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Anatomy of a Planter

Leaching water from failed planter waterproofing membrane

As an supplement to our previous article on plaza deck systems, “Anatomy of a Plaza Deck”, we’d like to offer this discussion on planter assembly to demonstrate common defects and why planters leak. The main reason, of course, is water. When developers build complexes they should line the concrete planters with a waterproofing membrane before they install the soil and plants. However, missing membrane is a common construction defect. Developers then install fast-growing and mature plants and trees in order to present the complex most attractively, and give that lived in, lush look. After a period of time, these root systems outgrow and choke the planter, and clog its drains. The buildup of water saturates the planters and accelerates the degradation of the waterproofing lining. Water starts to leach through and stain and spall the concrete. Constant, standing water will penetrate the surrounding plaza deck itself. This process is observable to a lesser extent with pots placed on patios.

The only real resolution to this problem is to remove the plantings and soil from the planters, then the deteriorated waterproofing. The corroded drain should be replaced or hydrojetted to clear it of roots. After new lining is installed, new soil and appropriate vegetation can be planted. We recommend you consult with a landscape designer so as to make the best choice for non-invasive, size-appropriate, and perhaps drought-tolerant plants.

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