By: Joe Czaszynski

After last year’s relatively mild winter, the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting the winter of 2016 -2017 to be much colder with more snow accumulation. The following proactive steps could help protect your building from possible damage during the next few months.

Exterior Walls, Windows and Doors

Building personnel should inspect all exterior walls for damage or deterioration. Temporary protection should be installed at any of suspected water infiltration location until proper repairs can be performed in the spring. Additionally, deteriorated/damaged areas should be monitored throughout the winter to determine if conditions worsen.

Windows and doors should also be inspected to ensure that they are properly functioning and weather tight. Replacing deteriorated or missing weather stripping is an easy fix that can prevent air and water infiltration, and reduce heating costs.

Special attention should be paid to window mounted air conditioning units. The additional load of accumulated snow on these units increases the stress on the window frames.  Also, since window-mounted air conditioning units are not airtight, they typically allow a large amount of cold air in. Therefore, if these units are not removed, it’s important to ensure they were correctly installed as per the NYC DOB requirements, and are covered during the winter months.

Icicle formation can present a safety risk to residents and pedestrians and should be regularly monitored throughout the colder months. Whenever possible, icicles should be removed before they pose any danger.

Sidewalks and Driveways

Deicers are commonly used to remove ice from sidewalks, drives and walkways. Since several deicing products are available, it’s important that the correct type of deicer is used, especially if applied to concrete surfaces. One of the most popular and cost effective options is sodium chloride, often referred to as rock salt. Rock salt is effective down to 20°F, while a more expensive product like calcium chloride is effective down to -25°F. A deicing product that is effective at lower temperatures will better protect concrete from the deteriorating effects of freeze/thaw cycles.

Roofs

Typical pre-winter maintenance priorities should include: clearing debris from drains, securing any roof top equipment, and inspecting the roof membrane seams and penetrations. Blocked drains can lead to ponding water, which can freeze and cause damage to the building’s existing roof system. Clogged drains can also prevent melting ice and snow from exiting the roof. High winds and unsecured roof top equipment present an obvious danger to tenants and pedestrians. Open seams and unsealed roof penetrations can lead to water infiltration and interior damage. Inspecting and addressing these items before winter weather strikes is often much more cost effective than dealing with the interior damage that can result from neglecting them.

Cold Weather Restoration Projects

Precautions must be taken if any construction or restoration projects are active over the winter. Most buildings materials have temperature limitations, and material manufacturers should be consulted regarding any products used during the winter months. As per the Masonry Institute of America, and the Brick Industry Association, brick installation and mortar repointing should not be performed in temperatures below 40°F. If masonry repairs in colder temperatures are absolutely necessary, Sullivan Engineering recommends using thermal blankets and/or heated tents must be utilized.

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