Waterproofing project cost soars: Combination of problems leads to higher price tag

What started as $40,000 of waterproofing work on part of the Washington County Government Center has become a project where the cost has soared to more than three times the original estimate, the Board of Commissioners learned Tuesday.

“Like any homeowner, there are surprises in life,” said board Chairman Dennis Hegberg after Building Services Manager Greg Wood outlined why the county must amend its contract with the project contractor ICF Construction.

“The requested amendment is larger than the contract amount and I will explain the reasons why,” Wood said.

The project involves waterproofing an area on the north side of the courthouse near the staff entrance, Wood said.

“What we’ve been experiencing over time are water leaks into the mechanical tunnel,” he said. “In 2005, they tried a low-cost temporary fix by injecting polyurethane into the cracks.”

Wood said the county awarded a $40,108 contract to ICF Inc. to do a more permanent repair that involved excavating about the utility tunnel, injecting epoxy into cracks and applying waterproofing to the building foundation.

But like many homeowners facing repairs to their residences, the county’s contractor found more serious issues when they excavated the site, according to Wood. He said the four main concerns were:

Poor soil conditions. Wood said the last time the site was excavated, the area was filled in with a clay-and-sand mix that did not drain water.

Inadequate or no waterproofing on the foundation walls.

A leaking chilled water pipe,

A failed drain tile system.

Repairing those problems involves excavating to the foundation footings, waterproofing the utility tunnel and walls, installing new drain tiles and backfilling with soil that drains properly, according to Wood.

The cost for all that work? Wood said it is now $138,490. The good news, he added, is the funds are available to pay for work without increasing taxes or reducing service; the contractor can start immediately, and the waterproofing should last 20 or more years.

What is not available, Wood said, is any kind of warranty on the previous failed waterproofing.

“This is beyond any type of construction warranty,” he said.