To quote Game of Thrones, “Winter is coming.” And, at least in the northern half of the U.S., the coldest season can render your retail store vulnerable to weather-related damage. Here are four tips for maintaining your store/stores all winter long (act now—most actions need to be done in the fall!).
Prep Your Roof
If your roof is sloped, installing heating cables on the bottom is an easy and efficient way to melt any excess snow or ice that begins to accumulate. This will allow water to run off easily. And when snow begins to pile up, a “roof rake” is a simple solution for shoving snow off it. Obvious holes and cracks—along with troubled caulking and flashing—should be patched and repaired, and if your roof is flat, be aware of any areas of pooling water, which could signal a weak spot. Even if precipitation isn’t leaking into your building from this accumulation, the overall weight could weaken your roof enough to eventually cause a collapse. (Having a fully functional drainage system is a must during every season.)
High winds, ice, and snow can snap branches on trees that are adjacent to your building, so it’s important that you check your surroundings often. If it’s cold for a prolonged period of time, make sure there isn’t excessive ice building up in and around your drains, either.
Ready Your HVAC
Your best defense against heating system malfunctions is ensuring that your system is well-maintained all year long. This process includes testing your heating system now, during the fall, before you need to use it. Once many businesses start running their heating system for the season, they let it run non-stop until the cold weather subsides for good. But this puts a lot of stress on the system, so you may need to replace certain parts like air filters for everything to run smoothly.
And while your air conditioning unit won’t be running, the same principle of year-long maintenance applies to this system as well. Strong winds and heavy snow can cause considerable damage to the condensing unit of your A/C, so it’s important to keep it covered during harsh winter weather conditions. Also, remember to clear the area of any debris that may have accumulated near the unit during the fall and summer months, such as leaves. In order to prevent moisture from collecting around the unit, make sure that the tarp you cover it with is made of a breathable material.
Insulate Your Pipes
The biggest threat to your pipes during the winter isn’t just that they can freeze, but they can also burst. Because of this danger, it’s important to insulate pipes that are exposed, regardless if they are hot or cold lines. Proper insulation throughout your building can also save a considerable amount on your utility bill.
If pipes do freeze, open the faucet and then use a space heater, heat lamp or even a hair dryer to attempt to thaw them before they burst. Once the thawing beings, keep your faucets open so that water can properly move through the line, preventing a rupture or a burst pipe. Also—and this is a weird piece of advice—you should let all your faucets slowly drip during extremely cold weather. The constant movement of the water will help prevent your pipes from freezing.
Stock Up on Ice and Salt
Make sure you’re always well-stocked with sand and ice melt (salt) throughout the winter. Apply it regularly and if your supply runs low, try and stock up before the next storm is forecasted (and everyone in your town rushes the stores). If walkways have slick spots, be sure to communicate that to your customers—the last thing you want is a slip-and-fall lawsuit on top of any other repairs you may have to make.