Romolo Tavani

Outdoor amenities not only lose their appeal in the winter, but they also become trouble spots for water damage, mold, and mildew. At the same time, certain amenities, including fire pits and grills, are good to go all year long. To explore the outdoor checklists for winter, Multifamily Executive talked to Jim Angelo, maintenance director at Morgan Properties, based in King of Prussia, Pa., and Holly McQueen, vice president at Newton Square, Pa.-based GMH Capital Partners.

MFE: What types of exterior features/amenities are the most vulnerable to harsh winter weather, and why?

Jim Angelo, Morgan Properties
Jim Angelo, Morgan Properties

Angelo: Any amenities with areas where water collects and or freezes are the most vulnerable during harsh winter weather. For instance, if you don’t close your pool correctly, the water will freeze, which can cause tile cracks and essentially damage the entire plumbing, filtration, and chlorine systems. This can lead to costly repairs and upset residents when it’s time to utilize the amenity in the summer. Additionally, once wet, outdoor furniture such as padded couches and chairs are likely to contain mold and mildew due to the inability to completely dry. Therefore, owners should ensure pools are properly drained and covered, and outdoor furniture that will not be used should be covered or stored indoors to prevent damage from the harsh weather.

MFE: Assuming these property features/amenities have been maintained properly in the past, is there any reason to review procedures?

Angelo: Regardless of if maintenance procedures proved successful in the past, apartment owners should ensure maintenance staff review procedures consistently to ensure the best strategies for seasonal prep are used each time. This is especially important when new amenities, such as outdoor grills and fire pits, are being implemented. At Morgan Properties, we have a 12-month rolling maintenance program to check for both new and existing maintenance procedures for year-round prep. Doing so allows us to be fully prepared ahead of each season, allowing staff to focus on in-unit requests.

MFE: Can off-season exterior amenities (pools, decks, sky lounges) be winterized and remain useful? If so, how?

McQueen: Almost any outdoor amenity can be winterized if properly prepped. For instance, our outdoor lounges, which also include fire pits and grilling stations, as well as our outdoor fitness circuit centers are fully accessible year-round. These amenities were designed with durable materials like steel and plastic to withstand harsh weather conditions.

Holly McQueen, GMH Capital Partners
Holly McQueen, GMH Capital Partners

Outdoor lounges and entertainment areas are one great amenity that can be easily winterized. For instance, at GMH Capital Partners, our outdoor furniture and TVs are made out of durable materials to withstand precipitation. Accompanied by our fire pits, these lounges can be a great way to bring residents together even on the chilliest of days.

MFE: Should third-party vendors be used to help maintain exteriors for winter, or should current staff be able to handle the workload?

Angelo: It’s in the best interest of the apartment owner if all on-site maintenance staff is trained and fully equipped to handle a majority of the workload since they are usually the first to address any issues. However, sometimes it does make sense to outsource third-party vendors for tasks that happen every once in a while, such as closing the pool, which only happens once a year.

MFE: What’s the biggest advantage to good preparation of exterior amenities/features before winter sets in?

Angelo: The biggest advantage of prepping exterior amenities before the seasonal change is it streamlines the process to effectively and efficiently address all factors. Doing so can help to prevent mistakes that can sometimes stem from rushed jobs, and everything is taken care of before there’s an immediate need. At Morgan Properties, we believe you can never be too prepared.