12 Ways to Prep Your Commercial Building for the Winter

Each season has its own maintenance requirements — but colder weather and winter precipitation present their own potentially damaging issues. Before the snow flies, take preventative steps now to protect your business investment and tenants.

  1. HVAC

Before temperatures drop and the heat kicks on, make sure the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is running effectively and efficiently. Clean vents, change filters, hire a service to inspect the system and repair or replace broken parts. Put wall AC units or cover them with airtight covers. Ask your contractor to take steps to ensure your building doesn’t have “sick building syndrome.”

  1. Outdoors

Take a walk around your building’s exterior to inspect the foundation for stains, leaks, or cracks where water could seep in and cause damage. Repair cracks, potholes, or other trip hazards on sidewalks or in parking lots. 

  1. Landscaping

Poor drainage can cause many issues — frozen patches that cause slippery spots for clients or tenants, oversaturated areas that drown grass or plants. Whether you’ve got a green thumb or hire a service, winterize your plants and trim trees and shrubs to protect the landscaping. Consider adding a few plants that thrive in winter and add a pop of color and texture around your building’s exterior.

  1. Lighting

Fewer hours of daylight — and an earlier dusk — can increase risks for clients and tenants. Make sure your building’s outside lighting is bright and that potential fall hazards are well-lit. Verify that the bulbs are clean and working. Install exterior lights where shadows could mask potential problems.

  1. Roofs

Winter storms can cause serious damage to building roofs. Whether your building’s got a flat or slanted roof, you’ll want to make sure it’s inspected and properly maintained by a qualified roofing company before storms bring snow and ice.

Although slanted roofs provide natural drainage, they can still leak. If your building’s roof is older:

  • Inspect shingles, slates, or roof vents if applicable
  • Inspect (or install) ice breakers
  • Trim trees or branches that are growing too close to a roof

Flat roofs require more constant maintenance. Inspect and repair flat roof membranes in the fall, addressing areas that might accumulate water or ice and snow buildup. Then:

  • Inspect and repair tar seals
  • Sweep up debris that may’ve blocked roof drains
  • Inspect and secure flashings
  • Plan for emergency snow removal if a storm dumps a significant amount of snow on the roof
  1. Gutters

While often overlooked, gutters provide a critical service all year round! They control drainage from rain, snow, and melting ice, directing water away from a building’s foundation. To keep them working most efficiently:

  • Clean them thoroughly after the trees have lost their leaves, removing debris and unclogging drains and downspouts
  • Verify you’ve addressed all blockages by testing the gutters/downspouts to make sure water doesn’t back up
  • Angle downspouts away from the buildings to ensure water flows away from the foundation
  1. Windows

Verify that building windows are properly sealed. Replace aging windows to reduce the risk of interior or exterior building damage.

  1. Plumbing

Plummeting temperatures increase the risk of frozen or bursting pipes. Insulate and seal cracks and openings around exposed pipes. Keep internal thermostats no lower than 55 ° F (13 °C).

  1. Snow removal

Accumulated snow on roofs, sidewalks, or parking lots can cause serious safety problems.

  • Give clear snow removal instructions to your contractor or staff
  • Select and purchase enough snow/deicing product for the season
  • Apply deicing materials to sidewalks before a predicted storm hits to create a safe base that may keep sidewalks clear (or make it easier to clear them after a storm ends)
  • Put down floor mats in lobbies and other transitional areas to reduce the risk of slippery floors and falls
  • Inspect your roof regularly at your building’s entrances/exits to quickly identify (and deal with) ice or snow buildup that could become hazardous to clients and tenants
  1. Lobby prep

If your building’s doors open flush to the outside, letting cold air or drafts inside, you can tent the doorway or install an air curtain system to help alleviate temperature fluctuations. Add nonstick rugs or mats to collect tracked in water and snow. Consider implementing a slip, trip, and fall prevention plan.

  1. Winter Fire Safety

Change batteries on the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Service fire prevention equipment. Update your building’s emergency fire procedures — including evacuation plans — and if appropriate, schedule a drill for the tenants to practice their responses. Consider asking an electrician to run tests on connections from the input source to your building – and throughout the interior – to check wiring and loads on outlets, panels, and equipment.

Map dry and wet pipe sprinkler systems — as well as their low point drains. Protect wet pipe sprinkler systems from cold air to prevent the pipes from freezing.

  1. Power Loss & Surges

Heavy rains and tumultuous thunderstorms accompanied by high winds can knock out power in any season but losing power in the winter can go from inconvenient to downright dangerous.

  • Use surge protectors in offices with sensitive data needs
  • Suggest that your tenants back up important files with real-time, cloud-based storage to eliminate the risk of data loss when the building goes dark
  • Evaluate whether it makes sense to have a generator on site to pick up slack when the power is out
  • Insulating pipes will help protect them from freezing or bursting if the heat is off — and the temperature drops — for an extended period
  1. Mobile Equipment

Properly store any maintenance equipment — like mowers, carts, or other lawn equipment. Drain old fuel for the season. Check snow removal equipment like snow blowers to verify their operation.

  1. Tenants

Touch base with your tenants about any building issues or maintenance requests. Because they live or work in your building, your tenants are the first line of defense for noticing potential problems.

Conduct an Energy audit

Energy audits analyze a facility to pinpoint areas where a building can reduce energy consumption and save energy costs. Decreasing energy costs leads to lower energy costs — and benefits the environment. New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program offers financial incentives to increase and improve energy efficiency.

Members of the CREA United alliance are here to help.

  • For HVAC needs, contact ICS, providing exceptional commercial HVAC design, installation, service, and maintenance since 1990.
  • To prepare your roof for the winter, connect with Tecta America — a quality driven, roofing company with over 20 years of experience.
  • To conduct an energy audit, reach out to Office Management Services — an energy consulting business that offers no cost energy audits — or NJGEC, an energy management services partner dedicated to helping businesses lower their energy costs.

Related Articles