It’s been a long, hot summer for most of the country, but as the calendar gradually turns to September, fall is almost here and before you know it, the cold winter weather will be here, too. Here are a few things you can do as a building Owner or Director of Facilities to ensure you and your buildings are ready for the change in seasons:
- Perform Roof Inspections – Get your ladder and check out the roofs around your campus – or hire a qualified roofing contractor to inspect your low-sloped built-up and membrane roofs as well as the higher sloped shingled roofs. Look for areas of loose shingles, especially around the building eaves where ice dams can form during winter, which allow moisture to enter under the shingles. In addition, check flashings at vertical wall intersections, chimneys, and plumbing vent boots to confirm there are no holes or other damage that can allow water to enter the building during heavy rain or snow. Adequate roof maintenance not only reduces leaks, but extends the life of your roofing systems. It is important to check low-sloped roofs weekly during the leaf falling season to ensure that roof drains are not clogged with leaves and debris. Higher sloped shingled roofs should be checked at the end of the season to ensure that gutters, valleys, and other areas are not clogged with leaves and debris as well.
- Clean Gutters and Downspouts – Ensure all gutters and downspouts are clear from debris so that they adequately drain water away. This continues to be important as the season progresses and leaves begin to fall. Consider pruning overhanging trees at this time to keep the leaves and debris off the roof. Clogged gutters can cause water to back up, which will damage the roof and the trim around the roof and soffits, as well as siding. During cold winter weather, standing and backed-up water in gutters can freeze and cause ice dams that will damage your roof and sheathing, and lead to leaks. Downspouts should discharge into underground storm drain leaders or empty onto splash blocks that adequately divert the water away from the exterior of the building.
- Inspect All Exterior Doors and Windows – Check to make sure that caulking is still flexible and is sealing any gaps between window/door frames and exterior walls. This ensures the warm air stays inside the building during the winter and seals the exterior building envelope from water penetration and leaks. For added energy savings, check the weather stripping at all exterior door frames to make sure it’s still in place and serving its intended purpose.
- Check Exterior Faucets and Service Irrigation System – Install frost-proof exterior hose bib faucets or drain older non-frost-proof faucets to keep them from freezing and breaking during the winter. This is also a good time to have the underground irrigation system serviced and prepared for winter by a qualified irrigation contractor.
- Exterior Site Concrete and Asphalt Pavement – Perform regular sealing of exterior cracks in sidewalks and paved areas during the fall. Water that freezes inside these cracks can cause the concrete to spall and deteriorate, leading to more costly repairs later. The water penetration can also cause the subgrade to soften, leading to settlement and potholes. It is critical to ensure that all expansion joints are adequately sealed with a high-quality joint sealer to prevent water from getting below the pavement surface and softening the structural base course materials. Routine and periodic sealing of the asphalt pavement with a liquid asphalt sealer will help seal small hairline cracks in the asphalt pavement, which also protects the structural base course from softening and degradation due to water intrusion.
- Tune Up Your Heating System – Inspect all the furnaces and heat pumps to ensure they are clean and operating properly with clean filters. Clogged and dirty filters cause the heating system to waste energy while heating the building to your desired set point temperatures. Check carbon monoxide and smoke detectors to make sure they are operational. Clean chimneys to ensure they are clear and not clogged with soot and other debris, which can cause gases to build up inside your buildings. A qualified HVAC contractor will not only perform a visual inspection of your heating system, but will also remove covers and check filters, check blowers, ensure flues are clear and operating properly, and perform other safety checks that will assure a safe and warm environment for your residents this winter.
- Check Attics – Check the insulation in your attics to confirm it’s the proper thickness and is distributed evenly. Lack of proper attic insulation is a major cause of heat loss in a building, which will increase your heating costs. You should also check to see that all vents are operating properly and there is no insulation blocking the continuous soffit vents around the attic perimeter. This is also a good time to ensure that fire sprinkler lines located in unheated attics are adequately insulated to prevent freezing and breaking of these lines.
Putting these items on your fall “To-Do List” over the next month or two will help ensure energy-efficient, dry, and comfortable buildings this winter.
Doug McMillan, P.E., LEED AP
Director of Project Management