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What you should do to winterize your buildings

Posted by Kate Donnelly | Monday, November 23, 2015

What you should do to winterize your buildings Turkey Day is around the corner, which means Thanksgiving dinner, football and - for facility managers anyway - cold weather. You've got some work to do to prepare your building for the extreme temperatures and precipitation that come along with winter.

Winterizing your buildings can seem like a daunting task, and it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are some tips to help you, your building and your staff weather anything Mother Nature can throw at you.

Prepare your roof

Your roof should be receiving regular inspections throughout the year, but prior to the winter it's especially important to give it a thorough once-over. Accumulation of snow and ice throughout the season can put serious strain on your roof, and in extreme cases you may even face a collapse. If your roof is slanted, you can use a snow rake during actual snowfall to brush accumulation off of  the roof. Patch.com recommended starting from the edge of the roof and working inward. The source also  noted that you shouldn't try to remove all the snow from your rooftop. By leaving a two-to-three-inch layer, you can avoid damaging your roof shingles with the rake.

It's important to protect your roof up above, but you also need to think about the safety of those below. Falling snow and ice can create significant safety hazards. You can help mitigate this problem by installing snow guards on your roof. They attach to the edge and form a lip that prevents precipitation from sliding over the edge of the roof and tumbling down onto unassuming pedestrians below.

While we're on the subject of roofs, now's a good time to inspect yours for any pre-winter structural damage or leaks. Remember it will be nearly impossible to perform any rooftop maintenance in the middle of winter when the roof is covered by inches of snow, so address any leaks in the roof itself, as well as gutters and downspouts, now. 

Ready your windows and doors

One of your biggest concerns this winter will be keeping heating costs down. You can get a head start on this process by checking your windows, doors and other entryways to ensure they're properly sealed. Drafty windows are one of the most significant causes of interior heat lost, so inspect your buildings to ensure there are no cracks or fissures between the window frame and the wall. Any such cracks you find that are more than one-quarter inch should be sealed with caulk immediately.

FacilitiesNet did recommend to keep weep holes in windows open. This way, excess water from snowmelt and ice won't get trapped inside and cause water damage.

It's also a good opportunity to look at your windows themselves to see how energy efficient they are. If you have very old windows installed in your building, it may be worth the investment to replace them with more efficient models. Otherwise, you can improve the efficiency of your existing windows by adding UV film. This will increase the amount of heat that the windows reflect, meaning that less warm air from your building interior will escape.

Prepare your external spaces

Winter is the time of year for constant shoveling and salting, so prepare yourself. Any plazas or common areas should be kept clear of snow and ice, as well as fallen tree limbs and other debris that may cause hazards. 

Chemical deicers are the most common method for addressing this issue, but use them with caution - some can leave unsightly stains on your exterior concrete or even your floors if tracked inside on occupants' shoes.