Routine winter parking garage maintenance helps protect your patrons and your parking structure. And while plowing and de-icing are necessary in areas that see significant snowfall each year, they can accelerate deterioration if done incorrectly.
How to avoid winter damage
The best way to prevent winter damage is through comprehensive training on proper parking garage snow removal. Our service clients receive annual winter maintenance training to help their staff manage snow and ice safely, including how to use snow melting materials and equipment, apply chemicals, plow and remove snow from a parking garage.
Experts in repairing winter damage
It’s our goal to provide you with long-term solutions that reduce the need for large-scale repairs. We’ve identified several common — but avoidable — types of winter damage. With help from a StructureCare expert, your team can better manage winter conditions to maximize the life of your garage.
Shortened service life
Waterproofing systems like sealants, traffic coatings and expansion joints have a service life that’s less than your garage. Wear and tear from plows can shorten it even more, especially on the roof where snow is piled to melt.
To keep your parking structure as clear as possible, it’s tempting to pile all the snow into one area. Snow is heavy, often weighing much more than the design load of your structure can handle. This can lead to structural issues.
Improper parking garage snow removal can lead to structural repairs. For example, plow equipment might contact your garage or might pile snow against a wall, pushing a load-bearing member away from the structure and dislodging the wall.
When de-icing chemicals — particularly chlorides — penetrate concrete structures, they actually change the chemistry within the concrete. It’s important to apply these chemicals properly to minimize damage to your parking garage.
There’s the potential for an ice dam to form when snow is piled over a drain. Snow melts during the day but refreezes at night, completely plugging the drain and no longer allowing any water to drain.
Leave restoration consultants behind
We get it. Parking garage repairs can take a lot of time and a lot of budget — especially with traditional engineering consultants and contractors. But with the StructureCare approach, you know the full cost of the work upfront. Once we agree on the scope of your project, you’ll never be charged for unexpected setbacks. Plus, we manage every vendor from start to finish, so you’re free to focus on the needs of your customers.
The Value and Benefit of Predictive Maintenance
Generally speaking, parking structure repair becomes top-of-mind for parking structure owners and parking management companies when there’s a problem — or worse, when they’re informed of a problem by someone else. With predictive maintenance, the surprises are eliminated, including damages, associated costs and unexpected downtime.
Predictive vs. preventative
Preventative maintenance is probably already a familiar term. It’s simply using past knowledge to stop larger repairs from being needed via routine, expected maintenance. As part of our business model, it helps parking structure owners with keeping repair costs down.
Predictive maintenance takes it a step further. Predictive maintenance assesses everything about a structure and uses that information (alongside our existing knowledge) to make informed predictions about what’s needed over the next three to five years. Predictive maintenance, unlike preventative maintenance, is based on figuring out what could happen to a structure due to how it was built, where it is and what it might experience.
A note to keep in mind, here: Most parking structure owners think that predictive maintenance isn’t really needed for a newly constructed garage. That’s not the case. In fact, the best time to start a predictive maintenance program is just after construction is finished.
The biggest benefit of performing a predictive audit on your newly constructed garage is that we may find issues that are still covered under warranty. Most parking structures come with a one-year warranty from the general contractor, so if we find a construction issue, like poor concrete cover, fixing it may be covered at no cost to you. Construction issues like these can accelerate deterioration, and that means a much shorter life for your garage and more potential repairs. By catching issues early, predictive maintenance can cut down on those problems and extend your parking structure’s service life.
The true cost of deferred maintenance
“Cost of deferral” is a term we use a lot at StructureCare. Simply put, it’s what can happen when small repairs aren’t made, leading to larger, costlier repairs. There are three types of service that a parking structure needs:
Interim maintenance: These are routine, small-ticket things that need to be done for a garage to be kept in good condition — your basic parking garage maintenance.
Service life replacements: This is the process of keeping up with items that have a limited service life, like waterproofing systems. These items wear down over time, so replacing them regularly is important.
Repairs and restoration: These range from relatively small to time-consuming, expensive repairs. Small or large, these types of projects are almost always avoidable when routine maintenance and service life replacements schedules are kept.
The good news is that we’ve found keeping up with the first two items on the list above makes the third item almost nonexistent for parking structure owners. And that’s what we’re talking about when we refer to “cost of deferral.” If interim maintenance and service life replacement is not done regularly, a parking garage will need repair and restoration. And that comes with a lot more cost and time. But keeping up with interim maintenance and service life replacements lets your approach to maintenance be routine and predictable, not reactionary.
Predictive maintenance in action
Predictive maintenance is an ongoing process that investigates not only how a parking structure was built but what is affecting it today and can potentially affect it in the future. It helps uncover the underlying cause of a problem instead of just the symptom, allowing for a long-term fix. Predictive maintenance strategies also evaluate the effectiveness of previous repairs while proactively monitoring and addressing service life replacement needs.
On top of that, a predictive approach assesses structural maintenance and repair strategies for value. By making sure to maximize repair and maintenance dollars, predictive maintenance can reveal the cost of addressing repair needs now compared to the cost of deferral.
