Keeping Deferred Maintenance Costs Down Starts Underfoot
Kicking the can down the road has consequences, particularly in the facilities management world. Consider deferred maintenance: It’s sometimes necessary, but its long-term practice can lead to widespread ramifications.
Case in point: At the University of Missouri, years of allowing aging structures to go unattended led to dramatic events earlier this year. Unable to absorb the costs to revitalize neglected spaces, the institution announced the closure, sale, and razing of some of its older buildings. All in all, the university plans to reduce its collective physical footprint, mainly because leaders can’t afford to restore poorly maintained assets to like-new condition.
Of course, not all property management teams face deferred maintenance problems as large or public as the university’s. However, plenty of professionals give in to the temptation to shave dollars associated with pragmatic, future-proofing maintenance. Currently, the median age of a commercial structure is 32 years old. Deferring its maintenance even by half a decade can lead to astronomical repair costs.
The clock always runs out — and it takes even more money and effort to turn back the hands of time.
Janitorial Services Affect the Here and Now
If you own a commercial space, it’s possible that you forego carpet and flooring maintenance in the hopes that vacuuming and floor polishing is enough. The truth is that only proactive planning can lengthen the life cycle of an asset like carpet and avoid the need for costly replacements (not to mention reducing landfill glut).
Yes, it’s possible to postpone comprehensive revitalization to a future budget cycle, but with each passing year, flooring becomes less able to “bounce back.” Plus, general janitorial service providers typically pay little attention to cleaning floors and, instead, concentrate on dusting surfaces and dumping trash. When janitorial firms do address textile surfaces, they typically use ineffective backpack vacuums that can’t capture fiber-damaging debris.
This raises an important question: How much is enough when it comes to allocating funds toward long-haul maintenance? Virtually all the businesses I’ve worked with try to allocate between 25 cents and 30 cents per square foot for floors alone. That number typically enables them to obtain two to three deep-cleaning visits for their floors annually, exclusive of their normal janitorial contracts.
If 30 cents for every square foot seems high, know that it prevents the need for a restorative cleaning later on. While restorative cleanings can save carpet and hard-floor surfaces that aren’t beyond rescue, they can cost up to 33% more per square foot than the money needed for the proactive route.
Additionally, when carpets reach the restorative phase, they may never fully recover. Severely scratched fibers cause textiles to reflect light differently, giving the carpet a dull finish.
In terms of hard flooring, a lack of proper stripping and finishing can quickly hurt vinyl composite tile, necessitating a complete overhaul. Too many companies think they’re paying for VCT stripping and finishing when they sign janitorial agreements. Unfortunately, many janitorial providers simply apply coats of floor finish to achieve a shiny look. Within a few years, eight or more coats of finish will build up, making it challenging — and expensive — to properly strip to the bare floors.
Taking a Forward-Leaning Approach to Maintenance
Are you tired of worrying about the health and function of your building due to deferred maintenance practices? Now is the time to put a few strategies into practice and reclaim your space.
First, deep-clean carpeted spaces as often as you would change your air filters (two to four times annually). Next, ask your outsourced janitorial firm or in-house janitorial team to switch to rotating-brush vacuums approved by the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Seal of Approval. The provider should vacuum high-traffic places daily, medium-load traffic spots roughly every other day, and low-traffic areas once or twice a week.
By spending a little time and money now, you can add years of life to your flooring — and your building will look and smell fresher. As an added benefit, you may help tenants reduce employee absenteeism and create better morale. And that’s good for lease renewals and referrals, not to mention your peace of mind.
Still not sure whether deferred maintenance is essential? See how the things lurking in your carpet and floors affect overall indoor air quality (and your bottom line).