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Construction

and Building

MATERIALS

Construction and Building Materials 19 (2005) 165173

www.elsevier.com/locate/conbuildmat

Defect analysis in wet areas of buildings


M.Y.L. Chew

School of Design and Environment, National University of Singapore, 4 Architecture Drive, 117566 Singapore
Received 29 November 2002; received in revised form 2 July 2004; accepted 16 July 2004
Available online 9 September 2004

Abstract
The sources of defects and the impact of signicant factors including design, material, construction and maintenance on the
occurrence of defects in wet areas of 56 non-residential high-rise buildings were studied. Fourteen important risk factors aecting the
level of maintainability of wet areas were identied. The study has shown that among the frequency of the occurrence of defects,
water leakages ranked the highest with 53%, followed by corrosion of pipes 50% and spalling of concrete 47%. The occurrence
of all defects has been broadly attributed to their sources of decient construction 43%, material 37%, design 11% and maintenance
practices 9%. The implications of six key factors of maintainability of wet areas namely water-tightness, spatial, integrity, ventilation, material and plumbing on the occurrence of 14 most common defects found in wet areas were evaluated.
2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Maintainability; Wet areas; Building defects; Life cycle; Building performance; Durability; Building pathology

1. Introduction
Wet areas are areas subjected to constant damp conditions with alternating drying and wetting cycles.
Although the percentage occupied by wet areas is usually not more than 10% of a buildings gross oor area,
the annual maintenance cost for wet area can range
from 35% to 50% of the total maintenance cost of a
building [1]. The occurrence of defects resulting from
failures in function, performance, statutory and user
requirements of wet areas accounts for a large proportion of the expenditure. Much research has been conducted on investigation of defects in the component.
The fragmented nature of the whole building delivery
process has been found to be the main attributing factor
for the high occurrence of defects in wet areas [215].
A research program was carried out to study the
sources of defects in wet areas and the impact of significant factors including design, material, construction
*

Corresponding author.
E-mail address: bdgchewm@nus.edu.sg.

0950-0618/$ - see front matter 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2004.07.005

and maintenance on the occurrence of defects. This paper discusses the main ndings from the evaluation of 56
high-rise non-residential buildings.

2. Research methodology
Fifty six high-rise non-residential buildings comprising of commercial (59%), industrial (23%) and school
(18%) were randomly selected. In-depth assessments
and face-to-face interviews with property managers were
conducted. The interviews were conducted with the aids
of an on-line questionnaire form highly supported by
visual photographs and illustrations. Site survey was
conducted after each interview for further detailed
investigations.
The questionnaire was divided into three main sections under the categories of building prole, detail
and building defects. In the rst and second sections
of the questionnaire, the respondents were asked to select the relevant answer from the choices provided. In
the third section, respondents were asked to indicate

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M.Y.L. Chew / Construction and Building Materials 19 (2005) 165173

Table 1
Ratings of risk factors
Factor

Description

Rating

Age of building (year)

1
27
815
1630
>30

5
4
3
2
1

Liquid applied system


Others
System selected according to requirements [17]
System not selected to the requirements

5
1
5
3

According to standard details [14]


Not according to standard details

5
1

1 wet wall
2 wet walls
>2 wet walls
According to the details [17]
Additional 23 penetrations to the values [17]
Others

5
3
1
5
3
1

Covered with removable ttings and has sucient


space to repair
Embedded in the architectural elements
Exposed
Embedded in structural elements

5
4
3
1

Selection of tting

Preformed tting with good water control details


Insitu

5
3

Fitting details and layout

Separation of wet and dry areas totally


Separation of wet and dry areas by a kerb min height 150 mm
No separation of wet and dry areas

5
4
1

Maintenance of ttings

Minimum separation distance of 450 mm between ttings


Minimum space of 150 mm between exposed pipes and wall
Others

5
3
1

Ventilation

>10 Air change per hour


10 Air change per hour
<10 Air change per hour

5
3
1

Material durability (year)

>30
>2030
>1020
>510
65

5
4
3
2
1

Water absorption (WA)


Chemical (CheR)
Cracking (CR)
Chipping (ChpR)
Stain (SR)
Scratches and abrasion (SAR)

Excellent resistance

Moderate resistance

Poor resistance

Level of usage

Oce/industrial
School
Oce/industrial
High school
Primary school

3
2
4
3
2

According to the details [17]


