How to Protect Your Commercial Property in the Wintertime
January 27th, 2014 by Alisa Sava
With today’s changing climate, the bitter cold and snowstorms have become frequent guests in much of America. Such weather conditions pose unique problems to commercial building owners. Freezing or bursting pipes, roof damage caused by snow and ice are only some of the hazards that could damage property in wintertime.
When preparing your property for winter, it is better to start with an emergency preparation plan. You should create a plan for power loss and snow removal and also maintain heat in the building to prevent frozen pipes in case of treacherous weather. Also it is good to have an emergency contact list that includes people and contractors who will be able to help you with the consequences of extreme weather.
Let’s Start Winterizing Your Property
Taking several steps to winterize your commercial real estate will help protect your investment maintain the condition of your property. Below, we suggest some useful tips to help protect your property during the winter.
Tip 1: Having a Snow Removal Plan Is Essential
First of all, it is critical to have an effective plan of snow removal to keep your business functioning after winter storms. Safe access to the building, snow removal equipment and a team of specialized service contractors will be enough. Shovels and snowplows will be helpful for entrances and sidewalks. When choosing the contractors, pay attention to several things:
look for established and licensed companies
check the certificates of insurance
Property owners who decide to remove snow by themselves without using special services should perform the following actions:
Have a written step-by-step plan on snow and ice removal
Know the snow and ice removal laws of the state and municipality
Be sure that the snow removal plan reflects state and local requirements
Have written documentation on the execution of the plan
Make an inspection of the property every day and salt the sidewalks and entrances at least three times a day after a snowstorm
Tip 2: Check How Strong the Roof Is and Its Capacity to Hold Snow
Inspect the roof for weakness and snow capacity especially in areas where snow is accumulating. Cleaning the gutters is critical, as it provides the melting snow a path to flow freely away from the building, which helps prevent ice dams from forming. Inviting a structural engineer makes good sense. They can identify the maximum load your roof can withstand and suggest solutions to improve your roof’s capacity and strength.
Tip 3: Inspect the Drainage System: Make Sure the Gutters are Cleaned
Check the drainage system to avoid property damage from of water or snow. To protect your commercial real estate, ensure if the gutters are cleared of leaves and debris to allow the water to flow freely.
Tip 4: Get the Pipes Checked and Blown Out To Avoid Costly Damages
Frozen pipes can cost you a bundle, especially when they burst because of low temperatures. This could result in major water damage to the building and equipment. Moreover, electrical damage could knock out the automatic sprinkler system creating a fire hazard and a potential interruption to your business. To prevent a pipe system malfunction try to:
Set an automatic monitoring system to detect a broken pipe as early as possible
Fit pipes with more insulation to diminish heat loss
Find and repair leaks, especially any that are entering the building (check any common areas)
Maintain the building temperature at 55º F or above
And the water temperature at 42º F or above
Examine boilers, heaters and flues on a regular basis
Enforce a non-smoking policy in the buildings
Provide alarms that sound in case of low air pressure
Make up a contingency plan with suppliers and contractors
Tip 5: Keep Your Property Warm and Economically Efficient
Make sure that your property is functioning properly before winter strikes. Have all the heating appliances checked and use window and wall insulation. Spray foam can also help decrease the risk of damage caused by wind, rain and snow.
If the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system is old or running badly, have it replaced or repaired. Otherwise, it may break down during periods of severe cold and require urgent repair.
It is also essential to have some alternative power supplies to prevent any economic loss during power outages. Permanent and portable generators help maintain your business and minimize downtime. They can prevent frozen pipes and keep your property warm. Moreover, an automatic standby generator, which immediately turns on after a power outage, may qualify you for a discount on your homeowners insurance.
Along with safety provisions, more property owners are starting to pay attention to energy-efficient tips. In fact, good insulation on your building will help keep your energy bills down. It has been estimated that businesses usually spend about 30% of their overall energy use in winter time. That is why Laura McHolm, the owner of Los Angeles NorthStar Moving Corporation, hired architects to assess her new office. The architects created an environmentally friendly workplace by installing automatic lighting sensors and removing some walls to let in more daylight. This helped Laura avoid extra expenses.
Tip 6: Examine Potential Outdoor Risks
There is a higher risk of falling trees and branches on your property during times of extreme weather. It is important to ensure that all the trees are properly maintained so they may survive in the case of heavy snow or ice
Check downspouts so that water will pour away from your property
Use caulk or weather stripping to seal windows and doors
Disconnect all garden hoses
Tip 7: Make Sure You Have a Business Continuity Plan and Valid Insurance
Risk management is central to every decision you make, especially when talking about commercial real estate. Property owners should be aware of the risks that winter weather poses to operations at their properties and be ready to take necessary measures. You should have a clear plan on how to continue servicing your customers, stakeholders and suppliers if the property is disrupted because of weather.
Regardless of the property type, having a business interruption insurance policy is very important. It protects from unforeseen expenses. Nowadays, there are a lot of companies that can help the real estate owners and operators make in-depth analysis of location-specific risks, threats and also help mitigate their options.
A proper inspection of your property as well as taking timely action will make your property ready for snowstorms, high winds and treacherous weather. Moreover, taking precautionary measures will help save you heating costs and maximize your profit margin. Upgrading the heating system, having an energy audit, snow/ice removal plan, roof/window/gutter inspections will help you withstand almost any cold weather hazards.