Winter Maintenance for Building Envelope and Parking Structures

Winter poses unique challenges for building maintenance, particularly concerning the building envelope and parking structures. These structures endure harsh conditions during the colder months, necessitating proactive maintenance strategies to ensure their longevity and functionality.

The building envelope, comprising walls, roofs, windows, and doors, serves as a protective barrier against external elements. Winter weather, with its freezing temperatures, snow, and ice, can significantly impact the integrity of these structures and exacerbate existing deteriorated conditions. Maintenance prior to the Winter season is crucial to prevent continued damage and maintain a safe environment for residents, tenants, and visitors.

Roof Maintenance

The roof is particularly susceptible to snow accumulation and ice dams. Snow buildup can add excessive weight, leading to structural strain or, in extreme cases, collapse.  This is especially true of buildings with compromised structural issues which have not been addressed.  Ensuring that columns, beams, and other supports are in good condition and regular snow removal are essential to prevent such issues. Clearing snow promptly, especially after heavy snowfall, helps maintain the roof’s load-bearing capacity. Professional snow removal services or specialized equipment should be employed to ensure safety and prevent damage to the roof’s surface.  Ensure that any drains are cleared of debris so that runoff from melting snow or ice can drain properly.

Seal and Insulation Checks

Cold weather exacerbates the impact of air leaks and insufficient insulation. Seals around windows, doors, and other entry points can degrade over time, allowing cold air and water infiltration. Insufficient insulation results in heat loss, leading to increased energy consumption, higher operational costs, and discomfort for occupants.  Water infiltration can cause damage to the interior finishes of the building. Inspecting seals and insulation and promptly addressing any issues helps maintain a comfortable indoor environment while reducing energy costs.

Preventing Ice Dams

Ice dams, formed by melting snow refreezing at the roof’s edge, can lead to water seepage and structural damage. Proper insulation, ventilation, and attic temperature maintenance can prevent ice dam formation. Ensuring a consistent and regulated roof temperature can effectively mitigate this issue.  Installing snow melting electrical cables at critical locations can also help alleviate this issue.

Parking Structure Maintenance

Parking structures face their own set of challenges during winter. The accumulation of snow and ice in these areas poses safety hazards for vehicles and pedestrians. Regular snow removal and de-icing are essential to prevent accidents and maintain accessibility.

Snow Removal and De-Icing

Routine snow removal from parking structures is crucial to ensure safe vehicle and pedestrian movement. Using snowplows, shovels, or snowmelt products can effectively clear the area. De-icing agents help prevent the formation of ice, reducing the risk of slips and falls.  It is recommended to avoid applying de-icing chemicals containing chloride directly to concrete, as the chloride particles are known to be detrimental to the concrete and can promote corrosion of structural elements.  A snowplow’s blade can damage a concrete floor, sealants, toppings, or expansion joints if proper precautions are not taken.  To help prevent damage snowplows should be equipped with a heavy rubber blade edge with plow shoes or casters adjusted to keep the steel plow edge a minimum of 1/2 inch above the floor.  If the practice of piling snow in areas of a parking structure is utilized, considerations for weight loads should be planned for as well. 

Structural Inspections

Winter weather can exacerbate existing structural issues in parking facilities. Regular inspections for cracks, corrosion, or damage caused by freezing and thawing cycles are vital to identify and address problems promptly.  Ideally these inspections should be performed in the Fall, prior to harsh weather, and the Spring, after the harsh weather has passed.  A light pressure wash of the structure is useful to remove sand, salt and chemicals used during the Winter and clear the area of debris to allow for a clear visual inspection of the parking deck.  Any structural vulnerabilities should be repaired to maintain the safety and integrity of the parking structure.

Lighting and Security

Days are shorter during Winter, necessitating adequate lighting in parking structures to ensure visibility and safety. Properly functioning lighting not only aids visibility but also deters criminal activity. Regular checks and maintenance of lighting fixtures are necessary.

Winter maintenance for building envelopes and parking structures is essential to ensure safety, longevity, and functionality. Proactive measures, including regular inspections, snow removal, and addressing structural vulnerabilities, are imperative to mitigate potential issues caused by harsh winter conditions.

By implementing these maintenance strategies, building owners and facility managers can protect their structures, ensure occupant safety, and maintain the integrity of the property throughout the Winter months. Investing in proactive maintenance before Winter ultimately saves costs and prevents larger, more expensive problems in the long run.  If you need help with identifying possible issues or making repairs to your property, please reach out to me directly at for assistance. 

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