20 Tips for Spring Building Maintenance

posted by Michael Raia

Well, we are right in the middle of the rainy season in Texas, but it won't be long before it starts to get hot. Really hot. It's a great time to think about some seasonal maintenance for building owners. Here are some suggestions:

MECHANICAL / HVAC

1. Check and replace air filters on all mechanical HVAC equipment. Some filters can be hard to find or difficult to reach. Consult equipment manuals for help. These manuals can usually be downloaded from manufacturer's websites if you don't have a physical copy. A dirty filter can cause issues with airborne illnesses and allergens, so change filters regularly. Residential units often benefit from rinsing the condenser coils inside the furnace / blower with water and bleach.

2. Dust supply and return air grills. Both dirty filters and dusty vents can affect optimal equipment efficiency, cause you higher energy costs, and reduced lifespan of the systems.

3. Reset any thermostats according to seasonal changes in temperatures and any changes in usage schedule. Don't forget springing forward for daylight savings time may have impacted these schedules as well. 

4. Request a freon level check for HVAC condensers, and make sure that units are not struggling to keep the air cool if they are on. If freon is low, there's a leak. It's best to address this issue quickly before the heavy demand for air conditioning returns.

5. Restroom exhaust fans should be running when turned on. If they are noisy, it could be a bearing going out.

PLUMBING

6. Test and repair irrigation systems, and adjust automatic sprinklers and hoses to avoid runoff. The summer tends to be much drier than the the spring, and these systems can quickly become crucial to maintaining landscape.  Don't forget to periodically water the perimeter of foundations, which prevents heat-related damage. 

7. Fill dry p-traps inside restroom / kitchen floor drains. Pour a gallon of water down the drain to eliminate odor. Sometimes the trap primers (devices that inject water into the p-trap below the drain to prevent sewer gases from escaping into the building) are not working properly, were never installed, or they were not flushed frequently enough to keep the traps primed with water.  

8. Check toilets, sinks, and showers for clogs or slow drainage, which can be a disaster during a peak usage period.

9. Consider automatic controls for toilets and faucets to help conserve water. Most controls for toilets and faucets, as well as soap and paper towel dispensers, are available in battery options that do not require hardwiring. In addition, many cost-effective hand dryers are available that are extremely energy-efficient, fast-drying, and relatively quiet. The installation of hand dryers can greatly reduce maintenance costs for labor and materials.  

10. Elevator pits should be checked for standing water, which may be an indication of a broken sump pump motor. The oil on hydraulic elevators may also need to be replaced. 

BUILDING ENVELOPE

11. Check for stained ceiling tiles or bubbling paint on sheetrock, which can be an indication of a roof leak or a condensate pan with a clogged drain line. Check any sub-grade foundation walls for leakage as well.

12. Walk the perimeter of the building to examine all expansion joint sealant. If it's cracked and/or separated, it needs to be replaced ASAP. Weather stripping at doors and sealant at windows/ storefront/ curtain wall, should be examined for gaps or places water or air could be allowed to penetrate. Exterior siding and trim may need to be repainted.

13. Clean out gutters and downspouts that may be clogged with leaves or debris. Flat roof areas may also benefit from a visual inspection of the roof / area drain. Standing water may be a sign of a clog or of a sagging substrate (that may be due to slow leak damage). Roofs may need repair from heavy spring rains. Exterior stucco and stone may need a cleaning from mold, mildew, or other types of growths and discolorations from moisture.

ELECTRICAL

14. Eliminate extension cords (particularly above ceilings) and overloaded outlets. These demand too many amps and can cause an electrical short. This can particularly be an issue during warm months when air conditioning is in peak use.

15. Replace burned out lamps / bulbs in light fixtures, and consider retrofit LED bulbs, which produce much less heat. If there are several lamps out, make a list and try to replace them simultaneously, which reduces the need for frequent rental of a lift or retrieval of other special equipment. Setup a maintenance schedule for regular lamp replacement. Make sure you select lamps/bulbs with the correct color temperature (typically from 2800K – 4000K)

LIFE SAFETY

16. Test the smoke alarms, some of which may be inside ductwork. Replace any batteries or battery backups on hardwired devices. For convenience, devices in difficult to reach places can be checked and serviced at the same time as lighting re-lamping is done.

17. Clear exit corridors and stairways that have accumulated storage. In addition to being a fire hazard, this creates a liability issue. Verify that all exit signs are properly illuminated and visible. Older buildings may benefit from additional signage and emergency egress lighting, particularly in long and winding or dead-end corridors.

18. Check the dates on all fire extinguishers. They may need to be replaced if they are expired. 

19. Check security systems and door access systems. Re-program building maintenance systems as needed. Summer schedules may differ from those during the school year cycle. Clear out old key fob users and re-key as needed.

20. Check all first aid kits on site. Replaced expired supplies and replenish any depleted items.  

THERE'S NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT

It's a great time to do some of that maintenance on your building you've been planning to do, before summer rolls in. A little preventative work now could save you a costly failure later.