When It Comes to Parking Structure Repairs, Don’t Wait

Corrosion in parking structure

There are many factors that may make your building’s maintenance needs different from those of the parking garage just down the street. But all garages require some level of upkeep to ensure they’re safe, functional and able to be maintained cost-effectively. Putting off routine maintenance and small repairs allows deterioration to occur, and that deterioration — if not taken care of in a timely manner — can accelerate and lead to higher overall costs.


Understanding the three levels of parking structure maintenance and repair

There are three levels of maintenance and repair that help keep your parking structure in good condition throughout its service life. The first two items on this list should be completed regularly, and the main idea in doing so is to reduce the likelihood of having to address the third item — large-scale repairs and restoration.

  1. Interim Maintenance

Interim maintenance refers to routine, small tasks you do that are important to the overall health of your garage. If you think of your car, for example, you regularly have the oil changed, get it inspected and take it to the car wash to keep it in good condition.

For your parking garage, this means having the structure inspected frequently to catch any potential issues. Interim maintenance can also refer to completing minor repairs and ensuring your staff is up to date on best practices for chemical use, winter maintenance and other tasks.

  1. Service Life Replacements

Just like tires and brakes on a car have to be replaced periodically, so do your structure’s waterproofing systems, lighting and other items. These are called service life replacements, because these items were never expected to last the life of your garage.

By replacing key systems as they wear out, you’re preventing deterioration from setting in. A waterproofing system, for example, protects your parking structure from leaks, corrosion and water migration through joints, which over time can cause structural damage that’s costly to fix.

  1. Repairs & Restoration

Imagine you’ve owned your car for 20 years and never once changed the oil. Would you be surprised if a mechanic told you the reason you broke down is because the engine needed to be replaced? This category is similar to that situation because, in many circumstances, completing interim maintenance and service life replacements timely and effectively can mitigate the need for large-scale repairs.

When damage reaches this stage, it often gets addressed through structural repairs that take some — or all — of your parking garage out of service. The result is time-consuming repairs, costly projects and, ultimately, lost revenue.


Emergency repairs vs. planned repairs in parking garages

Emergencies can happen at any parking garage, but by keeping up with maintenance, you’re reducing the likelihood of one happening to you. Emergency repairs are unexpected, are unpredictable and can be costly. You often have to address them in a hurry because the consequences could be catastrophic if the issue isn’t resolved.

On the other hand, planned repairs are well-timed, cost-effective and less disruptive. For instance, if you manage a higher education parking structure, you may be able to plan necessary repairs for summer break rather than needing to close a section of your garage mid-semester.

Another way to think of emergencies vs. planned repairs is to compare reactive vs. proactive thinking. You can wait until you — or worse, a customer — notices a problem, or you can get into a routine where you always know the condition of your garage, including how it will impact your budget.


What does the term “cost of deferral” mean for parking structures?

So, as mentioned earlier, time is your biggest enemy when it comes to parking structure deterioration. The term “cost of deferral” means that the cost of repairing your garage goes up exponentially if small issues go unaddressed and are allowed to become larger problems.

Experts can usually identify small, observable symptoms as soon as deterioration begins, which is why regular inspections are so important. Over time, this deterioration accelerates, and what began as a minor issue may turn into a safety concern, potential hazard or structural problem.


Exploring a real parking garage maintenance and repair scenario

Let’s look at a scenario that demonstrates what we mean by “cost of deferral.”

  • After several months of significant rainfall, you notice red staining on one wall of your garage. It seems like a cosmetic problem, so you ignore it. A month later, several customers complain of water dripping onto their cars. You check the area they mentioned, which is near the area with staining, but you don’t observe any active dripping.
  • A few months go by, and you get a call that during a recent rainstorm, water was rushing down an interior wall of your garage. You have someone come out to look at it, but the quote they provide is more than you’d like to pay. Plus, you don’t have time to coordinate repairs, because it’s your busy season.
  • You decide to deal with the issue later. A year later, after a long winter, the red staining on the wall is more significant, and you notice that a large crack has formed in one of the support columns. An expert comes out to look at it and explains that a structural repair is necessary. It will require you to close off two floors of your garage during your busiest season, and the quote is significantly higher than the one you received a year ago. At this point, you must have the crack repaired to avoid a catastrophic failure, so you go ahead with the repair.

If experts had stepped into this scenario sooner, they could have identified the root cause of the water problem. For example, maybe they would have pointed out that joint sealant on the roof had cracked due to age and allowed water to leak between floors. If the joint sealant had been replaced back when the initial staining on the wall was noticed, the problem could have been avoided completely with a minor repair that cost several thousand dollars rather than a large-scale restoration that costs several million.


Predictive maintenance as a solution for parking garage structures

With total neglect, a parking structure may only last one-third of its intended service life. But predictive maintenance can help you maximize your structure’s life while protecting your customers. Predictive maintenance is the process of anticipating problems, mitigating small issues and controlling your garage’s risk factors. It focuses heavily on the first two types of upkeep — interim maintenance and service life replacements — to avoid the need for large restoration projects and eliminate any situations where the “cost of deferral” would come into play.

A predictive maintenance approach identifies potential problems early using inspections and expert observations. Then, those assessments are used to create a prioritized plan for garage owners to follow over the upcoming months and years. This process empowers owners to take control of their budget and improve their understanding of their structure’s long-term maintenance needs.

Although predictive maintenance may increase your monthly maintenance budget, this increase is significantly less than the cost of just one large-scale repair. This process is also appropriate for existing and brand-new structures because it can be used to find design flaws in a recently built garage.

Learn more about how predictive maintenance can help you address issues in a timely manner.

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