Winter is Coming! Here’s Your Comprehensive Fall Checklist for Winterizing Your Commercial Building – Updated for 2019

The unforgiving cold, snow, and ice of winter can cause serious (and expensive) damage to commercial properties if you do not adequately prepare for it.

Water damage, unwanted critters, rusting metal, rotting wood, cracks and holes in brick and concrete, escaping heat, frozen pipes…

Is your building ready?

Over the last 15 years, Strada Real Estate has developed a comprehensive fall checklist for winterizing commercial buildings, and we’re sharing that checklist with you, updated for 2019.

Here is a list of the things you should be doing to prepare your commercial building for winter, based off the list our own highly trained technicians use: 

  1. Check and clean all building gutters and downspouts. Pull out all the leaves and debris that are clogging the building’s gutters and downspouts. Clogged gutters prevent water from draining off the roof, which can cause serious water damage! While cleaning, look for and tighten any loose components that could cause leaks.

  2. Inspect all roof drains for dried and cracked sealant. Roof drains are typically forgotten about when preparing for winter. Roof drains with dried and cracked sealant were repaired long ago and are a future water damage hazzard. Remove the old sealant and apply new sealant to prevent water intrusion. Similarly, sealant around skylights should be inspected and resealed if dried, cracked, or split in any way.

  3. Inspect the roof itself for cracks and splits. Cracks and splits in the roofing are difficult to find if there is ballast (rock) in place. The rocks must be carefully moved to obtain a good view.

  4. Inspect the building’s corner joints for cracks and splits. Caulk the cracks and splits to prevent water from entering the building’s interior walls. This is best completed in cool, dry conditions.

  5. Remove all leaves and debris from sewers and drains located on the property.  These areas must also be kept clear for water to drain properly. Any water that doesn’t drain properly could ice over and block the sewers and drains.

  6. Remove all sprinkler hoses and spray nozzle devices from the exterior of the building.  Drain, clean, and roll up all outdoor hoses and store them inside to protect them from the elements. Also remove all water from decorative fountains, bird baths and other outdoor containers so it doesn’t freeze and crack when it thaws. Be sure to have landscape services vacate all underground sprinkler piping and heads to prevent pipe bursts.
  7. Insulate all interior water piping that is exposed or close to exterior walls.  This will reduce freezing of pipes or pipe splits. Where there are excessive cold temperatures or infiltration, heat tapes may be required to fully prevent broken or frozen water lines.

  8. Inspect all flashings on rooftop HVAC units and skylights. Make sure there are no cracks by tightening or repairing loose pieces.

  9. Inspect all rooftop HVAC unit drain pans for water build up. A clogged condensate line will cause water to build up in the drain pan. It’s important to correct this problem to protect the HVAC equipment and avoid unnecessary repair costs, while also preventing water damage to the building. Also, utility boots for rooftop HVAC equipment should be freshly caulked.

  10. Inspect all furnace vent terminations and air intakes for cracks, small animals or damage. For metal furnace venting, inspect for pitting and deterioration. Where plastic vent pipe is installed, inspect runs and fitting for cracks or loose joints where heat can escape.

  11. Inspect all exterior door frames and all window frames (both interior and exterior sides).  Door or window frames and seals that are worn, rusted or damaged will need to be replaced and/or recaulked. Door and window repairs should be completed before the heating season begins. Otherwise, you may notice the building is not easy to warm up, or you may receive a high electric/gas bill!

  12. Inspect attic areas for proper insulation placement. Insulation should never be compressed. Add loose insulation fill where there are low areas of insulation or compaction to help ensure efficient heating.

  13. Remove accumulations of salt and debris underneath doors. Sweeping the door thresholds on a regular basis allows doors to open and close easily. It also reduces air infiltration into the building from doors that are stuck open during the winter. Lubricating all door hinges during winter months is also a good idea to keep doors opening and closing easily.

  14. Have a small inventory of snow melt on hand at the property. While the primary source for snow removal should be a snow removal contractor, it’s always a good idea to have snow melt on hand to de-ice walkways.

  15. Paint all exposed metal or wood surfaces. Water causes metal to rust and wood to crack, blister, peel, rot, flake and warp. The paint helps seal and protect the surfaces from this damage.

  16. Ensure all sump pump covers are properly placed. This reduces small animal migration into buildings.

  17. Enclose all exterior electrical outlets and electrical boxes. Weatherproof covers keep moisture and dirt from compromising outlets and electrical boxes.

  18. Inspect all exterior walls and masonry, such as chimneys, for tuckpointing repairs. Any chips or holes can allow moisture to be absorbed by the bricks and mortar, and during the winter, this moisture freezes and expands, further breaking down the masonry and creating progressively larger and larger holes and cracks. The freeze-thaw cycle can cause significant damage and deterioration in as little as one winter. We recommend using a concrete and masonry sealant as a protective top layer on exterior concrete and masonry walls.

  19. Repair concrete cracks in sidewalks and stairs as well as asphalt potholes in parking lots and driveways. These repairs are a great preventive measure against further damage that can occur throughout the freeze-thaw cycles of winter.

The good news is there is still time to prepare, but the first days of fall mean you should start checking off these items. 

If you’re not sure who can take care of these tasks for you, give us a call at 630.325.9301 or email us at



Photo from NIU Business under the creative commons license.


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