Solvent vs Water based. Which is the best waterproofing technology?

Despite seeing an industry swing over the years toward greener technologies, there still remains conjecture on the perceived advantages of traditional, solvent based membrane systems over water borne systems. For the traditionalists, solvent technology is still the preferred option. For the more health and environmentally conscientious, water based systems are favoured.

Originally waterproofing compounds were based almost exclusively on solvent technology. They were inexpensive, effective and durable. But while effective they still had their shortcomings.

Gripset Industries first foray into manufacturing was the release of Gripset 51. The product achieved immediate success and remains a stalwart of the Gripset range. A revolutionary product at the time, Gripset 51 provided all the benefits of bitumen, including high adhesion properties and water and chemical resistance but without the associated noxious odour and carcinogenic properties of solvent bitumen compounds available. The rationale behind the development of the product was in direct response to industry demands for a safer alternative and this has continued to be the focus of the company's development program.

Advocates for the use of solvent based membrane systems will still quote commonly perceived advantages. Including faster drying and curing properties, resistance to re-emulsification and better durability.

In these areas, water based waterproof membranes have not just caught up, they have in fact raised the bar for drying and curing. Water based also provides the resistance to re-emulsification and durability of solvent based products.

Here are other advantages:

Non-toxic:  No requirement for specialised breathing apparatus, particularly in confined spaces. Water-based coatings have very minimal odour and there's no need for special ventilation. Contact with exposed skin is not typically harmful and can be easily removed

Easy Clean-up: Water based coatings are water soluble and there is no need for harmful, solvent based cleaners for equipment. Overspray and spills can be cleaned up with water while the product is still wet.

Versatility: Water-based membranes can be applied to substrates, solvent based products cannot. These include high density foam, which is becoming a more popular building substrate

Damp surfaces: Many water based coatings can be applied to damp surfaces. This provides major time saving advantages and prevents the need for pre-treatments

Overlaying of toppings and finishes:  A major limitation with many solvent based membranes has been the ability to directly adhere screed beds and tile adhesives. 

Green Building conformability:  Water based membranes easily conform to stricter green building regulations and low VOC requirements for green building sites

During the infancy of water borne technology, there may have been a legitimate argument for the advantages of solvent based systems in certain applications. However in recent years significant advancements in polymer technology have been made where in most cases, new generation water based systems match and often exceed performance criteria set by solvent alternatives.