Quick wins for winter

Kevin Marshall from Cardoe Martin looks at some aspects of your block that will need extra attention during the winter months

In an ideal world, we should all be working in line with a carefully prepared planned maintenance programme (PMP) sometimes called a capital expenditure plan or capex. The importance of this document cannot be over emphasised as it underpins the maintenance and management strategy for your property and in most cases avoids the need for sudden unexpected works.

However, for many reasons owners and managers may find they are facing the winter without these preparations - perhaps recently having assumed control of the block from others.  Don’t panic, here are some simple ideas to help minimise potential problems.

Commission a  PMP/capex    

As soon as you are able, why not seek quotations from experienced surveyors to carry out a survey on your building and prepare the relevant reports as covered in greater detail in the last issue? This survey alone ought to help identify any aspects of the property in urgent need of repair before the worst of winter is upon us.

Check roofs, terraces and balconies etc

By far the most common problem that buildings suffer over the winter months is that of water ingress. Often some simple preventative action is all that’s needed to avoid leaks and other issues.

If the building has any flat roofs, terraces and balconies check whether these can be safely accessed by site staff or contractors paying particular attention to the provision of safety rails. Assuming safe access is possible, check for the following:

  • Remove any build up of debris, leaves etc which might clog drainage outlets.
  • If there are any exposed pipe runs, deal with any missing insulation that might expose the pipes to freezing.
  • Make a note of any serious faults in the waterproofing such as cracks or lifting seams which might allow water inand arrange their repair.
  • Make sure any rooftop plant rooms are watertight by dealing with ill-fitting doors etc.

Repair paths, steps and railings

That annoying patch of water which stays around after the summer shower might become an icy hazard in the frost, so deal with it now or at worst, make sure it is noted and regularly salted or cordoned off. At the same time make sure all the handrails on steps or slopes are secure and not likely to come away when they are needed most. 

Check your insurance

While we all hope the worst won’t happen, if it did, are you certain you have the right cover? This is a specialist area in its own right but here are some things to consider.

Check with your broker that the policy has public liability cover to deal with the claim for that slip on the ice.

Look at whether you have correct water damage cover for that flooded balcony.

Most important - look at the level of the current sum insured. The Policy will have a declared value, which means an overall figure to cover the hypothetical situation where a total loss occurred and the building had to be replaced completely. If this is too low, then your premium will be effectively undercharged and in the event of any claim the insurers may apply a pro rata deduction based on the percentage under insured. On the other hand if it’s too high you might be paying more than you need.

Specialist valuations prepared by chartered building surveyors or quantity surveyors provide a reliable basis to use for the sum insured. If this hasn’t been done in recent years give careful thought to getting some quotes for the task and doing it soon.

Prepare for next summer

While we are all feeling the cold, it may seem a long way off but now is a good time to think about any works needed for next summer. With the inherent timescales associated with the various stages of any major works project such as the landlord and tenant process, preparing specifications and obtaining tenders, the warm dry weather will be here sooner than you think. Exterior projects intended for next year, such as painting and repairs or roof works should be planned ahead and contractors sought to make sure works are ready to start as soon as winter is over.

Cardoe Martin Limited are an independent private practice of Chartered Building surveyors based in New Cavendish Street W1. The company covers the full range of building surveying services but have a particular specialism in working with blocks of flats dealing with Major work programs, planned maintenance reports and individual defects investigation.

For further information contact Kevin Marshall BSc (Hons) MRICS, Managing Director, Cardoe Martin Limited


2nd Floor 146 New Cavendish Street London W1W 6YQ

Tel: 020 7563 8900