Austin, Texas

Chamberlin and Sarnafil Waterproofing Preserves Historic Hotel

When cattleman Colonel Jesse Lincoln Driskill bought some land in Austin for $7,500 back in 1884, he probably didn't envision that The Driskill built on this site would become not only the oldest operating hotel in Austin, but one that was considered "the finest hotel south of St. Louis."  The Driskill sits at the corner of the infamous Sixth Street and Brazos Street, and features 189 well-appointed guest rooms, and has hosted countless special events and notable public figures throughout Texas history.  

The Driskill 
Austin, Texas


Waterproofing Contractor
Chamberlin Roofing & Waterproofing    
Buda, Texas

Waterproofing System
Sarnafil® G 476 80 mil
waterproofing membrane

Project Size
2,662 square feet

driskill hotel

Recently, The Driskill exhibited signs of water damage to the soffits and balustrades of the four major balconies.   Wanting to avoid further damage and preserve the historic charm of the balconies, The Driskill decided to go with the Sarnafil waterproofing membrane and Chamberlin Roofing & Waterproofing of Buda, Texas to remediate the water intrusion and restore the balconies, which involved balcony deck replacement and waterproofing, balustrade restoration, and facade repair.  

Driskill Hotel Under Construction
Assessing, Repairing the Damage

Before this work began Building Consultants, Ltd conducted a thorough building envelope investigation to uncover the extent of the water damage.   Not only were the soffits compromised, but there were other areas that needed repairs as well.  The consultant cut holes into the soffit to observe the structural integrity and concluded the joists were heavily damaged and needed to be replaced.  The same conclusion was reached for the extensively deteriorated decks on all four balconies.  

Chamberlin began the balcony deck replacements with the demolition of tile, concrete slabs, existing waterproofing, soffits, and structural framing.  Chamberlin's crew then installed new joists, beams, three-quarter-inch plywood decking, and framing.  Following this the Waterproofing System, which included the Sarnafil G 476 80 mil waterproofing membrane, a membrane underlayment, drainage composite and protection layer, termination bars and PVC flashing and fasteners, was installed.  Electronic Leak Detection (ELD) testing was then performed to check for membrane water tightness.   

"Even though the building consultant was the one to recommend using the Sarnafil waterproofing system, we had had a lot of experience working with Sika Sarnafil and the Sarnafil roofing membrane," explained Josh Adrian, project manager at Chamberlin.  "We know Sika stands behind their warranties and produces quality products."  

Once the waterproofing was complete, a three-inch concrete slab with an eighth-inch slope per foot was poured and leveled.  The crew then installed plaster and sheathing at the soffits, an intricate crown molding and trim on the balustrades, and copper flashing around the perimeter of the balconies.  

Driskill Hotel Under Construction
Battling the Ballustrades

Preserving the original balustrades was an unexpected challenge.  The architect on the project recommended the balustrades be removed, repaired, and reinstalled instead of replaced.  Chamberlin decided to follow the Texas Historic Commission's guidelines for The Maintenance and Repair of Architectural Cast Iron to preserve the historic railings.

During the initial evaluation, abnormally large cracks in the cast iron were observed and some sections were discovered to be unlevel by as much as half an inch.  The cause of this damage became clear when the floor underneath the concrete was discovered to be rotten, compromising the substrate underneath the balustrades.

The balustrades were removed by crane and transported to Blue Diamond Steel's facility in New Braunfels, Texas for repairs, which included sandblasting multiple layers of paint, welding, and fabricating new pieces to replace portions of the balustrades that were too badly cracked to be repaired.  Once the balustrades were fully restored and painted, they were transported to The Driskill and hoisted to their original location.  

Operating Safely and Smoothly

Making sure hotel guests, employees, pedestrians and Chamberlin employees were safe during all this work was a key concern.  Chamberlin strictly adhered with city compliance for right-of-way for pedestrians, vehicles, and partial street closures, and installed an intricate scaffolding system with a protected entrance for pedestrians and guests to enter the hotel.  Water barricades and fencing were also installed around the work site to keep people from passing underneath the balconies where construction was taking place.   Chamberlin workers on the upper balcony were tied off 100 percent with harnesses, and lanyards.  

Sika Sarnafil representatives also helped things run smoothly by reviewing the installation of the waterproofing system and doing the electronic leak testing.  "They were very good to work with and very helpful," Adrian remarked.

"We also had lots of communication and coordination with the hotel to make sure our work didn't interfere with certain events," Adrian stated.  "We also did deliveries of materials early in the morning to limit exposure to guests."  

It was this professionalism that earned Chamberlin Roofing second place in the Waterproofing Category of Sika Sarnafil’s 2017 Project of the Year competition.

Preserving History

Today the balconies are back to a watertight state that will preserve the historical integrity of the esteemed Texas hotel for years to come.  "The balconies are holding up and doing well -- we have no concerns," said Corinna Wenks, general manager at The Driskill.  

Driskill Hotel

"Everything looks as good as new and we've had zero complaints," Adrian added.  "I would definitely use the Sarnafil waterproofing membrane again.  When a client is looking for a system that performs, Sarnafil is the way to go.  Sika Sarnafil offers a good warranty and support and they ensure the system is installed properly." 

Sounds like the oldest operating hotel in Austin has many more years ahead of it.

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