Others

5
1

Waterproong system selection

System
Requirement

Waterproong details

Plumbing detail

Wet wall

Penetrations

Access for plumbing maintenance

Material performance

Usage

Nature of usage

Maintenance practices

M.Y.L. Chew / Construction and Building Materials 19 (2005) 165173

the types of defects experienced in their properties, and


their extent. Five-point Likert scale was used, where 1
represented very low, 3 indicated moderate, and 5
stood for very high. The scale of nature and severity
of the defects were further illustrated using photographs. The various criteria for scoring is shown in
Table 1.
The wet area proles were grouped under the various
age, height, gross oor area and number of toilets per
oor. Figs. 14 show the prole obtained. The samples
peak at the following: building age 2 to 7 years
(38%), height of buildings 13 to 40 stories (42%), gross
oor area 30,000 to 50,000 m2 (27%) and toilets per
oor 4 toilets (36%).

Fig. 1. Age of buildings.

Fig. 4. Number of toilets per oor.

3. Results and discussions


Figs. 5 and 6 show the material selection for wall and
oor nishes from the sample size. 23%, 50%, 9%, 7%
and 11% used unglazed ceramic tiles, glazed ceramic,
homogeneous tiles, granite and marble as wall nishes,
respectively (Fig. 5). In the case of oor nishes, 77%,
12%, 7% and 4% used unglazed ceramic tiles, homogeneous tiles, granite and marble, respectively (Fig. 6). For
ceiling nishes, 50% used gypsum plasterboard, 16%
mineral breboard, 9% calcium silicate, 16% paint and
9% used other nishes such as aluminium panels and
acoustic boards (Fig. 7).
Fig. 8 shows the 14 major defect categories identied,
namely tile debonding, mastic failures, staining of tiles,
staining of ceiling boards, staining of vanity tops, staining at ttings, water leakages through cracks, water
leakages through pipe penetration, water leakages

Fig. 2. Height of buildings.


Fig. 5. Types of wall nishes.

Fig. 3. Gross oor area of buildings.

167

Fig. 6. Types of oor nishes.

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M.Y.L. Chew / Construction and Building Materials 19 (2005) 165173

Fig. 7. Type of ceiling nishes.

Fig. 8. Frequency of defects identied.

through joints, corrosion of exposed drainage pipes,


paint peeling, water ponding, spalling of concrete, unevenness of tile surface and poor pointing. Mastic failures
claimed the highest frequency (21%). Discoloration of
tiles ranked second (18%) followed by tiles debonding
(17%).
Fig. 9 shows the extent of each defect, where seriousness is being ranked from 1 to 5, with 1 being the least

serious and 5 being the most serious. Water leakage


through joints (53%), corrosion of pipes (50%) and
spalling of concrete (47%) ranked the rst, second and
third most serious problems. For each defect identied,
the impact of sources including quality of design, construction, maintenance practices and materials performance under tropical environment were compiled. The
nding shows that construction quality plays an important role in most defect analysis (Table 2, Fig. 10). The
overall contribution from construction quality is 43%.
Material performance under tropical environment
(37%) has been identied as the second most important
factor in controlling the occurrence of defects (Fig. 11).
To test the equality of dierent population means and
to examine the extent of defects in dierent types of
buildings, an analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed [17]. The results revealed that the extent of only
two defects: staining of ttings (F = 5.58, at P = 0.01)
and paint defects (F = 4.75, P = 0.01) were dierent in
the three types of buildings (Table 3). Staining of ttings
and paint defects were observed as serious in school
buildings, compared to the other two types of buildings.
Paint defects refer to discolouration, peeling and blistering. Overall mean ratings of the 15 possible causes under
the four sources shown in the questionnaire were calculated (Table 4). Statistical t-tests of the mean were carried out to nd the poor performing factors to identify
the possible causes. The results indicated that 13 factors
were not perfect and defer signicantly from the perfect
details. Only, two factors: waterproong selection and
construction quality, were shown to be not signicant.
Multivariate analysis of correlation was used to nd
the causes of each defect. The non-parametric technique
of Spearman correlation analysis was used. From the
results, only 9 defects out of 14 showed the exact causes
of defects, namely tile debonding, staining of tiles, water
leakage through cracks, water leakage at pipe penetra-

Fig. 9. The extent of defect.

