The Property Manager’s Winter Watch

Monday, January 23, 2017Steve Buchanan
Winter presents a collection of hazards for properties of all types. As the cold months wear on, many items are added to the list of duties a building manager performs.

While it’s always important to have an accurate record of which units are vacant in a multi-family complex, it becomes especially necessary as the temperature drops. Without occupants to regulate the temperature, cold drafts of air can bring the room well below freezing. Heat can be set at 55 degrees Fahrenheit (or 12 degrees Celsius) to prevent pipes from freezing while maintaining a lower energy cost.

In inclement weather, power outages can also be a contributing factor. Unfortunately, they are also more likely due to precipitation weighing down branches and other overgrowth to interfere with electrical wires and equipment. Clear any potential objects that may make contact with wiring before snow turns from inches into feet and they become unreachable.

Another way to prevent stoppage of water flow is to turn faucets on to constantly drip water. Outdoor plumbing can be turned off to prevent costly burst pipes or damage elsewhere in the plumbing system.

Temperature can also be managed through various types of insulation. To prevent metal pipes from freezing, wrap them with wool insulation. Overall higher room temperatures can be achieved by properly insulating over areas such as crawl spaces, attics, and garages.

Plumbing can freeze partially but still operate with reduced water pressure. To determine if there has already been freezing or a burst, look for sprinkler heads pushing down on ceiling tiles. The water that expands into ice may apply noticeable pressure on its surroundings that can be a quick indicator of freezing or a larger issue.

Trickles of water or damp areas are more definite indicators of cracked or burst piping within the complex. Once this has been confirmed, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve. Damage that seems small can be a sign of a more serious issue that requires professional attention and remediation. Should you need to call a plumber or remediation company, leave the faucets on to encourage normal flow.

Some ice that’s less substantial may be melted with everyday objects. Consider thawing the frozen area with a hairdryer or space heater, starting with the faucet area and working back, before testing the water again. However, when using stronger heat sources such as: gas ovens, electric heaters, wood fires, and pellet stoves. These should be monitored carefully when in use at this time of year. Blankets, clothing, and other fibers near heat sources increase the risk of sparks leading to fires.

Remember, a one-eighth inch (3-millimeter) crack in a pipe can spew out more than 250 gallons of water per day, destroying floors, furniture, appliances and other personal items. Take the appropriate preventative measures to secure the safety of your property and its contents.

About the Author

Steve Buchanan
Account Manager

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