Spring has arrived, which is good news after what has felt to many like a particularly hostile winter. In a community association or multifamily building, spring also brings a number of seasonal maintenance and sprucing-up projects that can vary, depending on the shape and size of one’s particular property. Some communities’ spring checklist may just consist of removing winter debris from the tree pits and planters out front. Others may have to coordinate cleaning and prepping swimming pools, tennis courts or playgrounds; clearing clogged drains; power-washing the facade; or even repainting the entire exterior if the board is feeling ambitious and the budget can absorb the expense.
No matter your particular situation, a well-coordinated schedule can help a spring cleanup go like clockwork. The earlier management and board get together to collaborate on a plan, the more efficient this endeavor will be.
While the winter may prohibit an association from actually engaging in any major outdoor projects, it is the perfect time to hatch a plot for when the weather is more likely to be cooperative.
“The best thing that a board can do to prepare for the spring is to fight the urge to defer reviewing details or making decisions related to upcoming capital repair needs,” advises Brian Butler, Vice President of Property Management with FirstService Residential in Chicago. “If boards wait until the spring thaw comes to begin making decisions and hiring contractors, they’ll often find that the schedules for the work are tighter and pricing may be higher than had they made those decisions during the fall or winter months.”
The exterior of an association property is both what visitors and passers-by are going to see first, as well as the primary target for the elements throughout the winter, so any thorough spring cleaning endeavor should start with the outside surfaces.
“A list of work for basic maintenance in preparation for spring will depend on the specific property and its unique needs,” notes James Maistre, an executive agent with Veritas Property Management in New York City. “But any association will want to perform some routine tasks, including cleaning their grounds of leaves and debris to prep for landscaping, and cleaning windows – although serious exterior cleaning of the latter should be handled by professionals.”
“Changing out old and dilapidated-looking signs can make things look a bit more sharp without requiring an association to hire an outside vendor,” adds Ellen Brown Martinez, Vice President of C&S Community Management Services, which has offices throughout Florida. “Of course, the making of the signs themselves will most likely involve someone outside of the association. In general, it’s important to note that anything that requires a licensed contractor should not be performed in house, unless whomever on staff is doing the work themselves actually has a license.”
An adept manager can help a board determine the nature and extent of needed spring work, as well as the best way to prioritize and schedule service calls. “Our office is equipped to get estimates and coordinate and oversee various types of subcontractors, including painters, power washers, landscapers, masons, plumbers, and more,” says Don Cabrera, Owner of Cabrera Companies in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey. “Our company also coordinates necessary inspections with contractors for annual spring preventive maintenance for things like pool and spa equipment. We generally accompany and provide instruction and oversight to all contractors. Additionally, we can perform touch-up painting, pressure washing and minor landscaping, depending on the size of the job, property and required man hours.”
If the winter weather has been particularly harsh, an association may need to deal with issues beyond just fallen twigs and grubby signage. “Winter ice damming can be especially damaging to roofs,” says Butler. “An association should engage a roofing expert to conduct regular inspections to better identify necessary repairs to avoid further water infiltration when the spring arrives in force.”
Into the Woods
Some associations are more sprawling than others, and those that occupy vast plots of land may require more consideration as the days warm than those associations occupying urban spaces.
“Our condominium association consists of 21 units in four buildings over 42 acres,” says Gordon Crosson, Manager of Oyster River Condominium Association in Lee, New Hampshire. “We’re not far from the University of New Hampshire, but we’re in a heavily-wooded area with walking trails and the like. As far as spring is concerned, we have a contract with a landscaper who does both our snow plowing and our lawn service, so he’ll come out to do what we refer to as a ‘cleanup’ toward the top of the season. We also have a group we call the Beautification Committee that changes the flowers around four lamp posts that we have scattered throughout the property, as well as the big flower bed with a granite display at the entrance of the property that displays our community’s name. [The committee] also provides peat moss and loam for owners to use at their discretion to spruce up their own flower beds – particularly those in the back of their units.
“Last year we purchased a brush mower, so we handle a lot of our own perimeter cutting during the year, which we’ll also do come the spring,” Crosson continues. “We prune many of our trees, as well as some bushes. Once spring gets going, we have some painting work that we’ll do. It’s a small enough community where everybody knows everyone else and enjoys lending a helping hand. We occasionally have some new faces move in, and we strive to get them involved as much as we’re able.”
Once the exterior of a property is looking fresh enough to will sunny, 62-degree days into being, a building or association can tackle any necessary interior work.
Maistre suggests that a board look to clean carpets; strip, deep-clean and/or polish tiles in entryways and lobby areas; touch up paint on walls, doors and trims; clean light fixtures, interior windows and air ducts. “The latter, along with marble floor tiles, should be handled by professionals,” he makes sure to point out.
“Any elevators should be inspected, and fire safety and suppression measures should be taken care of,” adds Cabrera.
Boards should also brace themselves – because as soon as the weather turns, it’s moving season. “Spring is usually busy for people moving in and out of properties, so association staff should prepare heavily-trafficked service areas by installing fresh corner guards and ensuring that elevator pads are in good condition to better protect the cabs,” says Butler. “These steps can save thousands of dollars in repairs after the moving season is over.
“Also, the rain that comes with spring can often result in wet lobbies with slippery conditions,” Butler continues. “In-house staff should replace worn lobby floor mats, inspect seals around common area windows and doors, and confirm that building drainage systems are free of debris or blockages.”
Springtime is lovely – but it can also be a lot of work. By planning ahead, prioritizing tasks, and delegating to committees of committed residents, your building or HOA can make seasonal cleanup easier and smoother – and spend more of your time enjoying the return of sunshine and warmer weather.
Mike Odenthal is a staff writer/reporter for New England Condominium.