Winter is the harshest season when it comes to wear-and-tear on residential buildings. Not only does ice collect in cracks and spaces between bricks and masonry, contributing to faÃ§ade deterioration, but salt also erodes surfaces, boilers and steam pipes work overtime, and more hours of darkness mean higher electrical and gas bills.
By taking some relatively inexpensive preparatory and maintenance measures, however, a building super or even a unit owner can minimize damage and higher operating costs. When late summer and early fall hit, it's time to make a winterization checklist. And although the building superintendent can do most of what's on it on his or her own, when it comes to boiler maintenance it's a good idea to consult a professional, who can properly inspect, clean and repair the pipes. Aside from escalating costs, the consequences of an unkempt building, include tainted air, structural damage, and unhappy tenants.
What matters most when preparing for winter, according to R. Neal Eisenberg, director of corporate development for Gotham Waterproofing and Restoration, a Staten Island-based firm, is having a basic understanding of the building's interior and exterior conditions. "Without understanding the building, it's very difficult to prepare a proper course of action for any preparatory or corrective measures that are necessary," he says.
The Superintendents Club of New York President Peter Grech recommends starting with the outside, with the jobs that are easily neglected. Any outdoor plumbing, such as hose cuffs on the roofs or in outdoor gardens, should be shut off and bled. Otherwise, Grech warns, "they'll freeze, break and leak. So that's one of the most important things."
It's equally important to close all bulkhead doors tightly and fit them with weather stripping at the bottom; otherwise snow piles up, and, when it melts, seeps through. Be sure to tightly close the hallway and bulkhead room windows as well. Drains should be cleared of leaves, and when it comes to heating, the boilers should be vetted out and overhauled in preparation for winter.