The RentSeeker Real-Estate Blog

News and tips for Canada's renters, home buyers, home sellers and property managers.

2 Jan 2014

The temperatures are dropping, the holiday lights and decorations are going up, and the sun sets earlier every day. This adds up to one inevitable conclusion – winter is coming. For property man

The temperatures are dropping, the holiday lights and decorations are going up, and the sun sets earlier every day. This adds up to one inevitable conclusion – winter is coming. For property managers and landlords, winter adds a new set of responsibilities to your already full schedule. But with a little planning and preparation, you can get your building into tip-top shape in time for the deep freeze. After all, the trusty Farmers’ Almanac is calling for a colder than normal winter throughout most of Canada, with Ontario and Quebec in store for a particularly snowy winter.Winter in Apartments

Stock Up Early:

Winter storms can often strike with little warning. Once the forecast is in, the rush to Canadian Tire to grab shovels and ice melters is on. Don’t get caught without any of these essential items on your property management check list! Stock up now while the snow levels are still relatively manageable. If you are one of the lucky people that has a snow blower, give it a tune-up before the first big storm of the season.

Inspect Your Building:

Included on your pre-winter check list should be a thorough examination of the pipes throughout your building to inspect their insulation. The last thing anyone needs in the dead of winter is for a pipe to burst and cause flooding damage (not to mention how cold it will be for all involved!). The boilers and furnaces in your building will also need to be inspected and maintained to ensure a warm winter for your residents. Finally, get your roof inspected so you’ll be able to nip any leaks in the bud before they become larger under the weight of heavy snow. By starting with a detailed inspection of your building and then monitoring all the “moving parts” throughout the season, you’ll be on top of any potential issues.

Inspect Your Property:

Large trees and bushes that line your property should be given a good once-over to safeguard from falling branches that result when dying limbs are overloaded with snow and ice. If you have trees on your property that are near hydro wires, you may need to call in the city for help if you notice branches that may cause a problem during a winter storm. Remember that safety is the most important issue here – don’t trim any branches near hydro wires yourself!

Stay on Top of the Weather:

Once a storm does hit, don’t put off clearing the snow. Keep your walkway as clean and clear as possible and always put down salt or sand to help with traction. If you wait to clear the snow, you’ll be putting your residents’ safety at risk and causing more headaches for yourself when the snow becomes heavier and more unwieldy. Shovel and put down salt at all entrances and wherever residents may go around the outside of the property. If you have an outdoor parking lot, hiring a company to clear the lot of snow after a big storm would be a wise investment as it would save you time and give your residents peace of mind.

Keep Your Residents Informed:

Let your residents know how they can help during the long winter months. If they notice a draft in their apartment, ask them to alert you right away so the issue can be resolved before it gets worse. Put up information about being “winter weather smart” in the common areas of the building, with tips such as turning down your thermostat (but not turning it off!) if they will be away from home for several days and not leaving a window open overnight (hello, burst pipes!). By involving your residents in the process of keeping your building in fighting winter shape, you’ll be helping to create a sense of community and ownership.

As we mentioned, one of the biggest issues during the winter season is frozen pipes. About.com gives you more valuable information in their article “How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing”:

Keep the Heat On:

If you or your residents are leaving for a period of time, make sure that the heat is kept on at your property. It may be difficult to convince your residents to leave their heat on when they are away, especially if they are responsible for paying their own utilities. You should inform them that the heat can help prevent pipes from freezing, and if pipes freeze and burst, it can cause a lot of water damage to the property and to their possessions.

The heat does not have to be kept as high as you normally would keep it if you were actually at the property, but keeping it set above 10 degrees Celsius is a good idea. This should provide enough heat to keep the pipes warm and to prevent the water inside from freezing.

Allow Faucet to Drip:

If you are afraid a pipe will freeze, you can allow the faucet to drip slightly. Allowing the faucet to be open like this will alleviate pressure in the system. Once a pipe freezes, it is actually pressure that is created between the blockage and the faucet that will cause the pipe to burst, so allowing the faucet to be open will prevent this pressure from building up and thus, the pipe from bursting.

Keep Interior Doors Open:

Pipes are often located in cabinets. When the temperatures drop, it is a good idea to keep these cabinet doors open so that the heat from the rest of the house can keep the pipes warm as well. You should also keep all interior doors open so that the heat can flow throughout the home.

Seal Up Cracks and Holes:

You should caulk any holes or cracks that exist near pipes. This should be done on both interior and exterior walls. Doing so can help keep the cold air out.

Apply Heating Tape:

For pipes that are easily accessible, electrical heating tape may be an option to keep them from freezing. This tape can be applied directly to the pipe.

There are two types of heating tape. There is a type of heating tape that turns on and off by itself when it senses heat is needed and another type of heating tape that needs to be plugged in when heat is needed and unplugged when not in use. Much like a space heater, these products can be dangerous, so you must follow the product’s direction and safety procedures exactly.

Add Extra Insulation:

Pipes that are located in areas that do not have proper insulation, such as basements or attics, may need extra insulation to keep from freezing. Pipes in basements or attics are not the only ones that may not be properly insulated from the cold. If you have had a problem with pipes freezing anywhere in your home, extra insulation may be the cure.

Pipes can be fitted with foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves to help decrease the chances of freezing. This can be an easy solution for pipes that are exposed, but can get expensive if walls, floors or ceilings have to be opened in order to properly insulate the pipe. Additional insulation can also be added to walls and ceilings to keep the pipes warm.

These tips should help you keep your property and residents warm through the Winter. And remember an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The RentSeeker Team