M.Y.L. Chew / Construction and Building Materials 19 (2005) 165173

169

Table 2
Sources of defects
Overview of sources for all defects

Design

Construction

Maintenance practice

Mat/Env

Tile debonding
Mastic failure
Staining of tiles
Staining of ceiling nishes
Staining of vanity top
Water leakage through cracks
Water leakage at pipe penetrations
Paint defects
Water leakage through joints
Corrosion of exposed drainage pipes
Waterponding
Spalling of concrete
Staining at ttings
Unevenness of tile surface and poor pointing

*
*

*
*
*
*
*
*
*

*
*
*

*
*
*

*
*

*
*
*

*
*
*
*

*
*

Fig. 10. Contribution of design, construction, maintenance and material.

Fig. 11. Overall contribution to the occurrence of defects.

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M.Y.L. Chew / Construction and Building Materials 19 (2005) 165173

Table 3
ANOVA for seriousness of defects
Defect

Mean rating

ANOVA

Oce

Industrial

School

F-ratio

Signicant

Tile debonding
Mastic failure
Staining of tiles
Staining of ceiling nishes
Water leakage through cracks
Staining of vanity top
Water leakage at pipe penetrations
Paint defects
Water leakage through joints
Corrosion of exposed drainage pipes
Waterponding
Spalling of concrete
Staining of ttings
Unevenness of tile surface and poor pointing

0.58
0.73
0.64
0.15
0.19
0.70
0.21
0.06
0.15
0.12
0.06
0.06
0.00
0.00

0.39
0.77
0.62
0.00
0.54
0.08
0.46
0.38
0.23
0.077
0.23
0.46
0.31
0.08

1.00
0.80
1.20
0.00
0.60
0.00
0.40
0.80
0.50
0.00
0.00
0.30
0.70
0.10

1.50
0.03
1.75
1.32
1.20
2.34
0.68
4.78
0.80
0.19
1.19
1.59
5.58
1.53

0.23
0.97
0.18
0.28
0.31
0.11
0.51
0.01
0.46
0.83
0.31
0.21
0.01
0.22

Table 4
Mean rating and t-test for the factors
Factors

Mean rating

t-test
Signicant level

Waterproong selection
Waterproong detail
Plumbing detail
Plumbing maintainability
Fitting selection
Fitting design
Fitting maintainability
Ventilation
Material durability
Material performance
Material maintainability
Usage
Construction quality
Level of maintenance practices
Building age

4.90
4.19
3.21
3.58
4.11
4.01
4.54
4.28
4.28
3.85
4.81
3.14
4.78
4.53
3.56

tions, water leakage through joints, corrosion of exposed drainage pipes, waterponding, spalling of concrete and staining of ttings (Table 5).
In the case of tile debonding, the results showed the
workmanship quality has signicantly correlated with
the
occurrence
of
the
failure
(correlation
value = 0.473, P = 0.000). The results coincides with
opinion of industry experts (Fig. 11). Poor mixing of
screed or poor tiling installation are the two main workmanship causes responsible for the failure. Age is another factor as given in the analysis (correlation
value = 0.391, P = 0.003). The bonding strength between the tile and adhesives would gradually reduce
over time, resulting in tile delamination.
The usage (nature and the level) was found to be the
main factor associated with staining of tiles (correlation
value = 0.544, P = 0.00). Five causes including waterproong selection, waterproong detail, workmanship,

0.06
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.07
0.00
0.00

Rank
t-value
1.94
7.43
15.63
7.12
10.93
7.34
4.28
4.73
33.09
47.37
3.76
20.14
1.86
3.63
10.84

7
4
9
5
8
11
10
2
1
12
3

13
6

access for tting maintenance and material selection


were observed for water leakages (Table 5).
Corrosion of pipes was found to have three similar factors responsible for occurrences of water leakages such as
waterproong selection (correlation value = 0.397,
P = 0.002),
waterproong
detail
(correlation
value = 0.269, P = 0.045) and tting design (correlation
value = 0.264, P = 0.049). Inadequacy water-tightness
of wet area was observed to be a signicant factor.
Water ponding was observed to be associated with
workmanship (correlation value = 0.294, P = 0.028).
The eect of workmanship on the construction of ecient slope towards oor traps to prevent water retention in any part of the wet areas, as well as the
adequacy of ventilation in maintaining dryness need to
be emphasized.
The four main causes, which contribute to the extent
of spalling of concrete, were waterproong detail (corre-

