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Winterizing Condos: A Manager’s Checklist
The Fall Season Brings an Entire New Set of Chores and Challenges for all Property Managers
By Dene Cousins | Other articles by Dene Cousins
So… here you are finally breathing a sigh of relief. All the summer chores are done – window washing, garage cleaning, landscape upgrades, painting, roofs, eaves, caulking –YES!... all those labour intensive outside repairs done and dusted for another year… and NOW the fall season brings an entire new set of chores and challenges for all property managers… if you’re a seasoned manager, you likely have most of your fall chores done… but here’s a checklist just to be sure you’ve got it covered and can safely book that week at the time-share in Boca…
Where to start with the checklist?
Changeover from Cooling to heating – the Great Debate
Dear Condo Guru:
It happens every fall and spring ... The people on the sunny side of my building are too hot... the people on the shady side are too cold... Everyone thinks I’m doing this on purpose... please send help... I’d love to change their life with the flick of a switch but there’s a little more to it than that!
Picking the dates seems to get more difficult every year. Climate change is happening, creating unpredictable swings in temperature from one day to the next. Historical change-over dates are not necessarily relevant. The scientific approach is to rely on weather forecasts and set the dates based on average low nighttime temperatures. But this year that was an up and down number for weeks. Some buildings even survey residents for their opinions. My advice is to take a personal approach with a survey that includes owners in suites in key locations (sunny side, shady side, on the top, mid and low floors), consult the HVAC contractor for each building, suggest dates to your board and announce it to owners and residents. And be polite when you respond to those nasty emails.
Now – the site itself. I have included suggestions for both multi-storey and townhouse properties.
Let’s take it from the top.
Roof top mechanical installations:
Confirm that the contractor has properly shut down the chiller and drained it and/ or the cooling tower…and inspected the make- up air unit and mechanical bunkhouse structure for deterioration of the exterior or the caulking at the base.
Depending on the age of the roof and your location, there are probably vulnerable areas. Have a contractor check the surface for cracks in the membrane - for flat roofs… caulking around the roof vents and skylights… plants taking hold as a result of seeds landing on the roof over the summer and loose or cracked shingles on peaked roofs. During the inspection the contractor should also identify and remedy any areas that present the potential for ice damming.
Eavestroughs and downspouts:
Have these checked to confirm that connections are secure and that they are free of debris – leaves are a likely nuisance if you have trees on your site.
Speaking of trees:
Check for any trees or dead limbs that should be removed. Shrubs should be trimmed and gardens cleaned out.
Have the system drained and confirm that piping and heads are dry. Fencing and railings: These should be inspected to make sure there are no loose or broken sections and repaired before wintry conditions arrive. Make a note if you determine that you will need to schedule painting in the spring.
Exterior doors, stairs and stairwells:
Check for any cracks or damaged areas on cement stairs or if slats and supports need repair on wooden stairways. Make sure all stairwells are free of debris and/ or leaves.
Check that all exterior doors open and close properly and that all locks are in good working order.
Whirlpools should be closed down and covered. Post signs advising that these amenities are closed for the season. Diarize the start-up date in your annual plan.
If these are kept open, make sure the equipment is in perfect condition and have any deficiencies repaired immediately.
Close down and remove seasonal furniture - or if the area is left open, have cushions etc. removed and stored. Hoses or hose bibs should be drained and signs should be posted warning residents and visitors to use caution in winter conditions.
These should be inspected and repaired or removed if there are cracks in permanent structures, tears in awnings and/or loose fasteners.
Whether old or new, the caulking on windows is always vulnerable and prone to leaks either due to age or workmanship. Now is the time to mobilize exterior staging to re-seal windows in localized units or consider an entire elevation. Top floor corner units are particularly vulnerable.
Exterior building envelope:
An inspection and infrared scan will identify cracks in stucco, missing mortar between bricks and/or white staining indicating efflorescence from water seeping into the cladding.
Garages and driveways:
Activate and check ramp heaters and timers…also, check heat tracers in pipes and the sprinkler system. Diarize the date to turn heaters off in the spring.
Have your contractor check pulleys, cables and chains to prevent breakdowns.
Do an inspection to see if the cement slabs are even and crack free. This will prevent slip and fall accidents and prevent damage when the walkways are cleared of snow.
Exterior winter maintenance:
Review protocols for site staff and contractors. Ensure that there is an adequate supply of ice melt. Review and provide a schedule and log for applications of ice melt and snow clearing. Check that there are shovels for regular or emergency use and that the snow blower or tractor /snowplow equipment is ready for use. Check the fuel supply and electrical cords and extensions.
Post warnings in areas that may be slippery during bad weather.
These should be inspected and cleaned… Check that sump pumps are operational.
Winterize connections in common areas and advise owners who have connections on their balconies or terraces to check theirs.
Check to make sure all fixtures and lamps are working and that there are no bulbs out or broken. Check that timers are set appropriately.
Review the scheduling on inspections – monthly and\or semi-annual and check that fuel is topped up.
Check the Building Information Sheet and the after- hours and emergency contact numbers for contractors and confirm they are up to date.
If you have site staff, contract workers or employees – now might be a good time to schedule a meeting.
You can never do enough... Suggest a board and staff luncheon to your board members. While there – initiate a little pep talk to reinforce the need to work together – managers, security and/ or concierge, superintendent, cleaners etc.
Follow up with a walk around with as many of them, individually if possible. You will almost certainly be told about issues you did not know about or thought were resolved.
Post notices…write a newsletter… send mass communications … tell the world what you are doing to get ready for winter. (Maybe leave out the part about Boca…) Now we can sit back and enjoy.
(Until we have to start planning for spring…)