For most of us, winter is dreary enough without worrying about the grit and grime that often accompanies it. From December through March, the snows that fall require almost non-stop attention, from making sure the sidewalks stay ice-free to keeping the lobbies and common areas slush-free. For maintenance staff and management, the winter months are a never-ending struggle to keep the places we call home clean and safe.
Happily, though, it can be done and in a way that will not break the bank. And it all starts with preparation, usually starting in late September or October but sometimes beginning with the design of the building or common areas. Carpeting, for example, is often a problem area but with the right planning, the headaches can be reduced significantly. “Darker carpets are better than light,” says Barry Lavallee, president of Champion Cleaning in North Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Water from melting snow or even rain tracked in by residents can turn those light carpets yellow over time.
Fortunately, carpet squares offer a handy answer to this type of problem. “There’s a lot more selection in carpets now,” says Lavallee. “If there’s staining, you can pop the square out and replace it. It’s more expensive at the beginning but cheaper to maintain in the long run.”
Design with Winter in Mind
Those buildings or common areas that are designed with winter maintenance in mind also will benefit in the long run. “One thing we do very often is we recess the floor area between the outer and inner doors in order to accept a walk off mat,” says Marc Maxwell, AIA of Maxwell Architects, Inc., in Somerville, Massachusetts. The mats are manufactured from a high-quality synthetic and are sold in rolls or modular tiles in a wide range of colors. “They’re like having a kitchen scrubby as a walking surface,” Maxwell says. The goal is for people “to get two or three steps in that area before they get to the lobby. The mats are expensive but they will save the $30 to $40/square foot carpeting.”
He also suggests a grid technology comprised of metal or metal and carpet or wood slats with a physical drain under that material. This recessed system allows residents and visitors to scrape the winter muck off their shoes. That matter is then dropped into the recessed area below where it will drain. “You often see it in high traffic areas in office vestibules and airports,” Maxwell says. At the end of the day, the custodians can sweep the mat, roll it up and hose out the trough area. “It’s a pretty durable system.” And by concentrating efforts in the vestibule, he adds, “it’s easier for custodians to manage these smaller areas.”