Table 5
Causes of defects
Parameters

Defects
Staining
of tiles
Correlation
Sig. (two tailed)

Waterproong selection

Correlation
Sig. (two tailed)

Waterproong detail

Correlation
Sig. (two tailed)

Plumbing detail

Correlation
Sig. (two tailed)

Fitting selection

Correlation
Sig. (two tailed)

Fitting design

Correlation
Sig. (two tailed)

Access for tting maintenance

Correlation
Sig. (two tailed)

Ventilation

Correlation
Sig. (two tailed)

Material selection

Correlation
Sig. (two tailed)

Usage

Correlation
Sig. (two tailed)

Workmanship

Correlation
Sig. (two tailed)

Water leakage
at pipe penetrations

Water leakage
through joints

Corrosion of
exposed
drainage pipes

Waterponding

Spalling of
concrete

Staining of
ttings

0.391
0.003

0.561
0.000

0.516
0.000

0.496
0.000

0.397
0.002

0.433
0.001

0.269
0.045

0.368
0.005

0.347
0.009
0.264
0.049
0.361
0.006

0.392
0.003
0.284
0.034

0.363
0.006

0.279
0.037
0.544
0.000
0.473
0.000

M.Y.L. Chew / Construction and Building Materials 19 (2005) 165173

Age

Water leakage
through cracks

0.371
0.005
0.405
0.002

0.498
0.000

0.448
0.001

0.368
0.005

171

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M.Y.L. Chew / Construction and Building Materials 19 (2005) 165173

Table 6
Defect causing factors
Parameters

h2

Factor loading

Factor

Eigenvalue

Waterproong selection
Waterproong detail
Construction quality
Fitting selection
Fitting design
Fitting maintainability
Plumbing selection
Plumbing design
Material durability
Ventilation
Material performance
Material maintainability
Plumbing maintainability

0.65
0.70
0.77
0.66
0.75
0.72
0.64
0.64
0.66
0.66
0.56
0.78
0.68

0.736
0.749
0.791
0.692
0.718
0.826
0.555
0.758
0.608
0.575
0.742
0.756
0.603

Water-tightness

3.314

Spatial

2.083

Integrity

1.740

Ventilation
Material maintainability

1.437
1.156

Plumbing maintainability

1.082

lation value = 0.368, P = 0.005), access for tting


maintenance (correlation value = 0.363, P = 0.006),
tting selection (correlation value = 0.347, P = 0.009)
and
workmanship
(correlation
value = 0.368,
P = 0.005).
The degree of staining of ttings was observed to
be signicantly related to usage (correlation
value = 0.371, P = 0.005), type of ttings selected
(correlation value = 0.392, P = 0.003) and design
(correlation value = 0.284, P = 0.034). The level and
the nature of the usage are important in determining
the seriousness of this defect as with higher usage
the likelihood of staining could be reasonably increased. The type and layout of the ttings could affect the extent of the staining, especially if the
ttings consist of corners that are dicult to access
for cleaning.
To evaluate the relationship among the many factors
relating to the causes of defects, a factor analysis was
carried out [16]. Table 6 shows the factors extracted.
The important factors considered were those with eigenvalues greater than or equal to 1. The factor analysis revealed six factors namely water-tightness, spatial,
integrity, ventilation, material maintainability and
plumbing maintainability, with eigenvalues of 3.31,
2.08, 1.74, 1.43, 1.15 and 1.08, respectively.

4. Conclusions
The study has identied 14 important risk factors
aecting the level of maintainability of wet areas. A
cross comparison revealed the simultaneous presence
of defects in the three dierent groups of buildings.
Among these defects, water leakages has ranked the
highest with 53%, followed by corrosion of pipes 50%
and spalling of concrete 47%. The occurrence of all defects has been broadly attributed to their sources of de-

cient construction 43%, material 37%, design 11% and


maintenance practices 9%.
The implications of six key factors of maintainability
of wet areas namely water-tightness, spatial, integrity,
ventilation, material and plumbing on the occurrence
of 14 most common defects found in wet areas were
evaluated.

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