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The Single Most Important Aspect to any Building or Site is Maintenance

Aug 22, 2008
After over 30 years in the construction trades and over 6000 physical inspections I have come across a few pieces of wisdom. One of the biggest has to do with maintenance. From my experience maintenance is the single most important aspect of any building or site. Most original construction is fairly good.

Most products such as plumbing fixtures and mechanical items such as Heating and AC units will last a reasonable amount of time if properly maintained. That is the rub, if properly maintained. Unfortunately from my experience this is almost never the case.

When I read thorough manufactures recommendations regarding maintenance I never, and I mean never, see anyone do all the different things the manufacturer recommends. I usually get a chuckle at what is expected. (Realize that if these recommendations are not done the manufacturer is usually not liable if the product fails.)

Examples are things like roofing. The manufacturer recommends yearly inspections and maintenance. Nobody does a roof inspection every year.

Same goes for Heating and AC units, these should get yearly maintenance and in fact every 3 months is recommended with the filters being changed every month if necessary. Nobody does that. The ducting should be cleaned every year, nobody does that.

For electrical the panels should have yearly examinations for the connections to ensure they are tight and in some cases have the system examined with thermal imaging to see if there are any spots which indicates potential trouble. Nobody does that.

As far as plumbing goes the water heaters should be drained every year and the pressure regulator should be checked on a regular basis to ensure the pressure is not getting too high. Nobody does that.

The structure of the building should be checked every year to see if there are any issues such as settlement or any unusual movement. Nobody does that.

The site should be examined to ensure the exterior does not have any areas of moisture intrusion due to cracking in the sealing around windows and doors or any cracks in paint that need to be touched up. Ensuring no sprinklers are spraying against the building or trees that are pushing up against the planters or building. Looking at the parking lot to see if the asphalt is worn and in need of resealing before it needs 10X that amount of expense to have it resurfaced. Nobody does all of those.

Now having said nobody does the above mentioned items I know somebody out there is saying but I do!! Yea maybe but I bet you dont and if you do I bet you dont do all of them along with the other couple hundred things to look and see if they are all operating properly or in need of some upkeep.

I also bet nobody goes and checks every toilet to see it they are properly secured to the floor or runs every faucet to see if they get hot water and if so is it in the proper amount of time and not too hot. Or that the flow of water at each fixture is not too much or too little. I know you get the point.

In all my years of inspections I have found only a hand full of buildings that have had really good maintenance programs and of those none did all that I just mentioned. Every building I have inspected has some area that could use improvement. That is the way of the physical universe. As soon as it is installed it begins to deteriorate. Proper maintenance can prolong the life but it cant stop aging or wear and tear.

I inspected a building recently that had 19 roof mounted HVAC units on it that all but one was over 23 years old. This is truly the exception. The normal life expectancy for roof mounted HVAC units is approx. 15-17 years per industry standards and personal observations. Upon questioning the above owner I found they had the company that had done the original installations servicing these units. They were doing a great job. There were no old replacement parts lying around. All the units were clean and tidy. This is all part of good maintenance.

The quality of the maintenance is another issue. I have seen buildings and sites that had a regular maintenance that were in need of serious repairs in many areas. The place was just being cleaned, and even that was not done well. Good maintenance requires someone that cares and is not afraid to get their hands dirty. It requires people really looking and writing down items observed that need attention and then doing them on a systematic basis.

My suggestion is to have someone look over your building and site on a regular basis that has no interest in whether something is good or bad and giving you a list of those things found that need attention. If this hasnt been done in the last five years I strongly suggest this now. I suggest this be done at the very least every five years.

This inspection usually costs some hundreds of dollars. Per recent estimates these inspections save at least 10X the cost of the inspection. As an example if the inspection uncovers the need to have an HVAC unit fully serviced and this prolongs the life another 2-3 years this alone can be a savings of over $5000.

Having the roof sealed with reflective coatings that cost from $.60 - $1.00 per sq. ft. of surface can save on energy costs alone to make up for the cost in a few years and may allow the roof to last for at least another 5-7 years.

Here are just two of the many areas that a good thorough general visual inspection could uncover for you that could save you many thousands of dollars over the long haul. It is cheap insurance.

Ensure your site is well maintained. Dont skimp on these things and everything will last longer which means less unforeseen expenses, which means more money in you pocket.
About the Author
Bob has been a Certified Inspector since 1994 and a licensed contractor for nearly 4o years. For more information about commercial real estate inspections visit his website at http://www.commercialrealestateinspectors.com to find out how he can help with your real estate inspection.
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