Preparing Your Building for Winter From Roof to Foundation

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 interior or exterior, horizontal or vertical, high in the air or low on the ground, is a necessity across the country," said Bob Gender, a branch manager with building restoration and preservation experts Western Specialty Contractors, formerly named Western Waterproofing Company. "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."

Property 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.

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.

A wide range of restoration, repair and reinforcing services are offered by certified specialty contractors who 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 property 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.

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.

Checking for changes in a building since last year is also recommended. Do you have abandoned pipe penetrations from a facility upgrade? Or maybe just a deteriorated building joint that 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 up to its expected performance level. Regular inspections by the property manager, owner 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 rooftops. 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, façade and foundation damage. A weekly routine roof inspection is recommended during this time of the year.

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 your interior 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.

About the Author

Bob Gender is the St. Louis Roofing Branch manager for Western Specialty Contractors, the nation’s largest specialty contractor in masonry and concrete restoration, waterproofing and specialty roofing. Western is headquartered in St. Louis, MO, with over 30 branch offices nationwide.

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