In short, predictive maintenance is a program that looks at likely areas of accelerated deterioration, investigates likely areas where deterioration can occur and plans maintenance and upkeep to maximize the value of repair costs.
The entirety of predictive maintenance hinges on proactive solutions, reducing risks and managing life cycle costs. At StructureCare, we condense these ideas into anticipate, mitigate and control.
Anticipate — For our service contract clients, we perform a combination of full-scale assessments, field investigations and reviews. We use our findings to develop strategies to mitigate the root cause of any problems and help our clients prioritize the work that needs to be done.
Mitigate — When StructureCare finds a problem, we move into the mitigate phase. This is where we complete preventative repairs and maintenance.
Control — With both the anticipate and mitigate steps in place, you gain control over the future of your parking structure. Control, in this case, means you can plan for repairs with less disruption to operation, stretch your budget further and not wake up to a big, costly problem.
Predictive maintenance, at its core, is about making decisions rather than responding to issues. Slowing down the rate of deterioration, managing life cycle costs and maximizing service life all lead to the best return on maintenance investment.
Why predictive maintenance is so valuable
Predictive maintenance is all about time. Without it, you’re stuck reacting to problems — and typically not at a time that is convenient. When you’re focused on interim repair and service life replacement instead (discovered in the “anticipate” phase and handled in the “mitigate” phase explained above), you aren’t just responding to problems. You have time to plan out when repairs are going to happen.
For example, with predictive maintenance, you can plan to install a new waterproofing treatment on your schedule. Instead of an emergency repair that shuts down your garage during your busiest month, you can look ahead and select a slower period when this service life replacement will happen. That way, you avoid an emergency leak situation, minimize disruption and can budget for the repair.
Another big benefit of predictive maintenance is how much it can extend the life of your parking structure. Typically, a garage’s service life is 70 to 75 years, and neglect can drastically reduce it. But with a predictive maintenance program in place, parking garage owners can see double or triple the service life of a neglected garage.
Predictive maintenance also helps you maximize the use of your garage. If even a part of your garage is in bad shape, it may take hundreds of parking spaces out of use, which costs you revenue. By keeping up with maintenance and addressing issues proactively, you ensure the whole structure is usable for the long term. And although you’re going to spend more consistently on maintenance over the life of your parking structure, it’s still far less than you’d spend tearing down and rebuilding a brand-new garage.
How to get started
Getting started with predictive maintenance can seem huge, but the truth is the right partner can help. Instead of depending on an assortment of groups (structural contractors, engineering firms, project managers, consultants, etc.), it’s best to find a single partner who can own everything. And that’s what we do — from assessing a parking structure to inspection and repair. With one partner who owns the program, predictive maintenance becomes the key to unlocking the longevity of a parking structure. Partner with us for a predictive audit of your parking structure. From there, we’ll work with you to determine maintenance and repair strategies and discuss what practices and structural preservation systems can be put in place to avoid more costly repair work in the future. Plus, we’ll educate your training and maintenance staff so they can spot issues and get them resolved faster and more accurately.
A New Approach to Parking Garage Repair Contractors
You notice a problem in your garage. Maybe a crack has formed in a concrete pillar. Maybe a patron complained about staining on their car. Or maybe you’ve noticed that your parking structure leaks after a heavy rain. Now that you’ve identified a potential problem, the next question is — who do you call?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t always obvious. What you see on the surface might not be the root cause of the problem. And completing superficial fixes in lieu of what’s actually needed can lead to more expensive repairs down the line. So, how do you get started when you need a repair?
The traditional approach to finding a contractor
- There are many different types of contractors who may need to get involved in maintenance and repairs, depending on the scope of work. And at times, hiring parking garage repair contractors won’t be enough. You may also need to get an engineering firm, project manager and even a consultant involved.
- But working with multiple vendors can get tricky fast. First, it can be hard to make sure they’re all communicating with each other — and with you. Each vendor may have a different communication process, and unless you’re heavily involved in the work that’s being done, you may not always be aware of who’s talking to whom. For instance, have the structural contractors verified that they can execute the plans from the engineer? And if they haven’t, who’s following up on it?
- That also brings us to the issue of accountability. If something doesn’t go as planned, someone has to sort out who’s responsible for fixing the issue. In traditional parking garage maintenance and repair processes, that task typically falls on the facility manager and can require hours of back-and-forth, which may lead to change orders that eat into your annual budget.
- Additionally, the construction of your parking garage may play a role in what contractors you need. A precast parking garage will have different considerations versus a cast-in-place garage, so it’s important to find experts who specialize in the services you need. For example, certain waterproofing contractors may be highly experienced in applying elastic joint sealants in a precast structure, but they may not be as experienced in applying topical sealers.
The streamlined approach to choosing a contractor
So, with all those considerations in mind, how do you find parking garage repair contractors (and other necessary service providers) with the right mix of expertise, responsiveness and ownership? You could put together your own team, making phone calls, coordinating separate organizations and managing the work yourself. But there’s an alternative approach: Find a partner who manages it all for you.
When you partner with StructureCare, we serve as a single point of contact for parking garage maintenance and repairs. In fact, you don’t even need to determine what the problem is. If you see something that concerns you, simply contact us and we’ll come out to diagnose the problem right away.
