By Ken Paar, RA, AIA, Principal

The Conley Group




Why worry about water in an open outdoor environment or in a below grade unoccupied area such as a parking garage? The answer is simple. Even though you probably don’t at first think of a parking garage as an area in need of waterproofing, a proactive approach to avoiding water infiltration could save you a bundle of money. Truth is, waterproofing is critical to the long-term performance of parking garages and the satisfaction of tenants and visitors who park in them.


As in most structures, water infiltration undermines the integrity of the structure through deterioration of its components. Adding to this, a parking garage is subjected to considerable structural loads and movements or shifting due to vehicular traffic. The potential for problems is definitely something to be considered.


Experience indicates that although intentions are good, most parking garages begin their lifecycle lacking in waterproofing protection systems. This is especially true for below grade structures.  Membranes and coatings specified in construction documents are often nowhere to be found when sources of water infiltration are investigated. Penetrations and modifications added to walls and floor decks are subsequent sources for infiltration. Very rarely is proper sealing and protection provided.


Consider the following when reviewing your parking structure:

    Water dripping onto occupant vehicles. Mineral-laden water damages auto finishes.

    Pooling water in parking spaces reduces usability and indicates that an improper drainage system is in place.

    Cracks and spalls in concrete indicate that deterioration is active. The deterioration may be isolated or indicative of a large-scale problem.

    Traffic coatings are often damaged in auto turn areas from tires.

    Exposed expansion joints need proper covers to protect the joint integrity.

    Failed joint sealants between fixtures and concrete floors or walls, and joints between concrete walls and floors show evidence of water migration.


In addition, consider the freeze/thaw damage potential in outside or unheated parking structures where water is readily migrating and/or ponding. Also, consideration of structural damage should be given due to the loading issues and the fact that, typically, water infiltration is not a high priority issue thereby allowing damage to continue and potentially become worse over time. A periodic structural review should be considered as part of any investigation to verify the structure’s integrity.


Parking garage or otherwise, the bottom line is that proactive maintenance will keep overall costs down while extending the service life of the building assets. So, heed the warning signs of dripping of water on tenant cars or the pooling of water after a rain. These are signs that it’s time to review the waterproofing performance of your parking garage.


About the Author: Ken’s 20 years of experience is founded in the assessment, design and installation of curtain wall systems. This knowledge, along with many years of experience with waterproofing systems, provides clients with the opportunity to correct and improve their exterior waterproofing and wall systems. The Conley Group also assists clients with facility master planning, comprehensive restoration including historical facilities as well as singular projects involving roofs, walls, plazas and parking garages. Ken can be reached at 972-444-9020.