Depending on your location, winter can bring freezing temperatures, ice, sleet, hail, snow, and strong winds. According to the Insurance Information Institute, in the U.S. alone, property owners continue to lose about $1.2 billion per year, owing to snow, ice and freezing temperatures, all of which are pretty rough on different property elements.
Seasonal maintenance is vital for property managers—today we'll be talking about the steps you should be taking each winter. Winterizing your properties will be easier than ever when following a seasonal maintenance checklist. Through a handful of simple winter maintenance tips and tasks, you can help keep the cold out and the warm in for your residents to enjoy throughout the cold months.
Winter Property Maintenance Checklist
Windows, Doors, and Electrical Outlets
The first place to take action is with your properties doors and windows. These areas significantly impact your properties energy efficiency. Leaks, drafts, and even non-insulated electrical outlets can drive up residents electric or gas bills.
Caulk around windows and doors. Inspect your buildings and look for gaps around any doors and windows, including door frames and joints.
Weatherstrip windows and doors. Like caulking, weatherstripping windows and doors can help cut energy costs by sealing air leaks. Weatherstripping is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve energy efficiency and occupant comfort.
Replace screen doors with storm doors. Installing a storm door is another way to help keep the outside weather where it belongs.
Seal electrical outlets to block out the cold. Install foam outlet gaskets to help keep your electrical outlets sealed. Outlet gaskets have been proven to prevent up to 20% of home air loss.
Heating, Air Conditioning, Fireplace, and Ventilation
Not all places in the U.S. are cold for the entire winter. In some southern states, such as Florida, the winter can entail some relatively balmy weather. As such, renters are more likely to use an air conditioner than a heater.
Reverse ceiling fans. Switch fan blade direction to clockwise and run at low speed to circulate warm air.
Inspect and clean the chimneys. For units with fireplaces, clear chimneys to decrease the risk of fire from debris buildup. This can help to prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Run the A/C or heat in vacant units. Even if no one is living in a unit, it is still a good idea to make sure to run those systems to a certain extent to help maintain its good condition as part of your seasonal maintenance.
- Cold climates: According to ChooseEnergy.com, a thermostat setting of 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for helping to prevent kitchen and bathroom pipes from freezing inside a vacant unit.
- Warm climates: ChooseEnergy.com also suggests running the air conditioner to help remove moisture from the air that could encourage mold growth.
Plumbing and Pipes
As the days get colder, it’s important to remember to inspect and care for your plumbing and pipes as part of your winter maintenance tasks. This will keep your renters from experiencing any unpleasant surprises this winter — like pipes in their walls bursting and flooding their homes.
Inspect your pipes and check both indoor and outdoor plumbing for leaks or blocks.
Install pipe insulation starting with those that run through exterior walls or are exposed to the air.
Apply caulk around pipe openings in walls to provide additional insulation from the elements.
Detach garden hoses from exterior spigots or faucets. Be sure to shut off and bleed the water from hose cuffs on roofs and spigots in outdoor gardens
Roof, Gutters, and Other Exterior Structural Elements
Carefully examining the roof and gutters is essential to the effective seasonal maintenance of your property, especially if you have many trees on your property.
Inspect for leaks, damaged or warped wood, and missing shingles. Check to ensure that all roofs are in overall good condition
Clean the gutters. Your properties gutters should be cleaned at least twice a year. Clogged gutters can cause leaks at your property, and trapped water can find its way in through the roof, siding, around windows, and even through the foundation.
Believe it or not, winter is the chief reason for fires. Due to increased use of heaters during winter, more fire deaths occur in December to March, than in any of the other months of the year. And since social gatherings are particularly frequent during the holidays, a single fire could be more catastrophic compared to other periods.
Keep tenants informed. Advise your tenants to keep all flammable materials away from any heaters they may be using. Furniture, paper, curtains, and anything else should be a safe distance from heaters. A simple reminder newsletter adds value to your relationship by offering helpful advice.
Install smoke alarms. If already installed, be sure to check and test them on a regular basis. Replace batteries if necessary.
Provide fire extinguishers. Advise residents to keep fire extinguishers within easy view and reach.
Prepare for Winter Storms
Stock up on ice melt and apply it to high-traffic areas when a storm is expected to prevent ice from bonding to walkways and parking lots.
Snow removal tools should be tested and stored in an easily accessible area for your maintenance staff to utilize.
By being proactive, weatherizing, and preparing for whatever the winter may bring, your property will be able to handle the winter season and any storms it may bring. Learn more about the winter maintenance essentials for your property here.