Structural Maintenance: Ensuring your building is winter-ready
Keeping a structure in good working order is a year-round commitment that requires specialist attention. With the cold weather upon us though, it’s time for FMs to make sure their buildings are properly prepared for the winter months.
It’s no secret that adverse weather conditions in the colder months can wreak havoc on buildings that haven’t been properly maintained. With that in mind, our MD Berenice Northcott explains what should be done to prepare buildings for the onset of snow and ice.
Planning ahead with preventive maintenance
The saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ is incredibly apt when it comes to structural maintenance. Costly weather-related repairs are a headache for any business, so having a good idea as to the condition of your structure is especially important now. Regular structural examinations are extremely helpful for keeping on top of what works need to be conducted, as well as when these should take place and what preparation is required. Routine inspections and the production of comprehensive reports should be factored into the schedule.
Taking care of any outstanding repairs now
Now is the time to complete any outstanding repairs. Think repointing worn exteriors, removing rust from exposed metalwork, replacing broken tiles and repainting outside surfaces before the weather takes a turn. While something can seem like a minor issue at present – such as a damaged window seal or hairline crack in the rendering – it can quickly turn into a major headache once the inclement weather sets in, so it’s important they aren’t overlooked.
Keeping on top of winter-related maintenance
Try as you might to prepare, there are still certain tasks that are dictated only by the onset of the seasons. Gutter cleaning and leak detection are two of the most frequent call-outs for maintenance teams in winter. Therefore, it’s a good idea to consider the eventuality of any urgent repairs and find a specialist firm that would be able to help if needed. FMs shouldn’t be constrained by more traditional methods either. Rather than being limited to scaffolding and aerial work platforms for those hard-to-reach areas and assignments which require wide structural coverage, rope access is a particularly cost-effective and versatile option. These specialist technicians aren’t confined to one spot and the set-up is quick and non-intrusive.
Attention to detail
It can be easy to overlook seemingly insignificant structural details in favour of the bigger picture, but certain small design elements can have a huge impact on the overall integrity of a building – especially when problems arise. For instance, a minor defect in a gutter system can lead to pooling and standing water, which in turn can cause major issues in the form of water regress and even flooding. Taking note of any early warning signs is critical. Peripheral components shouldn’t be neglected either. Replacing bulbs in outside lighting, plus cleaning signage and security cameras are just a few small tasks that should be factored into your maintenance schedule. Bolt inspections and non-destructive testing (NDT) are also important to consider when planning winter upkeep, as they can play an important part in both structural integrity and worker safety.
Making safety a priority
Tricky weather conditions can bring a whole host of challenges when it comes to winter maintenance, making the working environment even more hazardous than usual. Monitoring the forecast is essential when work is in progress, as is wrapping up warm and ensuring extra care is taken when there is ice or snow. Any fall protection equipment should be inspected to ensure it is in full working order. In addition, the installation of restraint or arrest systems in any areas which have not yet been assessed – or fitted with such safety measures – should certainly be considered.
Learning from past challenges
They say ‘hindsight is a wonderful thing’ but experience really is the best teacher. Learning from the obstacles encountered previously, and using these lessons to inform future plans, will only improve winter maintenance programmes. It’s a good idea to retain documentation of all works carried out, so these can be used as a reference point for subsequent projects. If any unexpected works did arise, remembering to prepare for these in advance can help avoid similar disruption in future.
Want to find out more about our winter maintenance services?
Give us call on 03330 062 182 or drop us a note using our online form.