What’s so Special About Specialty Contractors?

The Importance of the Choosing the Right Contractor

To start, let’s look at the big picture.

It’s so critical for you to hire the right contractor because regardless of the quality or cost of a system, the systems are only as effective as the caliber of installation.

Here’s another way to think about it.

Imagine a person who’s terrible at golf. Today they’re borrowing the nicest, most expensive clubs to play with — would you expect them to become a much better golfer suddenly? No.

Even the best golf clubs are worthless in the hands of someone who can’t swing well.

If you have the right repair but the wrong contractor, it’s like handing expensive clubs to a terrible golfer and telling them to shoot par. That’s the significance of hiring the right contractor.

What does it mean to be a specialty contractor?

It means they focus on a very particular area of construction (e.g., masonry, HVAC, framing, and so on).

A specialty contractor is the exact opposite of a jack-of-all-trades.

They have the most expertise and experience with the task they’re hired to do.

Ask potential contractors, “How long have you been doing this specific type of work?”

That’s a first step for ensuring getting an effective caliber of installation.

Why Are Regular Building Envelope Inspections so Important?

Here’s a statement that will sound ridiculously obvious: Nobody (except the occasional teenager) drives their car until it entirely runs out of gas.

When the low fuel light comes on, you become aware that you’ll need to budget some time and money soon to fill your car up.

You do this automatically because you know the alternative (doing nothing) is worse.

Every building has “low fuel warning lights,” but the difference is they’re harder to spot.

Inspections give you the ability to detect those minor problems and prevent them from turning into major ones.

That’s why it’s so critical to do annual inspections. The amount of time, money, stress, and effort you will save by doing them is exponential.

We don’t celebrate every time we fill up before running out of gas.

We don’t high-five our friends when we get an oil change instead of driving until the engine completely breaks.

That’s because the cost savings are so blindingly obvious.

Annual inspections pay for themselves over and over again.

The cost savings are a slam dunk.

In fact, not doing them is probably one of the easiest ways to make your job more difficult and stressful.

How to Use Building Inspections to Make Your Life Easier

Building inspections are the easiest and least expensive way to get started with a preventative maintenance program that gets you results.

A quick building inspection eliminates those expensive and unexpected repairs that give building managers nightmares.

Think about your car for a second. What do you do when your check oil light comes on? You probably don’t panic and immediately head towards the nearest auto shop.

But you make a mental note and plan to get your oil changed soon. One thing nobody does is ignore their oil light until their car breaks down.

Getting your oil changed isn’t fun. It takes some time, is a little inconvenient, and costs a bit of money. But you do it anyway because you know what the consequences are if you don’t.

Essentially, your check oil light is a warning to take action to avoid a bigger problem.

Here’s the thing.

Your building gives you these same warnings.

Unfortunately, no light that pops up. So the key is being able to spot those warnings. That way, you can avoid the impending expensive and surprising repairs.

Why building inspections are so important

Your building is made up of a lot of different parts, and they work together to perform all the normal functions of a building.

Those parts don’t last forever. They need to be maintained and replaced at different intervals, just like a car.

Think about a car’s oil, tires, and brakes. Each one of those items works properly for a different amount of time before needing to be replaced.

In other words, you don’t replace your tires every time you get an oil change.

That’s why it’s so crucial to know the current condition of each of your building components, which is exactly what inspections allow you to do.

The major benefits of building inspections

Like we talked about earlier, your building gives you warning signs that it needs maintenance soon.

Each building component gives you a warning that says, “I’m about to stop working. You can either pay a little now and avoid a big problem. Or you can do nothing. But you’re going to pay a lot and have a big problem later.”

A building inspection assesses the current condition of each building component and determines if these warning signs are present.

When you perform a building inspection, you take all the surprises out of the equation.

That’s because when you know the current condition of your building, you know what maintenance work you’ll need in the future.

Snow Removal 101 | Protect your Parking Structures this Winter

How do you prepare for the winter season?

Having your snow removal provider follow these easy steps helps prevent and minimize unnecessary damage to your parking structures during the winter months.

