Prepare for Winter with Fall 'To Do' List
Each season of the year presents a different set of maintenance challenges for apartment building management. Winter represents the harshest season of wear and tear on your building. Some fall maintenance tasks are obvious—such as closing the swimming pool and draining the in-ground sprinkler system. But other tasks—such as roof and building inspections—are less obvious and require more scrutiny and care.
It’s easy to leave items off your fall “to do” list when you haven’t had to think about them all year. Here are some important items to include to make winter maintenance easier. Use this checklist to remind yourself of all the things you and your maintenance staff must do this fall to get your site ready for winter.
 Inspect Roofs for Tears or Rips
Having a roof inspection before the harsh winter weather hits is particularly important because an inspection will:
- Help you identify potential problems before winter weather conditions make them actual problems;
- Allow you to address existing problems before conditions such as snow and ice make them worse and more difficult to repair;
- Save you money in the short term because it’s always cheaper to repair and maintain your roof than to rebuild or replace it—and it’s even more expensive to have roof work done during winter; and
- Save you money in the long term by extending the life of your roof.
Leaky roofs cause much of the damage buildings sustain in winter, says Charles Antis, president of a roofing company. He recommends inspecting your roof as early as possible in the fall to have enough time to make necessary repairs before winter.
“A troublesome area that requires special attention is the connection between the roof and the sidewalls and flashings, says Antis. Flashing is the weatherproof shielding placed around objects that protrude from the roof or walls of a building, such as pipes and chimneys.
According to Antis, 90 percent of roof leaks occur at these areas. If you see problems at these points, he recommends calling a professional waterproofer rather than your maintenance staff; maintenance workers sometimes seal the wrong flashing elements, causing more damage because water can’t drain properly.
 Clean Gutters and Downspouts
Antis advises making sure, before winter begins, that gutters, downspouts, and valleys on roofs are clear of leaves. The debris prevents proper drainage by directing water sideways under the roof shingles of sloped roofs and by allowing water to pool on flat roofs, which deteriorates the roof. Also, sitting water and leaves in gutters can freeze, weighing down the gutters and possibly causing them to detach from the roof and fall.
 Repair Cracks in Sidewalks
Cracked or uneven sidewalks or asphalt will get worse over the winter. Any water in cracks will expand when it freezes, making the cracks bigger and possibly creating a tripping hazard for residents.
 Check Perimeter, Install Weatherstripping
Rodents and pests are looking for warm conditions as the weather becomes colder. In addition to installing weatherstripping around doors, you should inspect the perimeter of the building where pipes go through the walls. Rodents can squeeze into buildings at exhaust vents for clothes dryers and at entry points for utilities, such as electrical and communication lines.
 Ensure Adequate Seals on Windows
Water can get in through a poorly fitted or maintained window, says Antis. The windows, including the glass itself, the seals, and the sills, should be in good shape and draft-free. Windows are a big source of water penetration—and resident complaints. Another important consideration is the heat loss that seeps out from poorly sealed windows. Being able to control heat loss can save your building in energy costs.
 Inspect and Clean Heating Equipment
When you check your heating system before the onset of cold weather, you can take care of any necessary repairs or maintenance at a reasonable rate. If you wait until the first snowfall to find out that your heating system isn’t working properly, residents will complain and service bills will be considerably higher. Boiler and furnace repair companies are busier at that time, and repair prices are higher during the peak winter months.
 Prepare for Snow Removal Needs
Before the first snow falls is the best time to make sure you have your snow removal contract in place for winter. You don’t want to be caught off guard by an early snowfall and have no snow removal contractor to call. Also, make sure your site is fully stocked with sand and salt so you can take care of parking lots, sidewalks, and stairs, for example, after winter storms.
 Disconnect Hoses, Turn Off Outside Water Supply
If your site is located in a cold climate, be sure to disconnect all water hoses from the outside faucets in the fall. If left outside during the winter, water in the hoses can freeze and cause the hoses to crack, making them useless for next year. Also, turn off the water supply to your outside faucets. During the winter, cold air can get into the faucet and freeze any water left in the pipes, which may result in a broken water line. As an extra precaution, you may want to cover your outside faucets with an insulating cap or cover. These can be found in most home and garden supply stores.
[ ] Make Appropriate Landscaping Changes
Once fall arrives, you’ll also have to deal with the changing needs of your site’s landscaping. Flowerbeds need to be cut down and turned, and bulbs need to be fed. You also need to prune your bushes and cut back your perennials.
Charles Antis: President, Antis Roofing and Waterproofing; Laguna Hills, CA