Preparing for the Big Chill Getting a Jump Start on Winter

In the midst of all the sunshine and warm temperatures of late summer, it seems cruel to have to acknowledge the coming of winter. In a city where our warm days are limited to a precious few months of the year, it’s tempting to ignore winter until it comes up and bites you.

When we are finally forced to dig out our cold-weather gear and crank up our heating system, we hope that all components are in good working order. Proper provisions must be made well in advance of freezing temperatures to ensure that all exterior and interior components of the building are sound and in working order.

Out in the Cold

A building’s exterior walkways, roof and outer walls are your building’s first line of defense against frigid temperatures. Sidewalks and walkways should be monitored throughout the year and their good condition maintained. Wayne Bellet, president of Bellet Construction in Manhattan, suggests checking sidewalks for eroding expansion joints. (That’s the part of the sidewalk that gets uneven, catching high heels and scuffing wingtips). Keeping these joints in good condition ensures that moisture doesn’t invade the joints and cause the sidewalk to crack. Bellet also advises checking the seam where the sidewalk abuts the building, as well as the building’s masonry itself. The joints around brickwork should be checked for erosion and flaking. The expand-contract-expand cycle that goes on all winter long as moisture in the bricks freezes and thaws can loosen masonry, causing it to break loose and fall. Simple inspection can identify potential problems, possibly saving someone from serious injury–and your building from serious legal action.

Local Laws 10 and 11 require that a building’s façade is professionally examined every five years for freeze-and-thaw damage. According to Bellet, three main factors are responsible for most wear-and-tear on a building’s façade and rooftop: extreme temperatures (hot or cold), moisture, and ultraviolet rays. "Sometimes the UV rays are stronger in the winter and actually cause thermal shock. This causes the roof and other areas to age quickly," Bellet explains. "Ideally, checking (these areas) twice a year would be best," Bellet says, "due to Mother Nature’s freeze and thaw cycles."

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