Building standards in many countries require most new buildings to incorporate a DPC at the time of construction. This may consist of a thin strip of plastic, a course of engineering brick or slate, or a layer of bitumen.
Where a DPC is absent or inadequate, there are various means of retrospectively fitting one. A common method in masonry walls is to drill holes into the wall at regular intervals and inject a penetrating chemical (e.g. silicone) into the holes. The chemical is absorbed into the masonry where it dries to form a waterproof barrier. Some irregular stone walls cannot be drilled for a chemical DPC, so an osmotic electrical system is often fitted.
Alternatively the cement joints can be drilled and the chemical injected there instead, although this is a less satisfactory method. A larger volume of chemical will be needed.
Some forms of the chemical are odour free, some have a strong odour, this should be taken into account when purchasing.
A Damp Proof Membrane (DPM) performs a similar function for a solid floor.
A DPM is usually a thick polythene sheet laid under the floor slab, to allow the slab dry out and keep out groundwater. It is often laid on a bed of sand, to prevent the sharp edges of the hardcore damaging it.
To create a continuous barrier, pieces of DPC or DPM are welded together. In addition, the DPC is welded to the DPM around the outside edges of the ground floor, completely sealing the inside of the building from the damp ground under it.
In a cavity wall, there is usually a DPC in both the outer and inner wall. In the outer wall it is normally 150-200mm above ground level (the height of 2-3 brick courses). This allows rain to form puddles and splash up off the ground, without saturating the wall above DPC level. The wall below the DPC may become saturated in rainy weather. The DPC in the inner wall is usually below floor level, so that it can be welded to the DPM in the floor, and so that skirting boards can be fixed to the wall above floor level without puncturing it. Alternatively, instead of fitting separate inner and outer DPCs, it is common in commercial housebuilding to use a one-piece length of rigid plastic, which fits neatly across the cavity and slots into both walls.
In old buildings there may be a DPC made from lead. The DPM may be non-existent, leading to damp problems, or it may rely on an impermeable floor finish such as ceramic tiles to keep most of the damp out.
Health and Safety
Besides lead sheet, some DPC Materials contain asbestos fibre such as common older grey sealant and flexible tar board.