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e ngine e m m/water-pro o fing-by-ferro cement.


Water Proofing By Ferrocement

Materials Engineer, Roorkee

Ferrocement as a construction material has now gained acceptance in dif f erent applications, namely :
housing, agriculture, marine, water supply, sanitation, water proof ing treatment etc. Numerous studies
published have built up conf idence in the material resulting its wider application,

Traditional methods of roof water proof ing by lime concrete and mud phuska with thin burnt clay tiles are
very cumbersome, time consuming involved high labor cost and also due to non availability of traditional
skills and good materials these methods of water proof ing are now not very popular. T hough bitumen f elts
are also provided f or water proof ing their lif e is less than f ive years and need f requent replacement.

Ferrocement has very valuable characteristics in that, it is highly crack resistant and have excellent bond
with the surf ace over which it is laid, its highly impervious nature does not require any treatment over it.
T hese characteristics make f errocement an ideal lining material over cement concrete, bricks masonry,
stone masonry or even wooden structure making them leak proof against water. Ferrocement f or
waterproof ing was successf ully used upon old buildings, particularly constructed with lime concrete upon
which no other water proof ing treatment was f ound successf ul.

Ferrocement provides higher tensile and f lexural strength, better resistance to impact, f racture and f ailure.
It also provide a crack f ree, tough dependable surf ace f ree, f rom danger of leakage and corrosion. T hese
improvements in the characteristics are due to the f act that concrete can undergo large def ormations in the
neighborhood of reinf orcement. Since reinf orcement in f errocement structure are provided in the f orm of
well distributed wire mesh layers, it can carry large strains without cracking during its services. As the
material provides a surf ace f ree f rom danger of cracking and of f ers a highly impervious layer, it can be
saf ely adopted f or water proof ing treatment of structures.

1 Cement: T he cement f or general construction is to be ordinary Portland cement of 43-grade conf orming
to IS: 9112-1989. It should be compatible with the admixture used.

2 Sand: Sand shall be obtained f rom reliable supplier. It should be clean, hard, strong, f ree of organic
impurities and deleterious substances. It should be inert with respect to other materials used and of
suitable type with regards to strength, density, shrinkage and durability of the mortar made with it. Grading
of the sand is to be such that a mortar of specif ied proportions is produced with a unif orm distribution of
the aggregate, which will have a high density and good workability of the aggregate, which will have a high
density and good workability and which will work into position without segregation and without use of a
high water content. T he grading of the sand shall be as given in Table 1.


I.S. Sieve Percentage passing by weight

2.36 mm 100

1.18 mm 50 70

600 Micron 25 45
300 Micron 10 20

150 Micron 25

3 Water: Water used f or making and curing shall be clean and f ree f rom injurious amounts of oil, acids,
alkalis, salts, sugar, organic materials or other substances that may be deleterious to mortar or steel.
Potable water is generally considered satisf actory f or making cement : sand mortar and its curing.

4 Reinforcing Mesh: One of the essential components of f errocement is wire mesh. Dif f erent types of
wire meshes are available almost everywhere. T hese generally consists of thin wires, either woven or
welded into a mesh, but the main requirement is that it must be easily handled and f lexible enough to be
bent around sharp corners. For the general construction 20 gauge 12 mm x 12 mm galvanized wire mesh
may be used which comes into size of 1 x 30 m roll.

5 Admixtures:
a. Non-shrink grout : For injection grouting of porous, honeycombed etc., areas of rof f slab.
b. Polymer modif ied mortar : Polymer modif ied mortar f or sealing cracks of roof slab and patch work repair
of vertical surf aces.
c. Superplasticizer : High ranger water reducer f or making cement slurry.
d. Liquid integral water proof er: Liquid integral water proof ing compound to be admixed with mortar/concrete
f or base course.
e. Plaster Plasticizer and Water proof er : Liquid water proof er and plasticizer f or f errocement mortar.

a. Mix for base course: For 6 mm thin layer of base course, the sand should be as given in Table 1. T he
mix ratio of Cement : Sand should be 1 : 3. Free water / cement ratio maximum 0.45. T he mixing water
admixed with liquid water proof ing compound at a dosage of 140 ml/50 kg of cement. However at some
locations due to bad shape of main roof slab thicker base course may be required to give proper slope
towards the drain. In such cases the maximum size of aggregates may be as per the requirement of base
course thickness. Suppose a thickness of 25 mm is required f or the base course, then the mix ratio will be
Cement : Sand 1 : 3, sand 100% passing on 8 mm. Free water / cement ratio maximum 0.4. T he dosage of
liquid waterproof ing compound will be the same.

b. Mix for ferrocement mortar: T he sand gradings shall be as given in Table 1. T he cement : sand ratio will
be 1 : 2.5. Free water / cement ratio maximum 0.4. T he mixing water shall be admixed with liquid water
proof er and plasticizer f or mortar at a dosage of 10 ml / 50 kg of cement.

T he mix proportions are given by weight. However, sand may be taken by volume. Mix ratio of sand by
weight may be converted by volume by dividing its ratio by the room dry bulk density of actual site sand.
T he bulk density of cement may be taken as 1.44 kg/lt.


Ferrocement can be used f or water proof ing of new as well as old f lat/sloping roof s. In case of the roof s,
which are not giving satisf actory perf ormance, the roof treatment is removed to expose the concrete/brick
surf ace.

