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How to waterproof a planter box    link: Planter Box Liquid Membrane

Planters are often considered the area where waterproofing is most problematic. Green roofs are really extended planters and are becoming increasingly popular. We have two situations to consider.  


New Planter Box Construction  


From a waterproofing point of view, concrete walls are much to be preferred over porous blockwork which unfortunately is so frequently used nowadays. Because planters are exposed to rain and the soil is usually wet, it is best to isolate them from the living areas of the building rather than risk having a common wall.  


For most planters, the base is concrete and seldom drains properly. Since it is always safer to waterproof the structural elements, it is preferable to lay a screed to falls on top of the membrane so there is no stagnant water to become a breeding ground for creepy crawlies. Care must be taken however that when spreading the screed, the membrane is not cut. Always water test to ensure everything is OK.  


Provided the planter is wide enough to torch apply a sheet membrane typically minimum 600mm, the fully bonded torch applied Wrmco SBS sheet membrane is safer to use than a liquid applied membrane. For narrower planters, the best membrane is a solvent based urethane rubber as none of the less expensive water based materials will last for many years in the wet environment.  


The normal Wrimco SBS modified bitumen is ideal for garden roofs and most planters but where plants with aggressive root systems such as bamboo are planted, it would be wise to choose the Wrimco Anti-Root SBS. Single layer with double detailing is normally sufficient but two layers on the base or even two layers for base and sides are frequently specified.  


Since the membrane on the sides of the planter are vulnerable to damage from tilling the soil, it is essential that the membrane be properly protected. Membrane can be protected by: Cuspated protection board and Corflute board. 

No useful purpose results from having drainage cell at the sides but is certainly needed for the base, with 1mm filter fabric on top and a 50mm layer of coarse double washed river sand before the planter mix is loaded (Double washed to remove the fine particles).  


Repair Leaking Planter Box  


First check that water is not bypassing the membrane system. This can most readily occur with blockwork so the tops, down inside to the membrane and the outside need to be well waterproofed. Take particular attention to irrigation pipes and electrical conduits.  


Fortunately planters can be fairly easily emptied, cleaned and re-waterproofed same as for new construction. If an APP or PVC membrane had been used, it is preferable to remove them but for liquid applied membranes that are still well adhered, the Wrimco SBS membranes can be torched over them provided the bulk of the heat from the gas torch is directed onto the SBS. When applying solvent based urethane, first prime with WBE (Water Based Epoxy).   

Waterproof a planter box with torch applied sheet membrane :

Double detail or L-piece Wrimco SBS Membrane in lieu of sand/cement fillet
Wrimco SBS Anti-root membrane torch applied 2 layers 

Wrimco Protection Board


Wrimco Drainage Cell with Filter Fabric 


Layer of washed coarse sand, then planter mix  

SBS (Styrene-Butadiene Styrene) makes bitumen elastomeric so that it can withstand cyclic movement and cracks in the substrate up to 1mm. West Indian bitumen gives virtually unlimited life and exceptional adhesion.    


Fully bonded to ensure no possibility of water tracking behind the membrane, and for greater resistance to damage.


Protection Board to protect waterproofing membrane .       

Use Wrimco Drainage Cell with Filter Fabric if required to relieve hydrostatic pressure.    


Use "Wrimco SBS Mineral Membrane" where membrane is exposed to sunlight.    


Fully bonded, torching as the roll is unwound upwards as shown. Non-Woven Polyester (NWP) reinforcement gives over 40% elongation and excellent puncture and tear resistance.  

Waterproof Planters Specification:    


  1. Waterproof Planters using Wrimco SBS Sheet Membrane, fully bonded by torch applying to a smooth, dry substrate. Hot tool chamfer all edges to eliminate interconnecting capillaries.  
  2. Before applying, remove all lumps of cement. Fill any indentations and holes filled with mortar mix. Use no sand for fine holes but up to three parts sand for big holes. Point up blockwork if required. Lightly prime concrete and FC with Wrimco SBS Bitumen Primer. Detail angles and projections with Wrimco SBS Sheet Membrane to provide 2 layers at all critical points, ensuring no air pockets, and cover.  
  3. All vertical ends to be run under flashing or pressure seal sealed to the wall; terminated in a reglet or fastened mechanically with a pressure seal, caulking exposed edges with Wrimco one-part acrylic or bitumen sealant: otherwise nail and cover; or turn over lip. Maximum drop without support 2.0m. Side lap 50/75mm. End lap 75/100mm and burn in granules (degranulate) if wrimco SBS Granules Membrane used.
  4. Wrimco Protection Board butted and taped, to be applied shortly after water testing where practical; backfill as soon as possible with gravel or coarse sand (tanking); fit Drainage Cell and lay Filter Fabric, taking care not to block the drain (planters).


Waterproofing FAQ

Membrane Protection Board

Waterproofing Coating

Waterproof Drainage Sheet

Waterproofing Primer

Repair and Maintenance