Snow Removal Helpful Tips:

  • Clearly mark expansion joints in a way that will be visible to the equipment operator when the deck is covered with snow.
  • Establish a snow removal pattern so that the plow blade approaches expansion joints, control joints and tee to tee joints at an angle no greater than 75 degrees.
  • Equip snow plow blades and bucket loaders with shoes or rubber guards that prevent direct contact with the deck surface.
  • Do not pile snow on the deck surface. Piles of snow can exceed the rated load capacity and cause cracking in the concrete deck surface.

Deicing/Salting Tips:

Using chemical deicers to control ice and snow buildup is common. These chemicals can have a major negative effect on the concrete and reinforcing steel. These deicers should be used sparingly. There are several different types of deicers on the market that can be used.  Only use the ones that are recommended by the American Concrete Institute.

  • Sodium Chloride – (Road Salt, Table Salt) This is the most common used salt deicer, it has little effect on concrete however it promotes corrosion in reinforcing steel and other metals. It is not recommended to use this type of deicer.
  • Calcium Chloride – This is a major ingredient in most commercial deicers, it has little effect on concrete but promotes corrosion in reinforcing steel and other metals. It is not recommended to use this type of deicer.
  • Ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate – Use of this deicer will lead to serious concrete deterioration due to direct chemical attack on the reinforcing steel. It is not recommended to use this type of deicer.
  • Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) – Its deicing effects are similar to salt, but it requires more time to melt ice.  It has no adverse effects on concrete or steel reinforcement. If a deicer is required, CMA is the recommended type to be used.

It is important to minimize the amount of deicing chemical applied during the first two years of the concrete being installed. During this time the concrete has an increased permeability which can allow the deicing chemicals to migrate into the concrete more rapidly. As concrete ages and cures, it will become less permeable and chemicals will not penetrate as easily.

It is important to remember that the use of deicing chemicals are not recommended. The following snow & ice treatment measures are recommended in order of decreasing preference.

  1. Clean, plow and scrape off ice and snow; do not use deicing agents.
  2. Use sand to increase traction; when washing down the deck protect the drainage system.
  3. Deice with CMA.

Use a mixture of sand and calcium or sodium chloride but protect the drainage system.

Easy steps to prepare your building's facade and roof for the winter season


Caulking is often overlooked, yet it's the first line of defense in keeping water out of buildings. While caulking material is expected to last 10 to 20 years, it still needs to be checked and installed or replaced where it's deteriorated or missing. Key locations are joints between coping stones on top of parapet walls, around mechanical penetrations, and around windows and doors.


Check for loose, spalling, or missing masonry/concrete elements such as brick, stone, terra cotta, or mortar. Of particular importance are areas that stay wet, which may lead to cracks, deterioration, and/or other defects that may be allowing water to penetrate.


Decaying leaves, pine needles and dirt run-off can all contribute to ponding water and clogged gutters and downspouts, which is why it is essential that all roof drains remain clear of obstructions. In addition to the risk of water pouring into the tenant spaces should a breach in the roof occur, the freezing and thawing of ponding water during the fall and winter months can cause extensive roof damage.

Contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our qualified staff to help with a preventative maintenance plan or to inspect damage.

Garage maintenance tips have been taken from ACI's (American Concrete Institute) guide for structural maintenance of parking structures.

For a more information, please consult ACI 362.2R-00

How to Add Building Envelope Inspections to Your Maintenance Program

Poor building inspections don’t get any respect. People think they're a waste of time or unnecessary.

Maybe it’s because inspections are usually used to find small problems. People don’t have time to look for problems where there appear to be none.

But that’s precisely why they’re so powerful.

Inspections prevent significant problems from ever happening. They give you a clear picture of your current and future maintenance needs, instead of just hoping that you don’t have any expensive repairs this year.

As a building manager, you can control which projects you do and when you do them, instead of system failures putting you in a corner with no options.

Because they prevent significant problems from ever happening, you need to be proactive when it comes to inspections.

A good maintenance program is based on preventing unnecessary costs for owners and avoidable disruptions for your tenants.

Reacting to major problems rarely works. But strategic preventative maintenance does.

For building managers, a solid building inspection plan is one of the first things you’ll want to make sure you have in place. If you’re starting a brand-new maintenance program from scratch, I’d actually recommend that you put building inspections in place even before you make your budget or annual work plan.

