Spring Maintenance Guide
You’ll know that spring has arrived in Edmonton when the birds are singing, lawns everywhere become progressively greener- and people start apartment hunting. According to Apartment Guide, the busy season for moving begins in May. This means that condos and apartments have to be in prime shape for viewings.
Spring maintenance is like a facelift for rental properties. This includes doing a general cleanup of the building and its grounds, repairing any damage incurred over the winter, and making sure that everything is in good working order for summer. By doing so, you increase property longevity, eliminate hazards, and realize benefits like the following:
- Improved building appearance
- Greater tenant satisfaction (and retention)
- Increased demand for available units
- Compliance with applicable bylaw codes and safety standards
- Justification for rent increases when necessary
Whether you’re new to property management or a seasoned pro looking to be as thorough as possible, this guide shows you how to cover all bases with your spring cleaning regimen.
Start With A General Inspection
If you don’t know what’s broken, you can’t fix it. A general inspection helps to create a to-do list that you can add to your routine spring maintenance schedule. Recommended steps include checking for the following:
- Dirty and/or cracked windows
- Damaged caulking and peeling paint on window frames
- Rust and corrosion on steel-framed balconies
- Exterior light bulbs that have burnt out
- Any landscaping that needs to be done, such as new plants and hedge trimming
- Stains on concrete surfaces
- Damaged pigeon control devices
- Clogged dryer vents
- HVAC issues
Once your regular to-do list has been supplemented with the results of your inspection, you’re ready to start.
In high rises in particular, existing and prospective tenants value a stellar view. When the glass is streaked with windblown dirt and debris and bird droppings are on the sill, the result will fall far below expectations.
Start your spring window cleaning regimen by replacing any cracked or broken panes first. If your windows are easily accessible by ladder, you can clean them using a squeegee and professional-grade window cleaner like Glass Gleam 4. After scraping away any paint or sealant stuck to the glass, use a cleaning wand to spread the detergent across the window. Then clear it away using a squeegee.
If you have a lot of windows to tackle or manage a high rise, consider hiring a professional window cleaning company. A reputable company will visit your building(s) beforehand to carry out a hazard assessment, have liability insurance and full WCB coverage and, ideally, use rope access cleaning methods, which enable a faster, more thorough, and minimally-disruptive cleaning job.
Arrange to have your windows cleaned on a day when little to no wind has been forecast: even low breezes can blow water drops from the squeegee onto freshly cleaned glass and cause staining. It’s also important to give your tenants advance notice that window cleaners will be on site, so that there are no unwelcome surprises.
Replace Caulking and Weather Stripping
Window caulking and weather strips have a hard job to do during the winter, and over time, age and weather-related damage can decrease performance and increase your building’s energy bill.
To replace old caulking, use a putty knife to scrape it away from the window and apply industrial-grade replacement strips with a caulk gun. If the weather strips are adhesive style, clean away the old adhesive first before applying new strips. With nail-in stripping, you may have to fill in the old nail holes before applying the replacements.
Paint Window Frames
If the paint on the window frames is dirty and peeling, use a scraper to remove it and sand the surface while taking care to not scratch the glass. After clearing away all sanding dust, prime the surface with an oil-based primer before applying two coats of fresh paint. For best results, use gloss or semi-gloss acrylic or latex enamel paints.
Remove Rust On Balconies
Many Alberta highrises have iron railings on their balconies, and a hard winter can leave the metal rust-stained. The three methods are frequently used to clean rusted services:
- Cloth and water: Lightly dip a cloth in a bucket of water and scrub at the rusted areas. If there is any buildup, use the cloth in combination with a wire brush. Wipe all treated areas with a dry rag afterward.
- Baking soda: Spread a paste consisting of baking soda and water across the rusted surfaces and gently scrub in. Let it sit for five to ten minutes, then wipe away with a wet rag and dry the railing.
- Lemon and salt: Squeeze the juice of a lemon into a bowl, add salt, and apply to rusted areas. Then scrub until the rust comes off and wipe clean.
If there are signs that the metal is deteriorating, have the railings replaced. When they are too eroded, it creates an unsafe situation for tenants.
Replace Broken Outdoor Lights
Harsh climate conditions can break the sturdiest outdoor lights. If your general inspection uncovered damaged or burned-out lights in the parking areas, along pathways surrounding the building, and in other common areas, have them replaced to ensure ongoing tenant safety.
Do Any Necessary Landscaping
Snow can hide a multitude of ills, including bagged trash, discarded bottles and cans, and unruly hedges. An attractive building exterior is as important to prospective tenants as a bright and airy interior, so clean up the debris and take any necessary landscaping measures, such as:
- Trimming trees with low-hanging or broken branches, which can present safety issues
- Ensuring that sidewalk surfaces are level and not a trip hazard
- Applying mulch around trees and flower beds
- Pulling weeds
- Replacing dead plants
- Pruning any shrubs and hedges
- Contacting a landscaping company to arrange a regular mowing schedule
Clean Stains From Concrete
Like any surface, concrete gets stained over time. If you notice dark splotching on concrete balconies, parking garage floors, and driveways, identify what they are before applying an appropriate manual or chemical cleaning method.
- Oil Stains: After putting on rubber gloves and goggles, mix a cup of trisodium phosphate (TSP) in a gallon of hot water and pour it over the stained area. Let it set for at least half an hour, and then scrub with a nylon brush. Finally, wash the solution away with your hose at the highest setting. Especially-stubborn stains may require a repeat treatment.
- Paint Stains: Spilled paint can also be treated using the TSP-hot water method, but older or bigger stains will need to be tackled with a chemical paint stripper. After donning a respirator, chemical-resistant gloves, and eye protection, mix the stripper with an absorbent material like baby powder, smear the paste over the spill, and wait for 20 minutes before scraping everything away with a plastic paint scraper. Retreat if necessary, this time waiting for 30 minutes before removing.
- Rust Stains: If rusty objects like tools and outdoor furniture have left stains on concrete surfaces, you can treat recent stains by pouring white vinegar over them, letting it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, and then scrubbing with a nylon brush. Larger stains and those that have been there for awhile should be treated with a commercial rust remover.
Repair Damaged Pigeon Controls
Pigeons have a detrimental effect on the appearance of your building because they leave droppings everywhere. Left uncleaned, the build-up can present a health hazard to tenants and prevent solar panels from functioning properly, which is why so many buildings have pigeon control in place.
If any bird netting is torn, replace it. When you hire a professional window cleaner, ask them to inspect the pigeon control spikes for broken or missing spurs and arrange for any necessary repairs.
Clean Dryer Vents
Laundry drying machines are a factor in thousands of building fires every year. The most common cause is failure to thoroughly clean lint build-up from the exhaust duct or heating element. Dryer vents can also leak at the joints or become clogged and cause back pressure on the appliances. Keep your tenants safe and your dryers in good working order by engaging a maintenance professional to inspect and clean all dryer vents in the building.
Service the HVAC System
Your furnace has been on all winter. If your building has central air, you want to make sure that the system is ready to meet the challenges of high summer temperatures. Have it inspected by a heating and cooling contractor, who can remove any dirt or buildup from the coils and filters and verify that the unit is working at peak efficiency.
Springtime represents a huge opportunity for you to increase tenant satisfaction, fill vacant units, and identify any issues that could be contributing to higher operating expenses. The maintenance tips in this guide can ensure that you set the stage for a prosperous summer.