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5 common commercial property maintenance problems to look out for

Brendan Childs |   April 4, 2019 at 9:01 PM

5 common commercial property maintenance problems to look out for

Commercial property facilities maintenance shouldn't be about reacting to large scale problems or emergencies. Instead, a good commercial property facilities manager will be on the lookout for potential problems and respond proactively to avoid them getting bigger (and costlier!).

As with most things in life, it is better to get in early when it comes to property maintenance issues before they become logistical nightmares. No one wants to deal with the aftermath of an Opal Tower situation!

Here are 5 seemingly small problems to watch out for before they become big, scary and expensive problems:

Property maintenance issue 1: Concrete Cancer

While it sounds dire, depending on just how severe the damage is, concrete cancer can be fixed relatively easily in some cases.

Concrete is a porous material which absorbs the elements around it, including carbonic acid which comes from the corrosion of steel and iron reinforcing. The exposure of steel and iron bars to air and water cause this corrosion. Once corrosion has begun the steel will also expand causing cracks in the concrete called 'spalling'. Spalling can then cause further corrosion by exposing the steel and iron to more air and water. Clearly, this can have a severe effect on the structural integrity of a building.

Telltale signs of concrete cancer include:

  • Cracking or crumbling
  • Rust stains
  • Outwardly expanding concrete
  • Bubbling concrete render
  • Leaks in roofs or internal walls

The common causes of concrete cancer are poor waterproofing, building defects, weather, salt water (in structures near the ocean), poor quality concrete and movement of the earth leading to cracks.

There are a few different types of treatment for concrete cancer, and the sooner the problem is picked up the better when it comes to rectifying the issue. The different types of treatment also depend on the root cause of the building's concrete cancer. Options include a polymer modified repair system for issues related to low concrete cover of concrete carbonation or the more complex rectification process involving electrochemical treatment required for problems associated with chloride contamination.

Property maintenance issue 2: Foundation failure

The structural integrity of your building is at risk without a solid foundation. There are a few signs to look out for which may indicate there are issues with your foundations:

  • Cracks - cracks can appear in the exterior or interior walls, and gaps can arise between the fascia and roof. While cracks could turn out to be minor, some may be serious signs of foundation troubles.
  • Warped floors - cracked floor tiles, buckled floorboards or bunching carpet can all be signs there is a problem in the foundation.
  • Trouble opening and closing windows and doors - ill-fitting doors or sliding windows getting stuck can indicate the building is out of line.

When it comes to your building foundation, it's better to be safe than sorry. Don't let minor problems become major ones by overlooking something right in front of you.

Property maintenance issue 3: Efflorescence

Efflorescence is the term used to describe the white, crusty mineral salts which may appear on concrete, render, brick or mortar surfaces. These deposits leach out from the substrate as moisture moves through it.

Efflorescence will only stop building up when the movement of moisture through the substrate ends. Unless the source of the moisture is determined and eliminated, the white crystalline deposits will continue to reappear. Over time these deposits can damage any coating of paint on the surface.

Even small amounts of efflorescence must be removed before painting. Remove with a stiff, dry brush followed by a mild detergent and a water rinse. In more severe cases, hire an experienced contractor to remove the efflorescence to ensure your new paint job doesn’t go to waste. Remember, you must eliminate the moisture source to ensure efflorescence doesn't return.

Property maintenance issue 4: Leaks

A leak can quickly cause severe water damage to both a building structure and everything inside it. That's why the sooner you detect and deal with a leak the better. The quicker you rectify the situation, the less likely further damage caused by water, mould or mildew will happen.

Don't wait for a leak to appear! A regular inspection schedule is your best bet to avoid big trouble down the line. Check your building's roof and guttering systems, looking out for weathered, damaged or broken materials. Also inspect your internal ceilings for leaks, stains, rot or any other damage. Mould and mildew are both signs moisture could be wreaking havoc. Additionally, check any exposed plumbing inside and outside routinely. If anything looks amiss, consider calling in an expert to assess the problem.

Property maintenance issue 5: Lead paint

The lead in paint is only an issue if it is damaged or disturbed. Well maintained lead paint which is not flaking or chalking doesn't present a hazard. However, exposure to even tiny amounts of lead in old paint coatings is a dangerous health risk and should be taken seriously. Regularly checking the condition of your paint is a commercial property maintenance must.

You're most likely to find lead-based paint in buildings built pre-1970, and most commonly it will be located on:

  • window and door frames
  • skirting boards
  • cupboards
  • exterior walls
  • gutters
  • fascias
  • metal surfaces

It's also possible lead-based paint may be under layers of more recently applied paint.

If you're concerned or thinking of painting your pre-1970s building, it's good practice to test for lead paint. Quality commercial painting contractors are able to complete this testing for you. Any testing must be completed with the utmost care so be sure to read the instructions well.

Repainting over lead-based paint is an alternative to removal. However, you should only paint over surfaces that are in good condition - no flaking or chalking should be present. Whenever you are working with lead-based paint, attention to proper workplace health and safety is imperative. Note that painting over lead paint is not a lasting solution.

A permanent and safe option is Higgins’ lead abatement. This is a process of safely reducing lead paint hazards. Depending on the project this includes paint removal or encapsulation, whereby hazardous coatings are sealed with specialised coatings.

Decided to call in the professionals for your commercial property maintenance problem? You'll want to download our Workplace health and safety guidelines for working with painting and maintenance contractors to understand your responsibilities.

Get your WHS guide and checklist

Higgins Coatings is Australia's premier commercial painting contractor with over 70 years of experience in providing cost-effective painting and tailored maintenance solutions to a broad range of industries including hospitals, aged care, schools, and strata. If you need quality painting services delivered on time and within budget, contact us today for a consultation.