Be Prepared Avoiding the Worst that Winter Can Do

No one would deny New Jerseyans are tough. But even the most stoic Garden State resident shivers a bit when the first signs of winter settle over the state. The inevitable arrival of snow and ice take their toll not only on the people of the East Coast, but on their homes as well. From high rises to townhouses to community association bungalows, every home must be protected against the onslaught of winter weather that can damage pipes, roofs, windows and sidewalks. For the men and women whose job it is to make sure that damage is minimal—or ideally, nonexistent—preparations start early and require and ongoing vigilance.

Getting Ahead of the Curve

According to William Pyznar, principal engineer at Falcon Engineering in Bridgewater, the process of winterizing a building should start early, ideally, in September or October. One of the first steps should be inspecting doors and windows and closing up any areas where cold air can enter or warm air can exit. “If the windows are in good condition, just make sure they’re locked and shut,” he says. “If they’re older, make sure the weather stripping is good. Look at the seals on the outside of the windows. Make sure they’re still in good shape.”

It is also possible to check where drafts are in order to eliminate or reduce the loss of heat before winter hits. “You could do an infrared scan to see where there are drafts and that will show where you are missing insulation,” says Pyznar.

John Colella, president of YES Property Management Group, LLC, in Nutley, urges a walk around community association properties to inspect the common areas and recreational areas. “By October, you better be on top of everything,” he says. “Develop a checklist to outline the various common area conditions and be proactive to the circumstances that need attention prior to the winter season.”

Keeping the Ice at Bay

Surely one of the most visible and one of the most avoidable problems that face managers and unit owners during the winter months is ice damming, which is a build-up of ice over an unheated portion of roof or gutter. It is a serious issue that can lead to roof damage and leaking. There are two key ways to avoid the problem: good insulation and good ventilation, according to Pyznar. “You want to cover penetrations into the roof space, such as lights and fan areas, that let warm air into the (attic or ceiling) space,” he says. “You want to keep the attic temperature as close to the outside temperature as possible.” If the air inside the attic is too warm and damp, it will help melt the snow on the roof. When that snow melts and then the temperature drops, that water will freeze again, causing the large dams of ice over the eaves and near the gutters.

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