After we’ve identified the root cause of the issue, we’ll make a customized, engineering-led recommendation on how to fix it. We’ll even provide a timeline and a price quote, guaranteeing that the price we’ve quoted for the scope of work won’t change even if we run into unexpected challenges after we get started.
Once you’ve signed off on the plan, our team owns the whole process. We’ve established relationships with the best firms in the industry — from parking garage restoration contractors to concrete repair contractors — and we’ll coordinate any onsite work that needs to happen. We’re also fully accountable for delivering the project on time and within budget. That means if something doesn’t go as planned, we’re committed to making it right with no extra effort on your part.
Our streamlined approach gives you a single point of contact for concerns, questions and problems related to your parking garage. We’ll also communicate the status of ongoing projects as often (or as little) as you’d like. And without the need to coordinate structural contractors, engineers and other outside vendors, you’ll have more time to focus on the day-to-day operations at your facility and the needs of your customers.
How to Handle Parking Structure Weather Challenges Year-Round
Weather resiliency, or the ability of a structure to withstand weather events, has become increasingly important as weather patterns change and become more severe. But even without severe weather, parking structures will face plenty of challenges thanks to rain, snow, extreme heat and wind.
There are two ways to look at responding to the environment. The first, and more costly, is to only address weather-related damage when it happens. The other is to proactively plan and prepare for it, saving money and time and increasing the service life of your garage.
Common weather challenges
Water is perhaps one of the most frequent environmental challenges to a parking garage. Water can degrade concrete and seep into supporting metal structures, causing rust and delamination, while salt from marine environments can cause accelerated corrosion. A little bit of water might not seem like a big problem, but it’s important to keep in mind that years of water penetration, without treatment, creates cumulative damage to your parking structure. Ultimately, this leads to much bigger, much more expensive fixes. That’s why keeping up garage waterproofing efforts is so important.
Damage from snow can happen in a few different ways. Overloading due to piled snow can put more weight on your structure than the design allows. And plow damage can happen when a plow piles snow against a load-bearing wall, pushing it away from the structure and dislodging it, which could cause structural damage and the need for emergency repair. Likewise, chemical damage is possible if a garage is improperly treated for snow and ice.
Extreme heat can cause a structure to expand and contract in ways that, if not considered during building, may result in cracking and oxidation. Likewise, waterproofing sealants and coatings may crack apart in the heat, which means the next time it rains, your parking structure isn’t protected.
Your every-season checklist
Being proactive when facing weather challenges throughout the year can mean the difference between expensive, unplanned repairs and routine, expected maintenance as part of your weather resiliency plan. An important part of weather resiliency, and one that’s often overlooked, is maintenance staff training. If your maintenance staff doesn’t know how to identify, address or avoid common weather-related challenges, your parking garage will continue to deteriorate or experience unexpected damage from weather-related incidents.
Outside of training, however, there are specific ways to address weather-related issues throughout the year.
The biggest challenge with spring is rain. So, take steps to make sure your garage is ready.
- Check for water damage and pooling near drains and other low-lying areas.
- Watch for leaks during heavy rainstorms and schedule repairs, if needed.
- Perform an inspection to uncover and address any new winter damage.
- Look for cracks in the concrete, chipping in topical waterproofing coatings and any damage to joints.
Summer certainly comes with the challenge of rain, but it can also mean heat waves and severe storms.
- On very hot days, check on joints and waterproofing coatings for cracking and flaking.
- Check for water pooling and leaks after heavy rains.
- Perform an inspection for structural damage after severe storms.
Fall can bring any number of challenges, including rain, snow, cold and heat. But this is also the time to prepare for winter maintenance.
- Check drains for debris buildup and clear any clogs.
- Inspect waterproofing surfaces after large temperature fluctuations.
- Prepare your team for the colder months with winter maintenance training.
The biggest concerns for a parking garage during winter are snow and ice. But with training and preparation, you can overcome these challenges.
- Inspect joints and surfaces after snow cleanup or ice removal for accidental damage to joints or parking garage deck waterproofing.
- Lessen the chance of damage by clearly marking joints for easy identification during snow removal.
- Check for ice buildup in unexpected places, like wall joints or drains.
- Ensure snow piles are not heavier than your parking structure can handle.
- Use de-icers to prevent slip-and-fall injuries.
- Make sure your maintenance crew applies de-icers correctly to lessen the risk of corrosion.
- Communicate with third-party contractors about joint locations and where to pile snow.
A partner that’s ready year-round
Being ready for what the weather has to dish out can be challenging, but that’s what StructureCare is here for. With our extensive knowledge and experience, we can help you develop a proactive maintenance plan that accounts for extreme weather and typical wear-and-tear. Plus, we can help train your staff to look for the signs of weather-related deterioration long before they become much bigger problems.
After a severe weather event, we can also come to your parking garage and determine what damage occurred and how to handle it quickly. We’ll even coordinate all third-party contractor repair communication. Our job is to make sure your parking garage is ready every season of the year so you don’t need to worry about every dark cloud on the horizon.