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Why You Need an Exterior Building Maintenance Plan

9/16/19
Grainger Editorial Staff

Here are five things to consider when developing an exterior building maintenance plan for aging commercial or industrial properties.

Regardless of age or condition, all commercial and industrial properties must be maintained in order to stay in good working condition, retain their value and provide a safe workspace for all occupants. While HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems tend to get the most attention when it comes to maintenance and repair, neglecting a building’s shell can quickly result in costly repairs, safety issues and other challenges.

“If you don’t stay on top of the maintenance of aging buildings, you’ll run into major issues and expenses,” says Travis Kehl, facilities supervisor at Hendricks Commercial Properties in Beloit, Wis. “The longer you let a problem fester or a building shell age without performing any maintenance on it, the bigger the dollar outlay will be down the road.”

Don’t Cut Corners in Your Exterior Building Maintenance Plan

Tasked with managing 22 different properties—most of which were built anywhere from 25-30 years ago—Kehl pays particular attention to each structure's roof, knowing how interrelated structural components can be. “If the roofing isn’t sealed properly,” he says, “any problems that exist within it will quickly escalate to your windows, doors and other structural areas.”

Kehl also regularly inspects the areas around the buildings, where variances in gradation could cause issues like basement leaks. “At least once a year I look at every building, get out and walk around them and inspect the exteriors and roofs,” says Kehl, who takes notes on the maintenance schedules for specific properties, noting any issues that need to be addressed. The repair or maintenance costs either come from the company’s capital expenditure budget or from its operating expense budget, the latter of which mainly covers daily expenses.

“At the end of the year, I just list everything out from highest to lowest priority and budget for the work,” says Kehl. Sidewalk and parking lot inspections are also important, he says, and particularly when it comes to pedestrian and driver safety. “Sidewalks tend to heave and move in our region, and we don’t want anyone tripping and hurting themselves,” says Kehl, who also suggests checking the parking lot itself for potholes, and to ensure that its seal coating is intact.

Most of Hendricks’ buildings were built with cedar siding and wood windows, and nearly all of them are painted. “Every year we’re doing some type of touch-ups here and there on them,” says Kehl. He says high-traffic areas like entryways usually need the most attention, and that buildings get entirely new paint jobs—including bonding primers, the paint itself, and a final coat that helps to bond the wood—every 5-8 years. “When the building starts to show its age or isn’t looking right,” he says, “we paint it.”

5 Steps to a Successful Exterior Building Maintenance Plan

Regular exterior building maintenance is one of the most cost-effective ways to extend an aging building’s lifespan. And while some level of decay is unavoidable, problems can multiply quickly if a building’s shell isn’t maintained on a regular basis.

By developing and adhering to an exterior building maintenance plan, you can keep your properties' roofs, walls, foundations and other vital components in good working order.

Here are five points to keep in mind when developing an exterior maintenance plan:

1. Regularly inspect your building’s outer shell (or have a reliable professional handle the task). Either you or the third party should look for any potential defect, for example cracks, water intrusion, issues with windows and doors, and then come up with a plan for addressing them. A commercial building that has a flat roof, for instance, may be prone to pooling water and potential damage that you won’t see unless you do a thorough inspection. The inspection will also help you detect early signs of a problem and make the fixes before the water impacts other areas of your building, window frames, doors and ceilings. During the inspection, have the provider clean out any gutters and downspouts of leaves or debris to enable continual water drainage.

2. Be on the lookout for leaks. Water intrusion is one of the biggest issues that owners of commercial and industrial properties deal with, it can escalate into more serious problems like a flooded basement or mold. Keep a constant eye out for leaks, train your employees to do the same, and maintain an operating budget for fixing those problems as soon as they start.

3. Don’t skip the small stuff. Even a minor leak, a small stucco crack, or a slight settlement crack can turn into a big headache down the road (and even impact other areas of the building). Instead of skipping these small problems, address them promptly to avoid bigger issues at a later date. For example, small cracks in a building’s exterior can quickly become big ones. Avoid this problem by swiftly identifying the cracks, sealing them up, and/or fixing them.

4. Hire help when needed. Climbing up on the roof to inspect structural issues may seem like second nature for the ambitious facility manager, but some tasks are best left to the experts in the name of both safety and efficiency. When it’s warranted, hire experienced professionals to help with any monitoring, inspections or maintenance of your building’s shell. “About 80% of our property maintenance and repair work is outsourced to professionals who know their trades,” says Kehl. “With their help, I know that our buildings are always up to code and that small problems will be addressed before they become major issues.”

5. Keep your property looking good. In today’s fast-paced business world, it’s easy to fall into the habit of not keeping up the appearances of an aging building. The problem is that this can turn off potential new recruits, customers and even business partners who come to visit. A fresh coat of paint, new windows, modern signage and other exterior elements can all go a long way in creating a more professional appearance—all while ensuring higher levels of safety and enjoyment for occupants. Keep this in mind the next time you’re deciding whether to put off that new paint job or roof repair for another year.

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As buildings age, it’s important to continuously evaluate the condition of their exteriors and take steps to either repair damage or prevent small issues from becoming major headaches. From the roof to the windows to the parking lot—and all points in between—putting time into superior exterior maintenance will pay off in the long run.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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