The Importance of Maintenance Planning

By: Mike Lopez

As the owner of an automobile, you must wash it, change the oil, replace the tires, and perform other routine maintenance to ensure your investment is long lasting. The same is true of home ownership. To protect your investment, you must clean your home, replace air conditioners, repair plumbing, repaint fences, etc. etc.

Just as with our possessions and homes, building owners or managers should maintain their buildings to safeguard their condition, extend their lifespan, ensure the safety of building occupants, encourage sustainability and avoid property devaluation. Though it sometimes seems hard to fathom, building owners should look ahead, beyond the design and completion of upcoming projects, in order to forecast, budget for and plan future projects. Planning maintenance and repairs to be performed in the coming five, ten, and even fifteen years can prove to be a cost savings endeavor.

Allow me to offer an example of a possible missed planning opportunity. Our firm was recently tasked to perform an investigation on a parapet wall with a decorative stone exterior, due to the need for constant repairs and the shifting of several stone sections. A part of the parapet wall assembly consisted of a top mounted railing that was installed about ten years ago. Ten years is a relatively short time period of time, and one might expect that, other than routine painting and sealant replacement, not many repairs would need to be performed. From our initial observations, it was clear that the railing was painted. However, after performing a few probes, we unfortunately observed that many of the railing posts exhibited significant rust buildup and deterioration. This condition was the result of water infiltrating the aging and failing sealant at the railing post penetration. The deterioration was so severe that welding new extension posts would almost outweigh the cost of installing a new railing.

Why did this happen in such a short period of time? Could this have been avoided, and if so, how? These are the types of questions that we are often asked as exterior restoration professionals. Performing routine maintenance and the scheduled replacement of the sealant joints would have been the key to successfully avoiding this costly restoration effort. By ignoring this small detail and inexpensive task, the condition worsened over time, and created more issues for the building. If these conditions were left unaddressed for much longer, the structural integrity of the railings would have been compromised.

Knowing the expected lifespan of the material and understanding the ramifications of not performing the repair could have saved the railings to be reused during the project. Furthermore, if a building manager invested in a building envelope survey also known as a Capital Improvement Study, they would have a grasp on the tasks require maintenance and the recommended timeline for repair. If properly prepared, this comprehensive document outlines the immediate and comprehensive maintenance items by providing a brief description of conditions observed, both immediate and long term, with an all-inclusive budget. Having this information and being able to better forecast possible and probable upcoming projects, their associated costs and order of magnitude, allows building owners and managers to budget and plan accordingly.

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