Winter Property Maintenance Tips
Written by Lee Shephard
It’s January, the start of a new year and along with the new year comes winter weather. Winter weather brings its own special challenges to the operation of buildings and it is important to plan and prepare for what may come. Below is a partial list of things you can do to be better prepared when the inevitable bad weather arrives and problems arise.
- Check your roof and gutters. If you have not already cleaned the roof and gutters from the autumn, do so. Not doing it is likely to result in roof leak problems. If drains and catch basins are plugged, the water from the rain and snow will build up along the edges of the building and get under the roofing materials where the roof meets the exterior walls and leak down the inside of the exterior walls. Furthermore, in the event of really heavy rains, the plugged drains can lead to the roof to cave in. Most commercial roofs are not designed to carry much weight but are really there to “complete the building envelope” so the excess weight from water buildup can be a serious problem. This is accentuated by drains plugged by leaves and debris but can also occur when there is a snow event followed by periods of freezing and thawing. The gutters can become plugged with frozen ice wedged in the gutter/downspout and the melting snow has nowhere to go and can pond beyond the structural design of the building. Each winter you will see news accounts of roofs failing, it is usually due to carrying too much weight. If your gutters get plugged with ice, you need to remove it.
- Make certain to plow your parking lots and de-ice the sidewalks. The best way to do this, unless you plan on doing it yourself, is to contract with a parking lot maintenance company well in advance to dispatch automatically upon certain weather events being forecast or occurring. Typically, we agree to dispatch at a pre-determined temperature and/or a snow event. If you wait until the snow/ice storm occurs to call someone you will either be way down the list or will not get service at all for your property. Snow followed by warming and freezing can be particularly dangerous due to the formation of ice so it is equally important, maybe more so, to shovel and de-ice the sidewalks and pathways.
- Much like the roof, be sure to check your storm drains to make sure they are not too full of sediment and will have the capacity to handle all the rain runoff in the event of a large storm. If not done this can contribute to the flooding of the parking lot and possibly the 1st floor of the building. Many municipalities require this to be done regularly so you may well have it done, but not all municipalities check the storm drains so it is an easy item to overlook.
- Make sure the vacant spaces have heat in them to avoid freezing pipes. Some (warehouse) tenants that are just storing dry goods will sometimes try to avoid turning on the heat but it is critical if the building has a “wet” fire sprinkler system to keep it from freezing. Not only could the pipes burst but more importantly the building would be without fire protection.
- Following up on item 4 above always check vacant spaces. Because they are vacant, there is no one to take care of the minor building problems as they occur and therefore can become major building problems with the passage of time. This is true all year round but more so in the winter. This is one of the reasons why insurance companies don’t like vacant buildings; problems can quickly get out of hand and no one knows it.
- Make sure that the exterior irrigation lines were shut down and that the lines were blown prior to winter. If not, do it now! Irrigation lines can freeze in the winter and break resulting in significant leaks.
- Make sure your exterior lighting is set to come on prior to dusk and after the sun rises in the morning. This is a safety matter. Either make sure to reset the clocks as you go through the year or the exterior lighting can be on a photocell.
- Have an emergency plan at hand with the names and phone numbers of your key vendors. While you may have it on your phone it is advisable to also have printed copies in your office, car, and home. Talk to the vendors in advance and discuss what you can expect from them in the event of an emergency.
- If you haven’t done so, prepare a budget for the coming year for the building. It’s not too late! (This is not really a winter issue but if you didn’t prepare it yet there is still time and it will help you plan out the year.) The other thing it does is it helps you to highlight the things that need to be done throughout the year and properly plan financially to do those things that need to be done including preparing for winter weather.
Also, spring is around the corner and there will be more to do! A good property management team is key to maintaining the value of your property year round. Contact our property management team for more information.