The Best Way to Prepare Your Commercial Property for Winter

Chicago gets approximately 37 inches of snow per year. While that’s significantly less than the city with the highest annual snowfall, Syracuse New York, which gets 114.3 inches per year, Chicago winters can still pose intense challenges for commercial properties.

Are you preparing now for the harsh Chicago winter? Follow these steps to ensure a successful snow season!

Stage 1: Inspect the Property

Before the weather ever begins to change, several aspects of a property need to be assessed on an annual basis.

-Pavement & Concrete

Check the pavement & concrete for deterioration and low spots. These areas will puddle and create a high risk of refreezing between weather events. Pay special attention to high traffic zones like loading docks and entrances. Curbs can also be an easy target for damage.


While surveying the pavement and concrete, be sure to inspect the sewers for proper drainage across the facility. There should also be a smooth transition from pavement to sewer cap to reduce contact with the plowing equipment.

-Roof & Gutters

Snow and ice can put an extremely heavy load on a roof. To avoid leaks or even an all-out collapse, inspecting the roof is vital. Check for holes, missing shingles, proper water flow, debris, and ensure that all flashing and seals are secure.

-Windows, Doors, & Insulation

Are some areas of the building creating a noticeable draft? Address those issues before the winter to avoid throwing hundreds of dollars toward wasted energy. Inspect the pipes for appropriate insulation and add insulation or apply heating tape to vulnerable spots. It’s better to be safe than sorry. In 2022, State Farm paid over $181M for nearly 9,000 claims from frozen pipe damage. A good inspection can help you steer clear of some costly issues.

Since Chicago property managers and owners are the best and the brightest out there, the regular maintenance that you have surely done will cause the inspection stage to be a breeze.

Stage 2: Plan Ahead

Once everything has been inspected and addressed, it’s time to start the planning process.

If you’re going to hire a snow removal company, be sure to clearly communicate the level of service and scope of the work so everyone is on the same page. Establish all of the particularities like where the snow should be piled, ensuring it is away from the building, and in ADA compliant parking spaces with good drainage. Be aware that most snow removal bids occur during the summer months between June and September, and service providers typically prefer to have their contracts in place by the end of September each year.

Review the winter weather plan with tenants, employees, and vendors each season. If disaster does strike, everyone should know what to do. Overcommunicating is always better than under communicating in these instances.

Hire a professional for preventative maintenance on the HVAC system, and generator if you have one. Have them ready beforehand in case they are needed for an emergency situation. If you plan ahead, you can typically negotiate a better emergency rate as well.

Brutal winters can significantly impact landscaping. Have snow stakes installed along curb lines, sidewalks, and transitions from hard surfaces to soft surfaces. Put up snow/silt fences along sensitive plants and landscape beds to protect from deicers.

Stage 3: Protection During the Winter

Once the cold weather hits, you should be well prepared to go to war! Shut off all drain irrigation systems and outdoor hoses. Place dedicated containers of deicer at each building entrance to allow for easy salt application between services. Use caution signs when necessary.

One way to prevent pipes from freezing during the winter is to keep the internal temperature set to a minimum of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The average claim when a pipe freezes is $10,800, so the cost of prevention is a lot less than the cost to fix whatever damages may occur.

Actively participating in the inspection, planning, and protection stages will not only save you a lot of money, but it can also aid in protecting you from liability risks. If someone falls or is in a car accident on your property, you can be held responsible if you haven’t done your due diligence. Keep your property running smoothly all winter long by being proactive throughout the year. Following these three stages is the best way to prepare your commercial property for winter.

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