Winter is right around the corner – in fact in some areas it’s already arrived. With the changing seasons 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.

Maintenance of buildings or structures, whether it be the interior or exterior, horizontal or vertical construction, or a high-rise or single-story, is a necessity across the country. Many times a quick check today can help save building owners and managers headaches during the harsh winter months ahead – when repairs can be complicated by cold temperatures.

Facility managers can protect buildings and structures throughout the winter by identifying a few red flags early in the fall. They should address problem areas quickly and effectively before winter sets in.

Concrete needs protection, repair Winter freeze and thaw cycles can cause big problems with concrete structures. When water infiltrates concrete it can freeze, causing the water to occupy 9 percent more volume than in its liquid state. That expansion causes distress on the concrete, which can lead to fractures that will continue to grow exponentially as saturation of the material increases.

A wide range of restoration, repair and reinforcing services are offered by certified specialty contractors. They 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 facility managers can take to 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. That will also protect adjacent areas that are currently in good condition and significantly improve the aesthetics of the area treated.

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

An ineffective maintenance routine can quickly lead to costly repairs and restorations that can be disruptive as well as cause unexpected costs and safety concerns. All types of parking structures are subject to deterioration.

Five key indicators can show a parking area is in need of preventative maintenance.

  • water leakage
  • ponding water
  • expansion-joint failure
  • exposed rebar
  • delaminated, spalled or horizontally or vertically cracked concrete

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

Prevent unwanted water leakageThe 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 building walls – from plumbing and irrigation connections to lighting, heating-ventilation-air-conditioning-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 a building and cause damage.

Checking for changes in a building since the previous year is also recommended. Watch for items like deteriorated building joints, which can make the building vulnerable to the elements and unwanted pests.

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

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

Decaying leaves, pine needles and dirt runoff can all contribute to ponding water as well as clogged gutters and downspouts. That’s why it’s essential that all roof drains remain clear of obstructions. In addition to the risk of water pouring into spaces should a breach in the roof occur, freezing and thawing of ponding water during fall and winter months can cause extensive roof damage. Ensure all organic debris is completely removed from gutters, downspouts and drains before winter arrives.

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Bob Gender is a branch manager with Western Specialty Contractors, which has been family-owned and operated for more than 100 years. Visit www.westernspecialtycontractors.com for more information.