As the summer turns to fall, it can be expected that the falling leaves will die off and herald the arrival of winter. So it’s not surprising that the boards of condominiums, cooperatives and homeowners’ associations are always well-prepared when the dreaded season of snow and slush comes around. Or are they? The sad truth of the matter is that some associations don’t get around to making sure that their residential properties can withstand whatever chilly behavior Mother Nature brings until the last minute, and find themselves scrambling to lock down both qualified contractors and necessary materials.
While what exactly needs to be done in order to get your particular association ready for the cold depends on the shape and size of your property, there are some standard operating procedures from which any association can benefit, common problem areas for which they should watch out, and general tricks of the trade that can hasten the arrival of spring without any monumental headaches.
As the board's jurisdiction in a given property constitutes the building facade and common areas, its main priority when preparing for the winter should be to ensure that there's no water penetration therein. In a nutshell, a board should be focused on keeping the outside just that, thus retaining some semblance of warmth for its denizens.
“The first box a board should check is to resolve any water infiltration issues that are occurring or have occurred,” says Thomas F. Zordan, AIA, ALA, a licensed architect and founder of Architectural Consulting Group, Ltd. in Barrington, Illinois. “I'd recommend having a roof consultant or roof contractor perform a maintenance inspection of the roof during the fall to make sure that it's holding up, and to seal any cracks and attack any pertinent issues before they can become problematic.”
Part of minimizing roof leaks is to take certain precautions during its design and installation. “A fair amount of ice shield and water shield gets placed on low-slope roofs, and that can be difficult to do down the line in a preventative or maintenance-type way; it’s more of a design and engineering aspect that should be considered during initial construction or re-roofing,” says Marc A. Maxwell, AIA, an urban planner, architect and founder of Maxwell Architects in Somerville, Massachusetts. “One thing that an association can and should see to on its own is to clean and inspect all gutters and downspouts, and be sure that they’re starting the season with those as pristine as possible. Snow and ice comes directly after the leaves, such that, by not cleaning the gutters and downspouts annually, that ice will melt and cause ice-damming and the infiltration that comes from it.”