Building Maintenance in Lincoln, NE – 2019
Protecting Your Property: How Proactive Building Maintenance Can Guard Your Health and Savings
The season of spring cleaning is fast approaching, but there are many problems that can affect a home or office that are not limited to one season. Health hazards like the flu virus and mold can cause lost work days, and an untidy home or office can make guests or customers feel unwelcome. Lincoln businesses with expertise in building maintenance spoke to Strictly Business about this topic, providing timely advice for business-owners and homeowners who would like peace of mind knowing that their property is safe from the most common problems.
Jon Paolini with ServiceMaster Professional Building Maintenance is convinced from personal experience that a clean building is key to making a welcoming environment for both customers and staff in any business. “A clean building is not only inviting for our customers, clients, and staff, it is also more productive. Our clients are able to spend their time focusing on their business, not on cleaning. And a properly cleaned building leads to less sick time for the occupants,” says Paolini.
One of the most common aspects of building maintenance and cleaning is floor care and carpeting, and Paolini believes that without scheduled care, carpeting becomes more expensive than it should be. “Flooring, especially carpeted floors, need regular cleaning in line with the manufacturers’ specifications in order to get the full useful life out of them and to look good for the years they should. It protects the client’s investment by doing so. And not getting them maintained according to the manufacturers’ specifications may void their warranty,” warns Paolini.
A practical, economical way to protect all types of flooring during the snowy and rainy months of the year is walk off matting. “Walk off matting is a cheap and easy way to preserve flooring and help any type of facility stay cleaner,” says Paolini. Most businesses require more protection than the average home. “Most facilities have matting in a vestibule at most but that’s only about four feet. The generally accepted math is that 12-15 feet of walk off matting is necessary to reduce the amount of dirt coming in to a facility. And this is year-round, not just during inclement weather. Keeping this amount of matting year-round and having it changed out or cleaned monthly can reduce up to 90% of the soils that would be brought in to a facility from foot traffic,” advises Paolini.
Paolini is proud of ServiceMaster’s record and history of service. “We have expertise in many areas and we have served the Lincoln community for nearly 30 years,” he says.
For a useful checklist of common problems that can affect homes and places of business, we spoke to professionals from Essentials Home Services, founded by the Lincoln native mother-son team Mary and Chris McCombs. Chris McCombs says that he identifies with customers who feel frustrated when building problems at home interrupt their daily lives and schedules. He believes that, after family, a home is one of the most important commodities and investments someone can make for the future.
Here are five common maintenance issues McCombs has identified as essential for many homes and places of work:
- Regularly changing air filters to prevent impure air and allergic reactions
- Replacing caulk around sinks and bathtubs to prevent water damage and mold/mildew
- Ensuring that smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are functional and periodically replaced
- Cleaning gutters to prevent rain damage
- Ensuring pipes and hoses are properly drained or stored for the winter to avoid freezing damage
McCombs says that proactive maintenance is essential to prevent these small tasks from growing into expensive problems. “There is no problem a property can have that should ever be considered small! Even basic things like ensuring your faucets and other plumbing is free of leaks can eliminate major problems down the road. A dripping pipe under a cupboard left unchecked can cost an owner thousands in repairs,” says McCombs.
For readers who are more “do-it-yourself” types, TooFast Supply offers a wide assortment of commercial and industrial tools and fasteners. Roger Kontor, president of the locally-owned and operated TooFast Supply, has sold tools, fasteners, and more, whether they are for everyday tasks or for professionals in the heating and air conditioning industries. To ensure quality from the products they sell, Kontor says that employees of TooFast Supply test each new product. “We actually try our products and use them. Then we talk to manufacturers, do research on them. For the stuff we bring in here, we try and use it, play with it in the shop. That way we can stand behind it when we sell to our customer,” says Kontor. Customer feedback is also important to TooFast. “Say there’s a new product coming out. A brand-new drill comes out and we sell five or six of them. When they come back in the next few days, we ask them if it works, what they think about it. We don’t want to put bad products out into the industry,” says Kontor.