T he entire roof surf ace including parapet walls are to be cleaned with wire brushes and washed with water.
Any cracks f ound on the surf ace should be investigated, if they are not static suitable remedial measures
be provided bef ore undertaking any water proof ing treatment.

T he porous and honeycombed surf aces of the roof should be grouted by Non-Shrink grout. Any cracks of
more than 1 mm should be chased out to V shaped groove and f illed with Polymer modif ied mortar. For
entire work the roof surf ace and parapet walls be kept in saturated and surf ace dry condition.

On the above saturated and surf ace dry surf ace thin cement slurry be applied by brush. Mixing water of
which admixed with superplasticizer at a dosage of 200 ml / 50 kg of cement. Upon the wet slurry a mortar
layer as per mix ratio mentioned at 6 (a) be laid and provide a suitable slope towards the drains. T he layer
surf ace is to be made rough with small hard coconut brush. For f ixing wire mesh, wire nails were f ixed in
this mortar layer at appropriate spacing with projection f rom the plaster surf ace of about 4 mm. Proper
curing should be done f or 3 days.

Two layer of 20 gauge 12 mm x 12 mm galvanized wire mesh are stretched over the above prepared
surf aces. At the joints of wire meshes, 150 mm overlap is provided. T he joints in the two layers of wire
mesh are staggered. T he mesh then f ixed to nails. 5 mm thick cover block or 5 mm dia G.I. wire pieces are
inserted between roof and the mesh and in between the two meshes f or keeping the meshes at desired
positions and f or maintaining proper cover. T hin cement slurry, the mixing water of which admixed with 200
ml superplasticizer 50 kg of cement is sprayed over the surf ace and then immediately apply the mortar. T he
mortar shall be as mentioned at (b). T he mortar is thoroughly mixed and applied with trowels to f inished
thickness of about 20 mm. While applying the mortar, the wire mesh layers are lif ted up using a hook so
that a cover of about 4 mm could be provided below the bottom layer of the wire mesh and between the
two meshes. Hard trowelling is carried out over the surf ace f or leveling and f inishing is done using a
wooden f loat. At the junction of roof slab with parapet walls or at roof projections, water proof ing
treatment is done as shown in Fig. 1.

At very low temperature and high humidity, twelve hours af ter f inishing the mortar, the roof should be
covered with wet gunny bags. However, at higher temperature and low humidity the surf ace should covered
with wet gunny bags af ter f orty minutes of f inishing the mortar. Twenty f our hours af ter laying the
treatment the roof surf ace may be ponded with water f or two weeks.

Curing is a very important operation in f errocement construction. Ferrocement structures are thin and may
dry at f aster rate hence need more attention. T heref ore surf ace of all f errocement structures should be
kept moist f or at least two weeks. At no time the mixing water is allowed to be dry.

It should be remembered that the process of hydration (the process responsible f or gaining strength f or
cement/mortar or concrete) stops once the structure is dry. It does not restart again if surf ace is wetted

For large surf aces of roof expansion joints at proper spacing are to provided. T he gap of the joints are to
be f illed by Polysulphide Sealants.

For thermal comf ort, the roof top may be lined with thin brick tiles with joints grouted with cement : sand
mortar. Alternatively f or pleasant appearance and also thermal comf ort, the roof top may be lined with
scrapped/broken glazed ceramic tiles.

Note: Also ref er dosage of admixtures recommended by manuf acturer.

T he total cost of f errocement treatment amounted comparatively less than the other methods of water
proof ing, i.e. tar-f elt treatment. A 30 mm thick f errocement treatment will have a load of only 60 kg/m2
against brick bat coba load of 350 kg/m2.

Ferrocement water proof ing treatment has long ef f ective service lif e, where, as tar-f elt lif e is less than f ive
years and needs regular replacement. Further where even the tar-f elts are laid the surf aces are so spoiled
that no other treatment can be done without its removing and cleaning the surf ace. T he cleaning of bitumen
coated surf aces are very cumbersome and involved higher labour cost. On the other hand, if need arises
chemical water proof ing treatment can be easily done upon f errocement surf ace.

Large number of leaking roof s are existing in important structures f or want of economical methods to stop
water leakage. Ferrocement method of water proof ing can be applied on old as well as new buildings.
Numerous old leaking buildings constructed with lime concrete needs proper water proof ing treatment. On
these buildings f errocement water proof ing treatment can be most successf ul.
1. Pama, R.P.- Ferrocement Constituent Materials and Mechanical Properties Asia Pacif ic Training Course
on Ferrocement Construction, April, 1984, pp. 17-34.
2. Sharma, P.C. (1980) Use of Ferrocement f or Water Proof ing Journal of Ferrocement, Vol. 10, No. 2,
pp. 127-141.
3. Sharma, S.P., Sharma, P.C., Singh, K.P. and Batra, S.S. Ferrocement Treatment f or Repairing a 50,000
Gallons Over head Water Tank, Journal of Ferrocement, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 241-247.
4. Rai, Mohan, Jaisingh, M.P. Advances in Building Materials and Construction, C.B.R.I., Roorkee, 1986,
pp. 312-314.

We at are thankful to Er. Kaushal Kishore for submitting the paper on Water Proofing By
Ferrocement. This will not only be a great help to fellow civil engineers who are looking for more information
regarding ferrocement and how water proofing can be done by it.