A partnership between GMX and BASF produces a line of asphalt-based waterproofing systems that strengthens and protects buildings

GMX Inc., a subsidiary of Garland Industries, manufactures asphalt-based emulsion waterproofing products. Throughout their 15-year relationship, BASF has provided GMX with expertise in polymeric technologies to help its product lines achieve top performance.

When GMX sought to expand its portfolio with asphalt-based building-envelope technologies, BASF was there every step of the way.

GMX, Inc: A trusted source for waterproofing products

As one part of a larger effort to make structurally sound buildings, waterproofing products can make or break a construction project.

“There’s an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality in our industry, because below-grade waterproofing products are typically installed and covered up in short order,” explains Lindsay Castles, President of GMX. “In reality, it’s one of the most important parts of a building. Moisture intrusion into a structure is one of the worst-case scenarios for occupants and owners, because there are so many negative things that can happen as a result.”

Moisture intrusion can damage various parts of the structure, from ceilings to floor coverings — not to mention the potential for mold and other health risks.

“The consequences of getting it wrong are pretty severe,” says Castles. “The interesting thing is the cost of providing a great front-end solution typically pales in comparison to the cost of fixing a problem after the fact.”

That’s why, in the waterproofing industry, a contractor’s trust in their products is everything. They need systems that protect the building owner’s investment and minimize unnecessary costs, delays and issues on the jobsite.

A formulating chemist by trade, Castles has a multifaceted view of the industry, from the lab to the field to the sales force — and from that combination of perspectives, he understands what contractors really want in a waterproofing system.

“They want the system to work,” he says. “I tell people all the time, ‘Water always wins.’ You have to keep an enemy at bay that has a good track-record of winning, and it can be very challenging. A well-designed system is very important.”

Castles first entered the waterproofing industry in 2004 and began his early collaboration with BASF. In 2012, his company became GMX after it was acquired by Garland Industries, a high-performance roofing systems manufacturer with roots in northeast Ohio and a history dating back to 1895.

After that, Castles renewed his efforts in developing waterproofing products for the new company. The acquisition enabled GMX to expand its manufacturing footprint and grow its customer base. 

Over the years, GMX has earned a reputation for manufacturing some of the market’s most trusted waterproofing products for below-grade applications. Among them is the Ultra-Shield series of asphalt emulsion waterproofing membranes.

Designing high-performance waterproofing systems

As the core of GMX’s product line, asphalt emulsion waterproofing barriers provide excellent water-repellent (hydrophobic) properties.

“Asphalt has great waterproofing characteristics, but on its own it lacks the integrity to work as part of a quality coating,” says Castles. “That’s why we use polymeric technology from BASF in our asphalt coatings: it provides elasticity, tensile strength and a variety of other properties required to withstand the elements.”

To continue meeting the needs of their customers, Castles decided to expand their waterproofing line of products from below-grade to include above-grade air barrier products. Part of that meant ensuring their asphalt-based systems were scientifically sound and reliable enough to pass stringent building codes.

“Science plays a role in the code changes for new buildings,” Castles explains. “Under the umbrella of energy efficiency, there has been a push to tighten up buildings to prevent air leaks.”

When it comes to preventing air leakage, whether it’s seeping in or filtering out of a building, air and weather-resistant barriers are key coatings in a building envelope.

“We wanted to develop a liquid-applied weather-resistant barrier, and we know that the polymer chemistry determines many of the advantages in the end performance,” says Castles.

A strong polymer backbone gives the asphalt greater flexibility to prevent cracking. GMX’s new product needed to be applied above-grade and allow the transmission of vapor at a controlled rate, which presented its own challenge because asphalt is not naturally permeable.

BASF has been a pioneer in the synthetic polymer industry for a long time.

Lindsay Castles

President, GMX Inc.

BASF helped GMX find a polymeric system that would improve the moisture vapor permeability of asphalt coatings, provide strong performance, meet certification tests and give builders more bang for their buck. Together they developed Air Guard™ VPA, or vapor-permeable asphalt.

As a liquid-applied system, Air Guard VPA has better airtightness and self-adhering properties, which reduces some work for the installer because it doesn’t require tape or nails. The result is a monolithic membrane free of puncture holes — a top-performing product.

“If you're looking for assured performance when you're done, it's hard to beat a liquid-applied system,” Castles says. GMX measures that performance using a range of metrics. Most importantly, the product needs to meet the market’s evolving needs for energy efficiency, water resistance and certified air control.

To that end, Air Guard VPA was certified through the International Code Council Evaluation Services (ICC-ES), a lengthy process with extensive third-party testing and documentation.

Partnering to meet material standards and exceed expectations

Having worked with BASF on smaller-scale projects since 2004, Castles says it was a natural choice to partner with them on a full-blown product development. The companies’ history of collaboration made it simple for BASF to qualify raw materials, provide feedback and make recommendations about the path forward.

“BASF has been a pioneer in the synthetic polymer industry for a long time,” Castles says. “They’re a market leader in styrene butadiene chemistry. We incorporate that into all of our asphalt-based waterproofing products.”

“Ultimately they affirmed that we were indeed on the right path,” he adds.

BASF also made its resources readily available to GMX.

“They ran a lot of permeability tests for us,” Castles explains. “Because of my background as a formulator, I was able to tell BASF exactly what I thought I needed, and they did a phenomenal job of product selection on the front end. We had a really good collaboration and were all on the same page.”

He adds that sometimes in product development, you hit a dead end and have to go back to square one — it’s just part of the process.

“From a performance standpoint, I feel like we got it right — right out of the gate. That makes a huge difference in any product development timeline.”

Combined with the ICC-ES evaluation process, the development of Air Guard VPA took only a year to produce a successful, certified system.

“Without BASF’s help and resources, it would have been very difficult for us to do it in the same amount of time,” Castles says. According to Castles, GMX has seen a great deal of growth over the past few years. The company plans to continue that growth by broadening its reach, customer base and product line.

“We're constantly looking for opportunities to bring new products, new ideas and new science to the market,” he says. He adds that GMX is constantly improving its level of service and partnership with customers.

“We take a family-oriented approach to this. At the end of the day, we’re in this together — if my customers are successful, we will be successful.”

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