Meteorologists are predicting one of the strongest El Niños in 50 years this winter, bringing “exceptional storminess,” according to AccuWeather. “The weather pattern threatens to send chilly air masses into the Eastern U.S., which could result in a corridor of snow.”
In anticipation of severe weather, prudent facility managers should take steps now to proactively shield buildings from winter’s damaging effects. The key? A comprehensive annual winterizing program that prepares building envelope components for freezing temperatures, along with appropriate, ongoing storm management practices.
The following tips for simple, cost-effective, and efficient winter planning were provided by Hoffman Architects:
- Inspect for wear or damage, paying particular attention to penetrations.
- Repair or replace damaged flashings and open seams.
- Check for ponding water on low-slope roofs, a source of leaks and structural distress. The cause may be as simple as a clogged drain, which is easily fixed, or it may be more complicated, such as insufficient slope to drains, requiring rehabilitation.
- Clean and repair gutters and downspouts on steep-slope roofs to prevent ice dams and replace bent or missing snow guards.
- Plan for snow removal where necessary to prevent excessive or unbalanced loading. Determine where to place the removed snow, and how to clear the roof without damaging it.
- Make repairs so that freeze-thaw cycling and snow removal don’t make problems worse: check and repair mortar, sealant, and sand joints; replace broken pavers; fix drainage issues.
- Clear out irrigation systems, so that hoses and pipes don’t freeze and burst.
- Test subsurface heating elements and make repairs where necessary; if planning to install new subsurface heating as an alternative to chemical ice melting, do so well in advance of winter weather.
- Select and stock deicing chemicals and determine how these products will coordinate with mechanical snow removal. Hoffmann Architects’ Deicing Chemicals: Why Not to Just Throw Down Salt offers tips for product selection and use.
- Inspect surface treatments for signs of wear and reapply as needed.
- Repair deteriorated concrete, rout and seal small cracks, and replace sealant at joints where needed.
- Choose deicing chemicals early and test products to verify their suitability and performance.
- Clear drains and wash decks regularly to prevent deicing chemicals from accumulating and leading to corrosion, concrete deterioration, and damage to vehicles.
- Plan snow removal from exposed decks and identify where to place the cleared snow. If moving snow to a single area of the deck, check to be sure that the structure can accommodate the extra load.
- Inspect and repair cracks and openings in joints, masonry, sealant, flashings, and weatherstripping to prevent leaks and drafts. Seal windows and doors.
- Avoid impermeable surface sealers and leave weep holes open, to keep from trapping moisture inside the wall.
- Clear and maintain entryways using appropriate deicing chemicals and snow removal methods.
- Investigate condensation on windows, which may mean that the thermal seal has failed, or that the window is insufficiently insulating. Condensation may also be a sign that the heating system needs adjustment.
With a modest expenditure of effort toward planning and prevention, facility managers can stay a step ahead of the weather and avoid making serious repairs come spring.
For more tips, see Winterizing Your Building in the Hoffmann Architects JOURNAL.