exterior care

Why regularly scheduled exterior care matters

Deferring caulking and repainting may come with higher costs down the road
Friday, September 11, 2015
By Cathy Doherty

Most people know that car maintenance is important. The mechanic reminds his customers when they’re 2,000 kilometres late on their oil change. Likewise, most people know that health maintenance important. The dentist calls to remind her patients when they’re due for a teeth cleaning every six months.

But what about the exterior care of townhome and high-rise condominium sites? Do boards and property managers know the lifecycle of paint and caulking and the value of meeting the maintenance timelines for those products?

With all maintenance programs there is a three-fold benefit: First is identifying areas of possible deterioration early; second is reducing repair costs through early detection; and third is maintaining value. When a condominiums looks like it needs painting, or when interior leaks appear near its windows and doors, it’s probably too late; deterioration has already set in.

Reserve fund studies are a great way for boards of directors and property managers to stay up to date on maintenance schedules. Done around every three years, the study reviews the corporation’s long-term projects, offering suggested timeframes for ongoing maintenance.

But what happens when an unexpected cost crops up? If investment interest in the site is strong, owners aren’t complaining and property values are holding, then the board may delay non-immediate maintenance such as repainting or caulking to keep costs down.

Similarly to the reserve fund study, manufacturers suggest maintenance timelines. Each product, from paint to sealant, has a recommended life cycle; so does each substrate.

Paint serves two important functions: aesthetic appeal and physical protection. Most important to an exterior project is paint’s ability to act as a barrier to the elements while maintaining the real estate value. That thin skin of resin and pigment protects an owner’s investment, shielding it from sun, wind, and rain. It’s not only the coating that provides protection of the substrates but the sealant as well.

Caulking prevents cold drafts in the winter and bugs in the summer. What’s more, it helps keep moisture away from wood surfaces susceptible to rot or water damage, including mould from leaks. If a condominium’s maintenance program fails to consider the lifecycle of a coating, then minor issues can quickly bloom into major repairs.

So what should a condominium corporation do if their current maintenance protocols don’t address peeling paint or deteriorating caulking before they become an issue?

A contractor with a comprehensive warranty program can help. Have the contractor complete regular paint inspections to identify areas that require repair. Then, using the contractor’s report, track changes in a year-over-year record of substrate conditions.

Save money by designing the ‘touch-up’ maintenance program so defects such as corrosion are dealt with before extensive surface preparation and recoating work are needed. Skipping regularly scheduled repairs shortens the life cycle of a coating considerably. It takes more time, energy and money to make a damaged substrate presentable.

Caulking inspections are just as important. Reserve fund studies generally include them as a maintenance item, which again saves money in the long term. A condominium’s sealant may only amount to one per cent of the façade, but it’s integral in protecting 100 per cent of owners’ investments in a property. Condominium corporations spend billions of dollars on building envelope repair and replacement.

Occasionally, paint and sealants fail prematurely. Many factors affect product longevity, including exposure to environmental elements, quality of workmanship, previous coatings, products used and methods of application.

More often than not, rotten wood or rusting metal can be prevented by using the right product for each substrate, which is something a knowledgeable contractor can source. For example, high-rises require high-motility sealant that will weather the natural movement of the building. As another example, primer for galvanized metal is much different than primer for wrought iron.

Using the wrong product will not only result in product failure but it will compromise the protection of the substrate, increasing the chances of higher repair costs.

Other maintenance considerations include energy conservation and safety. The parking garage is typically the largest common element in a high-rise condominium and it is the primary entrance for most residents. Maintenance there should be a high priority. So why do parking garages typically look dark and dirty?

White ceilings and walls will reflect light far better, providing a greater sense of safety for residents and reducing electrical lighting costs. Rusted and dripping pipes create additional costs for stain removal on walls and sometimes damage to cars. Further, many municipalities have regulations that require well-marked and maintained emergency exits and fire hose cabinets. A contractor can review these spaces to ensure a condominium meets changing safety standards.

These types of improvements show residents and potential investors that a condominium has a well-run maintenance program.

When developing a maintenance program, work with an advisor who provides a detailed proposal. The proposal should clearly outline a scope of work including surface preparation, surrounding area protection, specific product choices, and a warranty program for aftercare. This guidance can help boards and property managers save their corporations thousands of dollars down the road.

Every board of directors and property manager wants to avoid premature deterioration of substrates. Keep up with a comprehensive maintenance schedule, including a ‘touch-up’ program, to extend the life of the coating and better protect the substrate. It will keep overall maintenance costs down, which in turn keeps property image and return on investment high.

Cathy Doherty is a member of Armourco Solutions Inc: a painting and high performance sealant firm based in Oakville, serving the GTA and Golden Horseshoe condominium marketplace for more than 20 years.

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