Winter is Around the Corner – Is Your Building Prepared?

Winter is right around the corner. With the changing season comes freeze and thaw cycles, falling pine needles and leaves, organic growth and harsh weather conditions that can wreak havoc on a building or structure’s exterior if not maintained properly. Conducting an annual fall building inspection will help to identify potential maintenance issues before they become problematic and lead to costly repairs for the owner.

“Maintenance of buildings or structures, whether it be the interior or exterior, horizontal or vertical construction, or a hi-rise  or single-story, is a necessity across the country,” said Bob Gender, Branch Manager, Western Specialty Contractors. “Many times a quick check today on your properties can help save building owners and managers headaches during the harsh winter months ahead when getting repairs done can be complicated by low temperatures.”

Facility managers can protect their buildings and structures throughout the winter and for a lifetime by identifying a few red flags early in the fall and addressing those problem areas quickly and effectively before the winter sets in, says Gender.

Repairing and Protecting Concrete

In the winter, freeze and thaw cycles can cause big problems with concrete structures. When water infiltrates concrete, it can freeze, causing the water to occupy nine percent more volume than in its liquid state. This expansion causes distress on the concrete, which can lead to fractures that will continue to grow exponentially as saturation of the material increases.

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A wide range of restoration, repair and reinforcing services are offered by certified specialty contractors, such as Western Specialty Contractors, that can repair cracks, spalls, rust spots, deterioration, pot-holes and heaves in concrete and masonry. More often than not, concrete repairs are made before they become a more serious or costly issue, but there are measures that facility managers can take to actually prevent future damage. Applying hot-applied or below-grade waterproofing and urethane or acrylic protective coatings to traffic decks, pedestrian areas or exterior facades will extend the life of the repair, protect adjacent areas that are currently in good condition and significantly improve the aesthetics of the area treated.

For facilities with a concrete parking structure, the fall is an ideal time to survey for damage. Vehicles regularly entering parking garages leave water, oil and muck behind. Not to mention salt and de-icers tracked in during the winter months that can corrode the structure’s concrete and steel support system.

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An ineffective maintenance routine on a parking structure can quickly lead to costly repairs and restorations that can be disruptive to tenants and cause unexpected costs and safety concerns.

All types of parking structures are subject to deterioration. Western’s experts have identified five key indicators that a parking garage is in need of preventative maintenance: water leakage, ponding water, expansion joint failure, exposed rebar, and delaminated, spalled or horizontally/vertically cracked concrete.

An experienced concrete maintenance and restoration specialist can identify specific problem areas and recommend a repair plan and maintenance schedule for the structure.

Preventing Unwanted Water Leakage

The exterior walls of a building can be a significant source of unwanted water leakage. It’s easy to forget how many openings are required in commercial building walls – from plumbing and irrigation connections to lighting, HVAC system elements, exhaust vents, air intakes, joints around windows and doors, and fire alarms, to name a few.

There are also unplanned holes caused by aging brick joints that need re-pointing, vanishing sealants, damage from acid rain and settling cracks. All wall penetrations provide easy access for water, bugs, field mice, birds or other unwanted pests to enter the building and cause damage.

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Checking for changes in a building since last year is also recommended. Do you have abandoned pipe penetrations from a tenant upgrade? A new tenant demo? Or maybe just a deteriorated building joint which can make the building joint vulnerable to the elements and unwanted pests?

If a building is seriously damaged, specialists may be needed to bring a wall system back up to its expected performance level. Regular inspections by the property manager or a trained professional will help identify these potential problems early and save the owner money.

Protecting the Roof

The fall often brings falling leaves, pine needles and organic growth on building roof tops. A commitment to good roof maintenance practices can help facility managers avoid overflowing gutters, clogged downspouts and excessive ponding water which can lead to costly roof, facade and foundation damage. A weekly routine roof inspection is recommended during this time of the year.

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Decaying leaves, pine needles and dirt run-off can all contribute to ponding water and clogged gutters and downspouts, which is why it is essential that all roof drains remain clear of obstructions. In addition to the risk of water pouring into the tenant spaces should a breach in the roof occur, the freezing and thawing of ponding water during the fall and winter months can cause extensive roof damage.

Make sure that all organic debris is completely removed from gutters, downspouts and drains before the winter arrives.