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January 2014 Tackling Trouble Areas
ice on roof

Surviving The Big Chill

Inspection and preparation will help facilities make it through another harsh winter.

January 6, 2014

The daylight hours have drawn shorter — property managers are faced with another harsh winter and are busy carrying out tasks to ensure their facilities survive winter weather.

It is important to realize that proper preparation for the winter season can drastically reduce the effect it has on your property and mitigate any expenses.


The first task is to conduct a survey of the property to obtain a better understanding of its condition.

This will help you assess what actions need to be taken and what resources they will require.

HVAC systems should be evaluated for various types of functional issues such as rust or dirt buildup that can cause a malfunction and increase the overall cost of operation.

You should inspect the building’s roof, walls and foundations for any cracks or areas that could lead to leaks.

The property’s sidewalks and parking lot should also be inspected for unevenness that could cause someone to lose their footing during bad weather.

Keep in mind areas that might be particularly subject to ice and make sure that the lighting in that area is functional.

Also consider posting signs if necessary, marking an area of uneven pavement.

For an extra measure of protection, perform an infrared inspection of your building.

Infrared technology can provide insight into what areas could allow excess air or water and provides the opportunity to fix potential issues before they become big problems.

An infrared survey can evaluate your roof, electrical systems and building envelopes.


Next, prepare your facility for winter weather by taking the necessary measures.

Ensure that the building’s gutters and drainage systems are cleared of foliage and other debris that could block adequate drainage and cause a backup.

In addition, rake away all vegetation from the foundation and seal any entry points against small animals that may attempt to take refuge during cold weather.

Ideally, before the first snowfall, make sure to stake out the location of objects in and around the parking lot and drive way of the facility so that they are not struck when plowing snow.

To make your job of winterizing pipes easier, look into installing temperature sensors that will automatically deactivate your irrigation system when the temperature gets below freezing.

Similarly, there are flow sensors that can be installed on pipes to automatically shut off the flow if a pipe does happen to burst.

If your facility has an external water feature, it is important to winterize that as well.

The winterization process will vary based on the type of feature, but water pumps should not be allowed to freeze.

If the water feature contains fish, they can survive at the bottom of the pond in a semi-dormant state provided that the water does not freeze over.

It is also recommended that any plant debris be removed so as not to raise the acidity of the water.

Make sure to inspect your winter equipment prior to the first storm.

This includes making sure that you have an adequate supply of the deicing agent as well as shovels and other necessary tools.

Performing this task early will allow you to stock up and fix any equipment with adequate time before it is needed.

During A Storm

Every property manager knows that it is necessary to winterize pipes against bursts, which are the leading cause of property damage due to winter weather.

But recent record snowfalls across the country have also resulted in roof collapses.

Therefore, continually monitoring the amount of snow and ice on your facility’s roof is crucial.

Remember this: 10-12 inches of powdery snow = 3-5 inches of packed snow = 1 inch of ice.

Evaluating the amount of snow your roof can handle depends on several factors, such as the live and dead load design, age of the building and roof, condition of the roof and elevation.

It is best to utilize the services of a professional when clearing snow from a roof, as improper clearing can damage the roof and cause leaks.

Providing a clear path for people to walk outside is essential to their safety and deicers increase the surface temperature enough to prevent ice from forming, but this melting water is then tracked inside on shoes.

Many property managers often neglect the building’s interior maintenance during and after a storm, and it is important to be diligent in maintaining dry floors.

Installing absorbent carpets and mopping up wet and slippery floors will ensure that the lobby and entryways remain safe as well.

As water can seep between the cracks in the floor, mats have the added benefit of helping to prevent floor damage.

After snowfall, you will be able to better analyze your problem areas and will be more prepared for any subsequent storms.

Make regular rounds of your facility, looking for the things mentioned above, as problems can occur where there were none before.

Keep in mind that your goal is to provide a safe environment and that the minor expense of addressing an issue greatly outweighs the cost of a last-minute repair.


Mike Fitzpatrick is vice president of U.S. Lawns, one of the commercial landscape industry's largest and most successful companies with approximately 260 franchise locations nationwide. With over 30 years of experience in the green industry, Mike’s insight has helped shaped the commercial landscape franchise industry into what it is today. Mike can be reached at Visit the U.S. Lawns website at