Repairs, Maintenance and Renovations

August, 10 2021 Published by Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter - By Colleen Morrison and John Leonard

Preventive Maintenance Plans (PMPs) – An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure

From the CCI Newfoundland and Labrador Summer 2021 Condo Chronicle Newsletter

Condo complexes, especially as they begin to age, require more attention and upkeep to maintain a functioning and comfortable living environment for all residents. This aging process becomes evident through normal signs of wear and tear. Regular monitoring of a condo building’s common areas and overall structural integrity is critical. It helps the Board of Directors in their management and operation of the condo corporation, as well as ensures the building’s real estate value into the future. PMPs can be a key determinant in this endeavour.

So what is a PMP? Simply put, it is maintenance preformed on a regular basis, its goal being the reduction of damage to, or failure of, building structures or system components. It is sometimes referred to as “planned” or “preventative” maintenance. PMPs include inspections, servicing, repair, or replacement. It is “proactive” maintenance that can prevent damage or failure as opposed to “reactive” maintenance, which is necessary once something has broken down. The term “projected useful life” (PUL) is a commonly used industry term that indicates the total number of years that can reasonably be expected from building components. Identification of building components which may be wearing out, and repairing or replacing them before they fail, can be instrumental in extending the PUL of those components.

While PMPs will vary depending on the type of structure for which they are intended, for many condo complexes, the components of these plans can be quite similar. The following list outlines the basic building blocks of an effective PMP; the items listed can be built upon to reflect your particular situation:

Building Exterior:
All condo complexes are unique in themselves, but the exterior should be well maintained as it is the recipient of the harshest effects of weather. Siding, brick work, concrete foundation, windows, doors, and railings need to be checked for any repairs, remediation, or replacement required. The roof should be inspected regularly and cleaned if necessary. Gutters and downspouts must be properly anchored, free of any obstructions, and flushed regularly. Exterior drainage should also be checked and flushed on a regular basis. The parking lot, entrance driveway, walkways, and accessibility areas should be examined to ensure they are in good condition. Parking areas of specific importance should be marked with the appropriate signage; for instance, accessibility parking, reserved parking, and fire lanes. And trees situated around the complex need to be examined for possible falling branches that could cause damage or injury. One suggestion for Board members and owners alike is to “look up and around” each time they arrive at their condo complex to really get to know their property and make note of any changes taking place that could eventually become a concern – just as they would do inside their respective units.

Building Interior:
The interior of any condo complex would be considered a high-traffic area. Continuous foot traffic, residents moving in and out, contractors coming back and forth, and general movement throughout the building takes its toll. Floors, ceilings, windows, and walls should be examined regularly for signs of deterioration or evidence of leaks. Check for safety hazards which would include electrical hazards and slip and fall hazards. All heaters and thermostats should be in working order. Smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, fire alarm systems, and sprinkler systems should be serviced and tested on a regular basis. All doors, locks, and closures should operate properly, especially accessibility doors and fire-rated doors to resident living areas. And regular pest control service must be performed to detect early signs of insect or pest infestation which could lead to serious structural damage over time. The condo complex represents the residents’ homes, and the building’s interior is the inside of those homes; that makes it a priority in getting its fair share of attention and TLC!

Elevator:
An elevator is easily the most used piece of equipment in any multi-story condo complex. Many residents will use the elevator an average of four (4) times per day, every day! The average PUL of an elevator is between twenty (20) and thirty (30) years if regular maintenance has been done, after which time, modernization is recommended by experts. Yearly inspections are mandatory in Newfoundland and Labrador as per the Amusement Rides and Elevating Devices Regulations under the Public Safety Act, SNL 1996. They must be carried out by a certified elevator technician. If the elevator passes inspection, a certificate will be issued and should be displayed in the elevator. In addition, servicing on a regular basis throughout the year is also recommended, and having a maintenance contract in place will ensure that this servicing is being carried out. An elevator is a vital piece of equipment that can generate considerable stress if not functioning properly.

Electrical:
The importance of a properly functioning electrical system in a condo complex cannot be stressed enough. All electrical wiring must be in line with the appropriate electrical code standards. Electrical panel boxes must be accurately labelled and breakers properly identified. Timers and photocells should be functioning appropriately. The building’s intercom system should be checked on a regular basis. All receptacles should be in working order, cover plates must fit tightly, and they must be replaced if damaged, especially if they are situated on the outside of the building. And remember that the building’s electrical room is an extremely important component of the PMP as it houses switching gears, panel boxes, meters, and telecommunications cables and equipment that keep the condo complex running smoothly. Given that most all building systems depend on electrical power to some extent, it is essential that this component gets high priority.

Lighting:
Lighting in a condo complex is quite different from other residential properties. In condo complexes, it operates on a continuous basis in places such as lobbies, hallways, elevators, parking garages, etc. The inspection list for lighting should include all of the lighting in the building, both inside and outside. Interior, exterior, and exit lighting should be checked regularly for proper installation and function. It is especially important that emergency lighting be functioning properly at all times. Any non-functioning lighting should be replaced immediately. Dusting and cleaning of light fixtures should also be done on a regular basis. Hardware and cabling for exterior lighting should be intact and checked to ensure that the lighting is aimed as intended. It should also be noted that many condo complexes are now replacing their incandescent lighting with LED lighting, which results in lower energy costs and a longer PUL for the lighting. The initial expense of replacement will easily be realized in cost savings over the long term. And well-maintained quality lighting is essential and comforting for residents.

