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Routine Maintenance Saves Money

By Mike Price CMCA, AMS, RS


Deterioration of assets like roofs, exterior paint, mechanical equipment and asphalt is inevitable due to wear and effects of this tropical climate. The Board of Directors is responsible for maintaining these components for the good of all owners. Besides collecting money to replace assets when needed, routine inspection, resealing, lubricating and repair of assets is needed to obtain the maximum "Useful Life" of an asset. This routine "care" of assets is referred to as a "preventative maintenance plan". This routine care prevents early failure of assets.

Preventative maintenance of assets will reduce long term costs, maintain a safe and attractive property as well as extend the life of items like electrical and mechanical equipment; asphalt; and doors and windows. Consider the following preventative maintenance tasks in the plan.

Plumbing - clean and inspect common drains routinely using a bore scope camera to document condition and locate problem areas for repair before they leak.

Electrical - professional licensed inspection of common electrical panels and contacts to locate hot spots and loose contacts before component failure and potential fires. Tight clean contacts reduce electricity costs also.

Asphalt - seal coating surfaces to maintain water seal and reduce drying delays high cost surface replacement. Water intrusion accelerates deterioration with spalling, uplifts and provides media for vegetation root damage. Heat and sunlight "cook" the surface to dry crumbling pot holed condition.

Doors and windows - besides pre-paint inspection and caulking to maintain frame to exterior surface water seal, lubrication and rust prevention are key tasks. Lubrication of locks, latches, hinges and crank moving parts with dry silicone lubricants (oil lubricants attacks abrasive grit) will extend the life.

Metal hand rail and fence - the top rail usually has full sun exposure just like an automobile. Waxing the surface with a good quality auto wax is recommended by railing manufacturers. Oiling with light oil after cleaning has been successful also.

Landscaping building contact - maintain adequate clearance between building surfaces and landscaping. Wind blown tree branch movements act like scouring pads on roofing and paint. Pest inspectors recommend maintaining 10" or greater clearance to prevent rodent and insect access. Maintaining 1-1/2" - 2" clearance from ground and wood framing and exteriors deters termites. Open areas around buildings also enhance air circulation reducing moisture and high humidity exposure to exterior walls reducing wood rot and water damage.

Paint and Stucco - Clean and inspect surfaces periodically filling cracks and touching up areas to maintain water seal between scheduled major reseal projects.

Sump pumps and lift stations - periodic cleaning, inspection and small repairs avoid interruption of service with consequential damage.

Flat roofs and low slope roofs - clean and inspect for leaks at least annually to maintain clear gutters, good drainage and to repair deteriorated small areas.

Coated decks - clean, inspect and repair seal to prevent water intrusion. Costly concrete spalling repairs is avoided with this type of maintenance.

Boards should develop a scheduled maintenance program with a written checklist of maintenance items clearly stating: the task to be performed, when or how often to perform, and who is responsible to perform the task. The program needs monitoring by at least one Board member. Recently an elderly fixed income apartment owner stated "When the people come to inspect whether my toilet leaks or the washer hoses need replacement, I shut the supply valves off at the wall prior to the announced visit. The inspectors never flush the toilet and don't find any leaks I will have to pay to repair. I'm not sure they know what they are looking for either". The lesson is that preventative maintenance programs can not be assumed to function. Evaluate the program by periodic walk through inspections of the items listed above at a minimum.

Summary: The Board of Directors needs to consider preventative maintenance programs as a positive means to control costs, while maintaining a safe good appearance property. The owners will appreciate the long term cost savings. Low risk exposure to consequential property damage, interruption of services, legal claims, and insurance claims is another benefit.

About the Author: Mike Price - CAI Reserve Specialist #164 and former President of Association Reserves Hawaii LLC, provides independent third party comprehensive reserve studies for all Islands. Mr. Price has a bachelor degree from Eastern Washington University and over 30 years experience in construction and project management. He holds the CMCA and AMS designations as a past condominium Site Manager and General Manager. Mr. Price can be contacted at mprice@akamaireserves.com or (808) 936-4789.