It’s Time to Forget about the Polar Vortex and Fix What it Left Behind
April 10, 2014
Article published in the May 2014 issue of Community Associations Institute’s Community Trends®.
By the end of a particularly overwhelming winter, residents of the Northeast were ready to exchange cringe-worthy reminders of winter—snow, polar vortex, and Arctic blast, to name a few—for anything that let them eagerly anticipate the start of spring. The number of snow events of this past winter season was staggering, and the amount of snowfall was almost record-breaking in cities throughout the Northeast.
Only seven times in the past 130 years had the Northeast faced sixty inches of snow by March 1st.
Now that those frustrating winter months are finally behind us, it is time to address all maintenance issues—not only those that arise on a yearly basis, but also those that have been prompted or exacerbated by the particular harshness of this past winter. When reviving your buildings and properties for the spring and summer months, we recommend that you take into special consideration some of the following repairs and enhancements to walkways, staircases, pavement, yards, building foundations, and building façades.
On your property, it is very likely that the higher levels of precipitation of this winter caused noticeable concerns in areas that do not typically have those same issues. One common problem often caused by excessive moisture is leakage into basements. Should the basement of your building demonstrate evidence of water infiltration, now is the time to waterproof it.
The extreme precipitation too may have left you in need of pipe repair and drainage work. You may discover that piping is broken, as well as that your current pipes and underdrains are inadequate in size and/or quantity to handle increased volumes of precipitation. Checking catch basins is another key aspect of drainage maintenance; catch basins should be cleaned out, if necessary, in order to prevent blockages and clogging.
Whether you are responsible for a condominium complex or your personal abode, it is imperative that you check your building’s outdoor staircases to ensure that they are structurally sound. Entrance staircases experience the heaviest flow of traffic, so they are the most likely to be in need of repair.
Precipitation damages masonry in a variety of ways, and excessive precipitation, such as that of this winter, will just make that damage more severe. Precipitation passing over brick causes the surface of the masonry to degenerate, while the cycle of freezing and melting brings about additional problems when the liquid that has seeped into the porous masonry expands and contracts. Deicers, such as rock salt and calcium chloride, while necessary and unavoidable as wintertime safety measures, can have a devastating effect on staircases and can cause a host of masonry-related issues.
Maintenance concerns to look for include cracking of staircases, flaking or spalling of masonry, and loosening of handrails, and loosening or dislodging of bricks.
Similar issues also occur in sidewalks, parking lots, and roadways, as precipitation and deicers wreak the same havoc upon them as they do upon staircases. Once the winter months are over, it is common to observe sinking, cracking, and spalling of sidewalks, as well as to see sidewalks become uneven or break. A professional should evaluate the severity of any sidewalk defects so that essential repairs and replacements can be done as soon as possible, preferably in early spring. It is crucial that these problems be attended to promptly in order to avoid potential safety hazards and liability concerns.
No resident of the Northeast has to be told that pavement everywhere was in especially poor condition after this brutal winter. Whether you unintentionally participated in the Winter Olympics event of Pothole Moguls or were unfortunate enough to blow out a tire, the prevalence of massive cracks and potholes caused a nightmare for property-owners, municipalities, and commuters alike. During the winter, when certain roadway defects warrant immediate attention, it is common for potholes to be temporarily patched. However, this does not preclude the necessity of permanent, not temporary, repair work to be done. Potholes should be cut back, excavated, and paved properly in order to be appropriately repaired and to ensure a longer-lasting patch.
It is good practice to powersweep roads and parking lots at the beginning of spring regardless of whether or not any repair work is needed to these surfaces. Powersweeping removes excess residue and grit left behind from a myriad of sources, such as deicers.
The ideal time to fill cracks in pavement is during late winter/early spring or during late fall/early winter. Cracks are at their widest during these two periods, which makes it easier to clean out any debris and ensures optimum application. Additionally, applying rubberized asphalt crack filler, which is recommended, has the most beneficial and lasting effect when cracks are at their widest. It is important to fill these cracks promptly and completely because the more opportunity moisture is given to seep into cracks in the pavement, the more problems these cracks will cause as the terrain becomes more rugged. Be sure to clean out any catch basins before doing any major pavement repair work, such as crack filling.
Once all pressing pothole, powersweeping, and crack filling concerns have been addressed, it is highly recommended that, if your budget allows for it, a professional assesses the condition of your pavement and its structural integrity. Is the pavement deteriorating? Has the pavement reached the end of its lifetime, or can its life span be extended before the surface must be wholly replaced?
If your pavement’s life span cannot be lengthened, you may be left with no other choice other than to do a complete overlay. An overlay entails adding approximately two inches of asphalt over the existing pavement surface. Milling is sometimes required in this process in order to ensure that the curb remains at an appropriate height.
If drastic total replacement measures are not needed, you can preserve your payment—albeit, only temporarily—by sealing it. Sealing, which is more economical than overlaying, adds a protective layer to the surface of the pavement in order to extend its longevity. The opportune time to seal is between June and the beginning of fall, as the purpose of sealing is to guard the surface against the harmful effects of normal wear and tear, such as exposure to rock salt, sand, erosion, and even the sun.
Your roadways and parking lots will look as good as new as soon as you can enliven them with line striping. Recently-overlaid surfaces will require the placement of brand new lines. On freshly-sealed surfaces, line striping will freshen up faded lines or, in all likelihood after this winter, will add lines where previous lines may have altogether disappeared.
Power washing the roof and siding of your building or residence is something important to consider once winter has ended. In general, it is desirable to power wash as frequently as possible, but the optimum time to do so is in early spring. Not only does power washing improve the durability of your building’s exterior, but it also is a great way to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your property.
Along the same lines, caulking any exterior cracks and adding a fresh layer of paint to your building or residence can give it a sharply professional look or a classy personal touch. Repainting doors, soffits, and any other wood-clad exterior surfaces not only gives a new appearance, but, from a maintenance aspect, it also serves to secure and protect the structure. In addition to revitalizing the façade of your building or residence, you should also stain outdoor decks, if your property has them, for the same dual purpose of safeguarding surfaces and increasing visual appeal.
To add final touches to your property, perform any landscape maintenance that is required. Spring cleanups entail removing debris, pruning trees, fertilizing, seeding, and mulching. Planting flowers and other types of flora will further beautify your property and give it a bright and colorful appearance for springtime.
Especially after the severity of this winter, it will be all the more impressive if you show your clients, future clients, homeowners, future homeowners, friends, or mere passers-by that you have prioritized the exterior cleanliness, maintenance, and attractiveness of your building and property. You never know whose attention you may capture by taking the necessary steps to make your property spotless and striking.