Winter is a harsh time for any building or structure. Between the ice, extreme cold, and the variable moisture penetration, almost anything degrades over the course of a snowy winter. As a community association, your job is to help make sure that both homes and common areas are safe as your community enters winter and again as winter begins to pass on into spring.
The key is to catch signs of winter damage before any real problems can be caused. This article is a quick guide on where to prevent winter damage or repair damage caused by winter as quickly as possible.
The most urgent type of winter damage is frozen pipes. If pipes freeze with water in them, the water can swell and burst the pipe, causing an frigid and often explosive leak. Check the pipes for all community buildings and amenities for signs of freezing, past leaks, or vulnerability to freezing. Consider wrapping each pipe in insulation to prevent the risk of freezing in the future.
Caulk is the gummy substance used to hold window-glass firmly to the window frame. This forms an airtight seal that keeps the cold winter air out of a home or keeps the air-conditioning in during the summer. However, extreme changes in temperature can cause caulk to pull away from the windows. Check all windows in homes and public HOA buildings. Reapply caulk that has pulled away to seal up the windows and ensure a warmer winter.
Gates, Fences, and Amenity Structural Security
Cold weather can cause other things to contract as well, including metal structures and bolts. Now is the time to check on on the gates and fences of the community. Make sure all bolts and fasteners are tightly secured and that hinges or rollers are well-oiled so they will work even in the iciest conditions. If you have playground equipment or sports equipment, check to make sure these are secure and stable as well.
Roofs take the most damage every winter from a variety of hazards. Piled snow can cause long-term moisture damage. High winds can rip off shingles. Hail can cause roof-softening pock-mark damage. Even tree branches, heavy with snow, can fall and damage a roof. So keep a close eye on the community rooftops and clean them often with a long-handled roof sweeping broom.
Gutters are at risk when they fill, freeze, or become the home of heavy icicles. Gutters can crack and break away from the roof if they become too heavy. Ice in the gutters can also cause ice dams which can result in flooding and home damage. Clear out ice dams, break off icicles, and apply a de-icing agent to gutters to keep them clear this winter.
During the winter, swimming pools should be drained and/or covered to protect them from the cold. Pipes will need to be insulated and faucets should be protected. Before the pool is brought back into service when warm weather returns, everything should be thoroughly inspected for safety. The water filter must be refreshed. The pool lining should be inspected for ice damage. Pool furniture, signs, and safety equipment should be cleaned and set back out.
Basements go through interesting pressure and moisture changes as the winter comes and goes. Snow builds up at the top of a basement and frozen earth hardens around it. Moisture can seep in or be pushed in by melting snow. Most basements in wintery regions should be inspected regularly. Watch for signs of wall cracks from pressure or for flooding from shifting moisture levels outside. The basement is also where you can insulate long sections of pipes that run through the home.
Snow can wreak havoc on pavement, and so can chemical de-icer agents. Every HOA should take responsibility for keeping the community roads and pavements de-iced during the winter. Then watch out for signs of erosion caused by chemical de-icers or moisture penetration from the ice and snow. Concrete, in particular, contracts and expands with temperature and may crack during the winter or following warm season.
Finally, keep an eye on every HVAC system in the community. During the winter, heaters can be a health and safety requirement. Ensure all units have filters and are running properly as your community enters the coldest part of the year. Then do a springtime check to make sure all heaters are still running well and ACs are ready to start coming on.
Winter damage is something that happens to every community. Your HOA can make a difference by taking good care of the common areas and amenities and encouraging homeowners to take this checklist to heart when caring for winter damage of their own homes. For more insights into detecting and preventing winter damage, contact us today!