Safety and Security:
These go hand in hand in ensuring that residents in the condo complex feel safe and secure in their respective units. Signage is perhaps the easiest way to make sure that residents are aware of regulations regarding secure building access, use of emergency exits, spaces reserved for accessibility parking, and spaces allocated for fire service vehicles. Fire extinguishers and fire pull stations should be highly visible and easily accessible to residents in the event of emergencies. Unit smoke detectors should be inspected as well to ensure they are operational and have not gone past their expiry dates. All safety signs should be easily readable and up to date. A Fire Safety Plan (FSP) should be prepared and distributed to all residents, with fire drills held on a regular basis. And it’s important that the master key fit all unit locking mechanisms in the event that emergency access to a unit is required. It should be noted that fire safety is a regulatory matter; that is, it’s the law and as such cannot be ignored. As well, since a number of condo owners are retired and senior, the feeling of a safe and secure home is very important.

Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC):
Condo complexes will have air exchange systems located throughout the building itself, as well as in individual units. Making sure they are all serviced on a regular basis is an important aspect of any PMP. Regular servicing assures they will function better and could easily result in cost savings in terms of energy use. Secondary lint traps connected to dryer exhaust vents should be serviced at the same time as they too are part of the HVAC system. Exterior exhaust hoods connected to dryer, range, and air exchange ductwork should also be cleaned regularly. Exhaust fans and ventilation fans often present in parking garages and waste disposal areas should be inspected for proper function and cleaned on a regular basis. Guards, panels, electrical connections, hardware, and safety controls for any equipment that is part of the HVAC system must be inspected as well. Although indoor air quality can sometimes slip to the back burner, it is critical for a healthy living space.

Plumbing:
Insurance professionals are saying that the greatest number of insurance claims in recent years relate to “water damage”, which makes it even more critical to keep a condo complex’s plumbing system in working order to prevent these incidents from occurring. In multi-storey buildings, any type of incident involving water can affect multiple units at a time causing extensive damage and an even more expensive insurance claim. Regularly scheduled inspections should be done to check for leaks, pipe corrosion, or unusual noises. Residents should be made aware of best practices for drainage to avoid pipe decay or blockages. Hot water tanks generally have a PUL of five (5) years, and they should be replaced at that time. Water shut-off valves should be easily accessible by residents or contractors, and if not, steps should be taken to rectify this. In addition, they should be clearly labelled so that all residents are aware of their location. Exterior hose bibs should be checked regularly to make sure they are operational and frost protected. And all drainage systems, both inside and outside the condo complex, should be free of debris to avoid water backing up. In today’s building and insurance industry, many experts say that “water” is fast becoming the new “fire” in terms of property damage, meaning it’s becoming increasingly important to handle it with respect.

PMPs are definitely an excellent return on money spent as the benefits are many and far outweigh the challenges of putting a plan in place. They can eliminate the need to dip into the corporation’s reserve fund to fix huge problems that could have been prevented. They reduce the risk of sudden out-of-service occurrences, especially in relation to components such as elevators and basic utilities, which are crucial to everyday living in condo complexes. PMPs improve the safety, security, and comfort of all residents and protect real estate property values into the future. In regard to insurance, minimizing insurance claims and premiums go hand in hand with good maintenance and management practices, which is of utmost importance in today’s environment where insurance premiums are seeing increases year over year. And perhaps the most important aspect of PMPs is that they allow the Board of Directors to stay in control of the normal life cycle of the bits and pieces that define the physical construct of the condo complex, thus minimizing future surprises related to wear and tear or possible failure of building components. In this regard, there is some merit in limiting the number of professional contractors working in a building to one or two firms per specialty area as they, too, can become your eyes and ears and are likely more readily available when needed.

There are some minor challenges involved with setting up a PMP. In theory, it is a simple idea. But in reality, it can be complex as there is data to be collected and analyzed, as well as many tasks to schedule, prioritize, and cost. Also, there is a huge investment of time in the initial planning stages to ensure that everything associated with the physical construct of the condo complex is taken into account. And the frequency of planned maintenance may have to be fine-tuned over time. But as you can see, the challenges are minimal compared to the benefits. And let’s face it . . . there’s probably “an app for that”!

As mentioned earlier, this article outlines the basic building blocks of a PMP. Every condo complex is different, and your PMP should reflect the items in your building that would need to be included. Being proactive about regular maintenance inspections at your condo complex can reap benefits in the long run in terms of cost savings and ensuring that your building’s components reach or exceed their PUL. The cost of preventing one major incident could be many times less than the cost of having one!

Sources:

  • Preventive Maintenance: Everything You Need to Know About Preventive Maintenance (emaint.com/what-is-preventive-maintenance)
  • A Preventive Maintenance Checklist (grainger.com/know-how/industry/manufacturing/kh-preventive-maintenance-checklist)
  • Condo Preventative Maintenance That Will Save You From Emergency Repairs (iccpropertymanagement.com)
  • Elevator lifecycle principles: maintain, modernize & extend the service life (urban-hub.com/technology/extending-the-service-life-of-elevators-creates-savings)

Colleen Morrison is a retired educator in the field of business management who spent over 30 years with College of the North Atlantic. She has also worked as an employee relations officer with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees. Colleen has been a member of the Board of Directors for McKee’s Grove Condominium Corporation since November 2014 and has been a Director with CCI-NL since November 2020.

John Leonard is a retired civil engineer who has worked both in private industry and also in his own consulting firm. He has been an invaluable member of the Board of Directors of McKee’s Grove Condominium Corporation since September 2017 and has served as President since November 2018. As well, John has been instrumental in developing and implementing a PMP for his own condo complex.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the CCI Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter. Readers are encouraged to seek the advice of professionals to address specific issues or individual situations. This article may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without acknowledgement of the authors.

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