01 Apr A Springtime Property Walkabout
Written by Tim McCarty, Vice President of Safety & Risk Consulting
Just like it is important for our health to get an annual checkup, it is also important for the health of your properties and spring is the perfect time for this “checkup”. So as the snow recedes and before the leaves are out, consider taking some time to really look at the condition of the building and grounds for anything that could cause a greater problem, with the building or for those who are accessing it.
Before you head out, a few key items will be helpful. A clipboard with any inspection forms you might use, or you could use the points below as a starting point. A camera and tape measure can document any conditions, place the open tape measure in the picture frame to show the scale. Binoculars can be very helpful in looking at roofs, second story or higher trim or siding, or trees. Make sure to bring a small pen knife or something similar as it can be helpful in probing for rot. Many inspectors will carry a hammer to reset any nails that have worked their way proud of the surface as they review a building.
If you do find a hazard, the area should be secured so that residents and their guests don’t injure themselves. This inconvenience is important to protect you from costly litigation. Some caution tape, cones or signage can go a long way in helping prevent a loss.
While not an exhaustive list, below are some general areas that are a good starting point to be reviewed:
Walkways: They have been frozen, thawed, scraped and pelted with chemicals to de-ice them; how are they holding up? Look for surface level changes that could catch a toe and create a trip and fall, this can be caused by as little as ¼“. Does the surface have any cracking, spalling, or broken areas, any of which can cause a trip and fall hazard? Trips and falls are a major source of injuries and lawsuits, getting out ahead of the problem by identifying them, securing the area and ultimately repairing damage is vital.
Parking Lots: Have potholes, cracks or missing surface areas developed? Are the space marking or traffic direction lines still clear? Is there any damage from plowing that might need to be addressed like broken curbing or displaced parking barriers or bollards? Problems can cause damage to vehicles or an injury to individuals.
Foliage: Spring is the time to look over any trees or bushes on the property because it is easier to see damage to the trunk or limbs. Are there any branches that appear to have cracked or are even hanging in the canopy? Does the trunk appear sound, even up at the limb crotches? Damage to the trunk or limbs should be addressed as soon as possible to reduce the chance for them to create gravity assisted destruction.
Roofs, Flashing & Gutters: These should be inspected for any wear, missing shingles, cracking, flashing issues, rust or deformations. If you aren’t comfortable climbing a ladder for an inspection, you may be able to use a good pair of binoculars to review its condition in detail, and if not, find a trusted (and insured) contractor. Ice, snow and high winds can take their toll, and this is one part of the envelop you want secure.
Windows & Doors: They should be opened to ensure that the tracks or hinges are still functional. Are there any gaps, damage or rot visible? In addition to looking for damage that prevents them from opening and closing properly, they should be examined for rot or rust to the door itself or the frame. Are the panes still seated securely? Are the screens free from rips and holes? Addressing these conditions now will save money down the road, they won’t improve on their own.
Siding & Trim: Has any of the sheathing loosened or gone missing? Does the paint need to be redone or at least touched up? Is there any sign of rot or damage visible that needs to be addressed? Are any penetrations to the outside envelope, (like dryer vents, electrical service or oil fill), in which the sealing is damaged?
Decks, Patios & Exterior Stairways: Has the winter weather caused any damage to these areas? Are decks, stairs and handrails still securely fastened to the structure and secure? Are there nail heads that have worked their way partially out? Anything that would cause a trip and fall hazard like uneven surfaces, damaged or missing parts of steps or even severe board cupping? Residents rely on secure surfaces and railings, trip free surfaces and strong (splinter free) railings to prevent injuries.
Foundation & Basements: The grounds freeze and thaw cycles can cause havoc on the foundation and the situation in the basement, a thorough review of the foundation’s exterior and the basement should be undertaken. Are there any cracks, damaged materials or displacement obvious? Do you see any settling of the ground near the foundation? Is there water, or evidence of water entering the basement? Any of these conditions could mean a loss of integrity of the system and should be examined by a qualified contractor.
Yard & Grounds: Spring is the best time to review the property for pooling water and damage that needs to be addressed. Are there any pools or excessively wet areas, specifically near the structure? Any areas where the ground has been scraped up or there are deposits of gravel that create non-level walking surfaces and look unsightly? Are there limbs, displaced rocks or other obstacles that need to be cleared? In addition to creating a nice looking property, addressing these concerns can help reduce property damage or injuries.
Entranceways & Interior Walkways: Winter has meant a lot of tracked in dirt, wear and tear and damage to the entrances, hallways and common areas. Are hard (tile or concrete) surfaces free of damage that could cause a slip, trip or fall? Remember a ¼” surface change can cause someone to fall. Are any floor coverings free from lifted corners or seams, pulls, snags or holes that could cause someone to fall? Repairing these conditions and a good cleaning will go a long way to preventing them from being the cause on an injury.
Safety Checks: Spring is a perfect time to spend a little time reviewing any safety features of the property. Are the dryer vents clear of lint (still a major source of fires)? Are all the exterior lights in good repair, secure and functional? Are any emergency lights and exit signs working? Are the fire detection alarms functional? Any filters on the furnace or air handlers that could use a swap out?
Many property conditions become visible and noticeable in the spring. It is important to take the time and be deliberate about reviewing the property from both the structure itself and any hazards that might be present. This will be time well spent in preventing damage, inconvenience and potentially injury to the individuals that use the location. The bottom line is that in the long run, it’ll be a great investment to save money.