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Brian holds the original contract for the Kate Sheppard building, a Wellington structure that was refurbished and seismically structured in 2014. Brian and his team were tasked with replacing the building’s original mastic asphalt waterproofing, installed by Neuchatel in 1925.

In the document, instructions to the project Asphalter read as follows:

"Cover the whole of the roof of 2 storey portion and the upper yard with Neuchatel or other approved Asphalte ¾” thick laid whilst hot true to falls and with channels as indicated or as directed. Asphalte to be turned up parapets, walls, chimneys, etc. at least 4” and let to ¾” groove in concrete. The whole of the work to be carried out in a workmanlike manner to the entire satisfaction of the City Engineer. All to be left thoroughly watertight."

A top choice then and today - what makes mastic asphalt such an effective waterproofing material? We spoke with Brian about the advantages of mastic asphalt waterproof membranes and why it’s such an effective solution for old buildings such as the Kate Sheppard Building.

Brian holds the original contract for the Kate Sheppard building, a Wellington structure that was refurbished and seismically structured in 2014. Brian and his team were tasked with replacing the building’s original mastic asphalt waterproofing, installed by Neuchatel in 1925.

In the document, instructions to the project Asphalter read as follows:

"Cover the whole of the roof of 2 storey portion and the upper yard with Neuchatel or other approved Asphalte ¾” thick laid whilst hot true to falls and with channels as indicated or as directed. Asphalte to be turned up parapets, walls, chimneys, etc. at least 4” and let to ¾” groove in concrete. The whole of the work to be carried out in a workmanlike manner to the entire satisfaction of the City Engineer. All to be left thoroughly watertight."

A top choice then and today - what makes mastic asphalt such an effective waterproofing material? We spoke with Brian about the advantages of mastic asphalt waterproof membranes and why it’s such an effective solution for old buildings such as the Kate Sheppard Building.

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Key considerations when waterproofing heritage listed buildings

“With heritage listed buildings, the objective is always the same,” explains Brian. “You want to preserve the original structure as much as possible.”

This was also the case with the Kate Sheppard Building. “The original Neuchatel membrane was still functioning. The building had been completely abandoned, however, and no maintenance was done, so there were some sizeable issues to address.”

Brian explains why the original issue was in such good shape:

“With concrete, moisture trapped behind impervious membranes can lead to blisters and bubbles in the membrane. Most membrane systems come under stress from cracking. Mastic asphalt, however, sits on top of the concrete with a separating layer. That means shrinking, cracking or any other movement will not be transferred to the membrane.”

Key considerations when waterproofing heritage listed buildings

“With heritage listed buildings, the objective is always the same,” explains Brian. “You want to preserve the original structure as much as possible.”

This was also the case with the Kate Sheppard Building. “The original Neuchatel membrane was still functioning. The building had been completely abandoned, however, and no maintenance was done, so there were some sizeable issues to address.”

Brian explains why the original issue was in such good shape:

“With concrete, moisture trapped behind impervious membranes can lead to blisters and bubbles in the membrane. Most membrane systems come under stress from cracking. Mastic asphalt, however, sits on top of the concrete with a separating layer. That means shrinking, cracking or any other movement will not be transferred to the membrane.”

Refurbishing heritage buildings presents a few unique challenges for contractors. First, the structures are irreplaceable, which means contractors need to be incredibly mindful of not disturbing original scaffolding and other features, as well as finding like replacements of original materials. In the case of the Kate Sheppard building, this was simple as contractors were able to use not only the same material - but the very same supplier too.

“Heritage buildings tend to suffer from pretty extensive maintenance issues, so you need to be careful of damaging fragile materials and avoiding flammable materials. For this reason, we have a strict policy about using a naked flame when applying waterproof membranes. In many projects, using a naked flame is standard practice, but for us this is simply not an option.”

Mastic asphalt can be applied cold, eliminating the need for hot bitumen or glass bottles on site.

