected areas to reduce humidity and speed up the drying process.

Lessons Learned from Emergency Waterproofing

Through countless emergency waterproofing projects, I’ve learned several critical lessons:

  1. Preparation is Key:
    • The best way to handle an emergency is to be prepared before it happens. Regular maintenance and inspections can prevent many issues from escalating into emergencies.
  2. Speed and Efficiency Matter:
    • Time is of the essence in emergency waterproofing. The faster you can address the issue, the less damage will occur. Having a reliable team and quick access to necessary materials is crucial.
  3. Communication with Clients:
    • Clear and calm communication with building owners and managers is essential. Keeping them informed about the situation and the steps being taken helps manage expectations and reduce panic.
  4. Temporary Solutions Buy Time:
    • While permanent repairs are the ultimate goal, temporary solutions are vital in emergencies. They provide immediate protection and allow time for planning comprehensive repairs.
  5. Documentation is Vital:
    • Thorough documentation of the damage and repair process is essential for insurance claims and future reference. It also helps in assessing the effectiveness of emergency measures.


Emergency waterproofing is a demanding but crucial aspect of protecting commercial buildings from water damage. Recognizing the signs of imminent water damage, taking swift and effective action, and employing appropriate emergency waterproofing techniques can save a building from extensive damage and costly repairs.

The lessons I’ve learned underscore the importance of preparedness, speed, clear communication, and the value of temporary measures. By being proactive and ready to act, we can mitigate the impact of water emergencies and safeguard commercial properties effectively.

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