Preventive maintenance is the greatest
way to address problems while they are cheap and easy to remedy, before they
become huge, time consuming tasks involving lots of money. There are a few
aspects of your properties that can be monitored and maintained to help avoid
expensive repairs down the line, especially as winter approaches.

1.   
Inspect vacant units.  It is
important at this time of year to make sure all unoccupied spaces in your
facility are winterized. One burst pipe in a vacant space can be a nightmare
for your tenants and cause you unnecessary grief.  Vacant spaces in shopping centers typically
do not require gas during the summer months. However, during the winter months,
gas and electric are required to operate gas-powered HVAC units. It is easier
to check that the gas and electric are both turned on well before winter
weather hits. Utility companies often have long wait times for turning the gas
on or setting a meter. Lack of heat can cause the water pipes to freeze, which
can lead to cracking, breaks, and expensive water losses.

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2.   
Seal Cracks in the sidewalk and asphalt. 
Winter weather can be brutal to concrete and asphalt. Open cracks will
allow water to penetrate, freeze, and swell causing even more deterioration.

3.   
Stock up early on ice melt, shovels, and de-icer.  Places have been known to run out if you wait
until a storm hits.  It’s also important
to get the right product.  Using standard
rock salt on sidewalks can cause deterioration and damage.

4. 
Protect the pipes in all unheated areas of your building, as they are
the ones most likely to freeze. Use insulation tubes made of polyethylene or
fiberglass to add an extra layer of defense. These can be purchased from most
hardware and supply stores.

5.   
Check all boilers, furnaces and HVAC systems. Have the maintenance
completed early so you don’t end up waiting on repairmen after a leak has
occurred.   The heating portion of the
HVAC units is typically not utilized in the spring and summer. The simple lack
of use can cause a unit to function incorrectly. It is best to have the units
inspected, serviced and tested by a professional prior to winter arriving. If
heat is needed quickly due to imminent weather, an electric space heater can
provide a temporary solution that won’t impact the systems themselves.

6.   
 Inspect all fireplaces. The
National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 says, “Chimneys,
fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness,
freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and
repairs shall be done if necessary.” This is the current national safety
standard and is the correct way to be proactive in preventing problems. It
takes into account the fact that even if you don’t use your chimney often, animals
can build nests in the flue or there may be other types of deterioration that
could make the chimney unsafe to use. Chimney Fires occur much
more often than people realize. We have over 25,000 chimney fires in the United States annually. This accounts for over
120 million dollars in damage to property every year. Thousands of injuries and
even many deaths result every year from chimney fires that spread to the structure of the home.

7.   
Check your windows and doors. 

I.   
Clear out the sills and gutters. Make sure water has a place to go if it
begins to accumulate.  Weep holes in
windows were designed to allow water to “weep” out, but if they are clogged the
water can end up in the interior of a structure.

II.   
Check weather stripping on windows and doors. Re-attach or replace loose
or worn weather stripping around windows and doors. Loose weather stripping can
let cold air in and reduce energy efficiency.

III.   
To help reduce potential drafts and leaks, reapply caulk or sealant
around windows and doors.

8.   
Check all of the exterior seals of your building to ensure you are
keeping the cold out and the heat in (Vents, masonry control joints, roofing,
and gutters). Cracked or deteriorated wood on the roof or near the foundation
is typically associated with water penetration and may allow moisture or cold
air to leak into your home. (Leading to more costly repairs). Look closely for
signs of moisture leakage and replace damaged wood. Consult a professional to
help correct any roof or drainage problems around your home.

I. 
Typical signs of water intrusion are water accumulation; discoloration
of ceiling or walls; changes in the texture of the ceiling or walls; warping or
buckling of floors; sagging or sinking of floors; and often times odors caused
by mold and mildew.

9.   
Select good entrance mats.  Place
mats on both the inside and outside of the entrances and exits.  This will also alleviate potential slips and
falls.

10.   
Have a list of preferred vendors ready. 
Check references, insurance, and credentials before an emergency occurs.  Preferred Vendors deliver the best overall
value to the based on price, response time capabilities, quality of workmanship,
past performance, training, and ease of retaining services. Many vendors offer
training to ensure the facility staff is knowledgeable about the equipment used
when pipe freezes and floods occur. This also helps in keeping the expenses at
a minimum when emergencies occur.

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