Refurbishing heritage buildings presents a few unique challenges for contractors. First, the structures are irreplaceable, which means contractors need to be incredibly mindful of not disturbing original scaffolding and other features, as well as finding like replacements of original materials. In the case of the Kate Sheppard building, this was simple as contractors were able to use not only the same material - but the very same supplier too.

“Heritage buildings tend to suffer from pretty extensive maintenance issues, so you need to be careful of damaging fragile materials and avoiding flammable materials. For this reason, we have a strict policy about using a naked flame when applying waterproof membranes. In many projects, using a naked flame is standard practice, but for us this is simply not an option.”

Mastic asphalt can be applied cold, eliminating the need for hot bitumen or glass bottles on site.

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From castles to Queen Street, mastic asphalt and heritage buildings

“The Kate Sheppard building is Neuchatel’s oldest project to date - and the first where we’ve ever had to return to work site,” says Brian.

Neuchatel was also called in for another refurb where the building was approaching its 100 year mark. The rooftop of the structure - located at 167 Queen Street in Auckland - was covered in a maze of pipes, ducts and other obstructions, rendering membranes out of the question.

“On this particular rooftop, there were a lot of protrusions. A membrane would have required several joins, which is a risk in terms of watertightness. Mastic asphalt, on the other hand, could coat the entire area quite easily.”

In the end, the Neuchatel team were able to complete the project - including sealing - in less than a week, leaving 167 Queen Street with a new roof set to last another 50 years or more.

But while New Zealand’s use of mastic asphalt only dates back so far, the mastic asphalt has proven its prowess in jobs dating back to ancient times. Christopher Columbus even reportedly used mastic asphalt to waterproof his ships because of its seamless durability.

“Mastic asphalt has been used in some of the United Kingdom’s most famous buildings, including Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London. Its durability and resistance to wear just isn’t rivaled by any product that’s come since.”

Brian describes a particular refurb, the Hurst Castle in Milfod-on-Sea, a 16th century fortress restored in 2017.

“This was another complex, hand-laid project, where the team had to be mindful of applying the material around upstands, downstands, drips and gutters. Regardless of difficult weather and a very busy site, the work was carried out on time, returning Hurst Castle to the same working condition as when it was built in 1544.”

Want to learn more about using mastic asphalt on your own fortress? Check out Neuchatel on ArchiPro today or reach out to Brian and his team directly.

From castles to Queen Street, mastic asphalt and heritage buildings

“The Kate Sheppard building is Neuchatel’s oldest project to date - and the first where we’ve ever had to return to work site,” says Brian.

Neuchatel was also called in for another refurb where the building was approaching its 100 year mark. The rooftop of the structure - located at 167 Queen Street in Auckland - was covered in a maze of pipes, ducts and other obstructions, rendering membranes out of the question.

“On this particular rooftop, there were a lot of protrusions. A membrane would have required several joins, which is a risk in terms of watertightness. Mastic asphalt, on the other hand, could coat the entire area quite easily.”

In the end, the Neuchatel team were able to complete the project - including sealing - in less than a week, leaving 167 Queen Street with a new roof set to last another 50 years or more.

But while New Zealand’s use of mastic asphalt only dates back so far, the mastic asphalt has proven its prowess in jobs dating back to ancient times. Christopher Columbus even reportedly used mastic asphalt to waterproof his ships because of its seamless durability.

“Mastic asphalt has been used in some of the United Kingdom’s most famous buildings, including Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London. Its durability and resistance to wear just isn’t rivaled by any product that’s come since.”

Brian describes a particular refurb, the Hurst Castle in Milfod-on-Sea, a 16th century fortress restored in 2017.

“This was another complex, hand-laid project, where the team had to be mindful of applying the material around upstands, downstands, drips and gutters. Regardless of difficult weather and a very busy site, the work was carried out on time, returning Hurst Castle to the same working condition as when it was built in 1544.”

Want to learn more about using mastic asphalt on your own fortress? Check out Neuchatel on ArchiPro today or reach out to Brian and his team directly.

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