Engineering a Successful Spring

Apr 27, 2017
Engineering a Successful Spring:
What You Need to Do to keep Your Community Association Running Smoothly This Spring

The robins have started to appear, daffodils are springing up out of the dirt and April showers bring … clogged catch basins. Uh-oh.  It’s spring!  Winter is behind us, it’s time to look forward to nicer weather, longer days and time spent outdoors at your community’s best amenities.  But winter is not always kind to the infrastructure that your community is responsible for.  All those great community common areas need upkeep and may need a little Spring Cleaning.  As a Board Member or Property Manager you may wonder what needs to be inspected after the long winter, what should you look for & how important are these issues.  Here is a list of just a few of the items that should be inspected now that winter over.

Roofing can take a beating from the winds of a Nor’easter to the freeze of ice.  A quick peek at the roof to make sure that no shingles have blown off during storms or no leaks are occurring is a perfect way to see how the roof has weathered the winter months.  Missing shingles can lead to water intrusion and ultimately interior damage, so repairs or replacement should happen in a timely manner.  Part of inspecting the roof is looking at the gutters and downspouts as well.  During the winter, ice inside gutters can cause damage such as sagging or detachment from the roof eave, which restricts the collection of water during storm events. Are any of the gutters bent, falling off the roof edge or overflowing?  While most communities tend to have their gutters cleaned once a year in the fall, not all do and debris can land in gutters during the wintertime.  It’s important to make sure gutters are clean and clear of debris and ready for the spring rains. Faulty gutter and downspout systems could create water back-up into the house or pose a basement water penetration concern, water will take the path of least resistance.

With spring, comes rain.  With rain, comes run-off, flooding and potential erosion.  All the rainwater from this time of year will need some place to drain and all the stormwater infrastructure in your community was built just for this special task.  However, it needs to be in good working order to handle the deluge.  Spring is the perfect time to have your basin structures inspected.  The grass and vegetation in the detention basins will still be minimal at early spring, so there should be easy access to outlet control structures, headwalls, and low-flow channels.  Take note if the earth around the structures has eroded or is showing signs of having washed away.  Do structures look like they are leaning or have moved?  These could be signs that the foundation has been undermined by ice or water.  If any of these situations has occurred, the structure may need to be reset or stone/rip-rap may need to be placed around the edges to prevent further erosion.  

Gathering water from the roadways are the catch basins, which will also need to be cleaned and looked at for signs of wall failure.  The top part of the catch basin, that sits adjacent to the curb, is the inlet hood.  Inlet hoods should be checked for possible damage from snow plows.  Looking for signs of eroded earth around the inlet hood and catch basin is also a good practice at this time of the year.  Any issues should be fixed fairly quickly to stop potential sink holes or pavement failure from occurring.

While this winter was more mild than past years and severe snow storms were limited, an item that is indirectly affected by snow are the curbs and sidewalks.  It’s the snow removal that generally gets curbs.    Curbs can be damaged when snow plows hit them or if water from melting snow freezes under or beneath the curbing causing it to heave or lean away from the attached sidewalk.  The same scenario can occur with sidewalks.  Water can settle under the sidewalk or walkway, freeze and lift the concrete.  Additionally, some of the salts used to melt ice can damage the top layer of concrete on the sidewalk and lead to damage called spalling.

Although there's not much that can be done structurally, asphalt paving that is in poor condition before winter typically will require repair after the winter months. Many times, cracks will worsen over the colder months.  Depending on their thickness, they could be filled in with an asphaltic sealant to prevent water penetration. Seal coating is a method of extending the life expectancy of asphalt pavement as well.  However, if the pavement is in poor condition, the application of seal coating is worthless and should be avoided.

Another less thought of item, but one that lends itself to the aesthetics of a community are the street trees and landscaping.  Some communities are responsible for street trees and all landscaping.  Right about now the trees should be blooming and sprouting buds that will ultimately lead to lush green trees in the summer.  Are trees starting to sprout or just sitting dormant?  This could be the sign of a dead tree.  A certified arborist can make the determination of what action to take with dead trees.  

Before a homeowner drags out the patio furniture, grill and planters onto their deck, it is best for them to have general knowledge of the deck condition. This can easily be accomplished by walking around the deck and look for any unexpected conditions such as: signs the deck is pulling away from the house, loose deck railings, wobbly posts, and loose deck boards. If a unit owner has concerns with their deck they should contact a professional to further ascertain its condition. There are many decks failures in this country, through timely maintenance and awareness, these tragedies could be avoided.

So as the weather gets warmer, take advantage of the outdoors and go on a walk.  Peek into the inlets, stare at the roofs or meander along the basin edges.  While your neighbors may think you’re crazy, you will be satisfied in the knowledge that you’re working to help keep your capital improvements functioning. 

Jennifer Keggan is a design engineer with experience in highway design, drainage design, specification writing, and environmental permitting. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics as well as a Bachelor of Science in Civil & Environmental Engineering from Rutgers University. To contact Jennifer via e-mail, please click here. To visit Bustamante Engineers on the web, please click here



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