First: what’s a building inspection?

It’s when you take an inventory of your major building components and record necessary information about their current condition. Every year, you log each component’s state and compare it to the previous inspection.

That makes a building inspection an excellent tool for making sure small problems don’t turn into expensive repairs. You can track a component’s deterioration over time so that you can intervene before it completely stops working. That way, you can avoid damages to other parts of the building envelope and the interior, which means you’re preventing both unnecessary costs for owners and avoidable disruptions for tenants.

Why would a building inspection ever come before a budget or annual work plan?

The job of the building inspection is to look at the condition of each component, determine if any are in bad shape (so you can prevent an inexpensive problem from turning into a costly one), and identify what needs to be repaired or replaced (so you can efficiently use your budget to lower repair costs next year). That paves the way for a cost-effective maintenance program.

So if you put together your budget and annual work plan, but an emergency repair pops up, to some extent you’ve wasted your effort. On the other hand, if you get a clear picture of what your maintenance needs are to come up with your priorities before anything else is in place, your later work with budgeting and planning can be translated into lower maintenance costs this year and the future.

What kind of information do you need to capture from your building inspection?

The most effective inspections we’ve seen or helped building managers establish all create a traditional “inventory” of building components.

You might do something as simple as taking a picture of the component and comparing it ones from the previous inspection, or you can do what we recommend at Western and involve a specialty contractor or engineer to inspect each component’s condition for you.

A building component inventory should determine the condition of a component and note any changes from the previous inspection. It should also have the component’s age, and it’s typical useful life. That way, you can plan for replacing a component well in advance.

We recommend doing a building inspection once a year, a couple of months before your annual budgets are due. That lets you easily make an accurate budget, and also it gives you reliable information you can take to the owner to ask for more resources if need be. This last point is subtle, but it gives you a tool for improving the bottom line for this year and the future.

Your homework

A simple spreadsheet is a terrific tool for keeping all the information in one place, making it really easy for you to use. Make it simple and easy for you and your team to digest the information at a glance.

Stick to the most essential and useful information — think about if the component’s conditions warrant action this year and what the consequences will be if nothing is done.

Why Building Issues Aren’t Random (and How to Get Ahead of Them)

In this article, we’ll talk about when and why building issues occur. We’ll also go into some tried-and-true methods behind smart maintenance: avoiding unnecessary, expensive repairs that catch you by surprise.

Smart building maintenance is one of the best ways you can make you and your property stand out. A lot of building managers struggle to make their building maintenance efficient and effective, so putting together a great program will genuinely take your property to another level.

Here’s one of the most important aspects of building maintenance that you need to understand

This one element will help you make sense of all the techniques and strategies you’ll be learning here to make a dynamic, cost-effective maintenance program that gets results.

The element you have to internalize is that each building component has what’s called a “useful life expectancy.”

What that means is that each part of your building is designed to work for a designated amount of time before it needs to be maintained or replaced.

Think about your car again.

There’s the engine, breaks, tires, and oil, just to name a few components. Those items are designed to work for different amounts of time.

You don’t wait to get your oil changed until you need new tires. You maintain and replace each of the items at different intervals.

That’s why knowing the current condition of your building components gets you such spectacular results – it’s almost an unfair advantage.

This is key.

Some building managers just react to maintenance problems after they happen

They have no way of knowing when these problems will occur because they have no idea what the condition of each building component is.

They’re flying blind.

Now, if they’re smart and have a proper maintenance plan, people can still have to deal with emergency repairs.

That’s not ideal, but with a proactive building inspection, you can make emergency repairs an infrequent occurrence.

Get a clear understanding of what shape your building is in, so you can anticipate problems before they happen

This isn’t about doing whatever it takes to put out a fire and just pray a huge problem doesn’t pop up soon.

This is the secret that no one really tells you. The whole purpose of preventative maintenance and building inspections is to reduce the amount and size of all your maintenance projects.

Unfortunately, buildings just don’t last forever. You will always need to put some money towards maintaining them.

Here’s what you need to focus on: identify the current condition of your building components, and then, use your budget on the repairs that will prevent the largest, most expensive repairs from ever happening.