When it rains, most people go indoors and hide from it. However, for property managers, board members, and involved community association residents, rain is an opportunity to see their properties from a new perspective. When it rains, the water discharge management systems and components on your home, high rise building, condominium association, time share, or other multi family property are called to action. While it is raining is a great (and only) opportunity to see it all working, in action, and determine if it is not functioning properly. You will not see any of this is your cozy and dry inside.
On your building there are gutters, downspouts, roofs, scuppers, expansion joints, floor surfaces, slopes, and drains, etc. For your landscape and grounds, there are landscape slopes, erosion issues, street drains, drainage culverts, wall surfaces, paint protections, seals, gaskets, windows, doors, French drains, and underground drains and collections boxes, etc. Rain gives your irrigation system a needed rest. And rain feeds your landscape and growing things so much better than irrigation water sources both in volumes and quality.
Digging down into this matter, umbrellas, rain ponchos, and boots are the gear for a property manager on a day suitable for ducks. Even if you do stay inside dry and warm, the phone and emails will ring and ding complaining of something wrong due to the rain you have to deal with. Hiding from it will do no good. The community association client will be better served if you brave the elements and be proactive. Gather your property’s maintenance staff, and do a walk about the property. Bring your camera, phone, whatever you can to document what you see that otherwise does not present itself unless there is substantial rain.
Here are some examples of what you might see during a rain walkabout.
Examine the sides of your building. Looks for cracks in the stucco, wood, or other types of surfaces that are retaining water. They are darker than the rest. These can be small “spider” cracks that are otherwise not visible when it is dry, especially because you are not looking for them. I agree you should not go looking for problems. But when problems present themselves, it is at least good to document them for later actions needed. And as the building begins to dry, that is the absolute best time to examine the condition of your paint. Cracks will retain moisture from the rain longer than a non cracked surface. So taking pictures as the building dries will document every area you will have to address during the next paint job. Small cracks may require elastomeric paint. Large cracks will have to be routed and caulked. Also, as paint ages, the tension on the surface breaks down, and the surface becomes chalky. When dry, you can rub your hand over it, and if you see residue, your paint has broken down, and may need painting soon. During a rain, a chalky surface will also look darker than one that has been freshly painted. The satin, glossy look is working to repel moisture like a waxed car. A chalky surfaces actually sucks in moisture, and your building’ moisture barrier “envelope” has broken down. Caulked joints that are failing will also be easier to see, because mold will begin growing within it, showing all its blackness to the world.
Watch your landscaping for areas that are not getting g enough water and for those that are retaining too much. Too much water creates a “wet feet” situation to the roots of your trees and shrubs. You may see leaves yellowing oddly, and staying that way no matter how much you fertilize. Erosion areas will be easy to see, and you will be better able to identify the cause while you watch the rain create its messes. Trying to determine erosion issues, and their causes when it is dry is only guessing. Without rain you will need a water test, and most tests are not good enough because it is very difficult to create the same volumes of water that a good rain can create and produce.
Gutters and downspouts, and extensions to those are most important to watch. One of the best ways to preserve your properties is to manage your water discharges properly. Water travels from high to low, from roofs, to gutters, to downspouts, to drains. Builders build so they can sell and go away as quickly as possible. Water retention problems takes months and years to develop and show their damages. Don’t ask yourself why a builder would have done this or that, and created a problem for you. It happens more than you think. I have seen solutions calling for a complete French drain around and entire property, simply because the water run off was so great, and the alternatives were impossible.
As a property ages, where one area gets a lot of water, things simply grow faster than others. Roots grow larger, and outgrow their planters or islands. You can manage and control the long-term health of your property by simply watching it during a rain, listen, and receive what it is telling you. A dry sidewalk, for example, may not be slippery. But a wet sidewalk suddenly reveals algae or mold build up and a slippery condition, creating a slip and fall liability. This issue would otherwise not be noticed during a sunny day. And most people are hurrying during a rain to get inside, setting up for a more likely nasty slippery event. Just try it. Find a spot in the shade on a sidewalk where it may seem darker on the surface. Run your shoe over it safely, to see if it is slippery. Then wet it down just a mist and try it. Then wet it al the way and try. You will see different levels of “slippy”. Apply what you’ve learned during your next walkabout with boots and an umbrella. Take pictures, videos, notes, and add what you need to do to your maintenance list. You will be glad you did, and so will the rest of your community.