Kontor believes that by researching recent developments in the tool industry, he can help his customers save time on the job. “If we look back to 10 years ago, everyone used a drill for everything possible. Now they make an impact, which is meant to put the screw into that hole. It could be five times quicker if you are using the right product to put that screw in.” Kontor says he believes there is always a right tool for a particular kind of job, and their goal is to help their customers identify the correct tool for the job they are hoping to complete.
Proactive maintenance is an important tenant for professional home care services, but what are the most important priorities for property owners who want to protect their property? Ryan Reinke with TruBlue Total House Care believes an added value of hiring a cleaning and maintenance service is giving a knowledgeable person an opportunity to catch problems in your home before there is expensive damage. “Some people just don’t own hammers. Some people just don’t have the time…I’m always impressed with teachers and nurses who have those skills that I couldn’t do. If I’m going to think about finances, I’m going to go talk to my banker. If I’m worried about health, I’m going to go talk to my doctor. You wouldn’t own a car without changing the oil. So your home should have a look-over at certain intervals.”
Reinke says that a goal of TruBlue Total House Care is to provide most basic services a house or rental property could require, as well as offer recommendations of specialty services when they spot a potential problem. “We are unique in that we have such a wide range of skills and abilities,” says Reinke. For example, Reinke explains how, while helping a customer with a flooring project, TruBlue employees have noticed problems like water stains from leaking roofs that need immediate attention. Having worked professionally as a manager of rental properties, Reinke believes a reliable home inspection service is useful for both homeowners and all property owners who lease to tenants. “Building maintenance is really important for tenant retention,” says Reinke. “We call it ‘bullet-proofing;’ we like to build things that will not have to be repaired and go well into the future,” explains Reinke.
When having a building inspected, it’s wise to check for radon gas to protect against cancer. Randy King worked in building maintenance and construction before founding King’s Home Inspections. One of his most important personal goals is to help people understand what radon is and what to do about it. “Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It comes from the decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. Radon gas is colorless, odorless, and without taste. The presence of radon in a home cannot be detected by human senses. The only way to know if your home contains radon gas is to test. EPA recommends that homes with high Radon concentration above 4.0 pCi/L be mitigated. There are many straight-forward reduction techniques that will work in almost any home,” writes King. Because radon gas can vary across states and neighborhoods, King recommends each individual home test for radon, and to include a radon test in any building inspection made before purchasing.
To protect health and air quality, maintaining HVAC systems is also vital. Aaron Rood is a residential development manager for Lincoln’s Star City Heating & Cooling. Rood describes their process as customer-focused: “We help homeowners and commercial property owners with all their heating and cooling needs, whether it be service, repair, or replacement. Our technicians don’t work on commission and we make recommendations based on the client’s best interests, not our profit.”
Star City Heating & Cooling advises customers to consider these six key traits they should look for in their heating and cooling service:
- Up-front, flat-rate pricing
- Thorough evaluation and repair options
- Customer approval of repairs before they begin
- A call or text before visiting the property
- Background-checked technicians in a company vehicle and uniform
- Financing options for all products and services
The age of a home also effects the frequency and type of maintenance it needs. John Henry’s Plumbing, Heating, and Air services heating and air conditioning equipment to improve efficiency. Deb and John Henry “Jack” Zohner started John Henry’s out of their home in 1996. Joe Reinke is a plumbing manager at John Henry’s. He encourages his customers to keep an eye out for any leaks, drains that are backed up, or any signs of corrosion or deterioration on pipes and call a plumber if they see any of these signs. “Depending on the age of the home, the older the plumbing, the more you may need to have someone come take a look.” Reinke says many customers prefer to have their plumber visit at least once a year to check for potential problems. “If you get a plumber in yearly, it’s good to have them check out any potential issues and make some recommendations when they come.”
An annual visit gives the plumber opportunities to spot these potential issues. Reinke says that John Henry’s prides itself on helping their customers understand what potential problems can be fixed and giving their customers all final decisions on work to be done.
“Any time we are out there, we basically run through everything with our customers. We do our best to talk with them, look at things, notice things. Maybe while we’re on site fixing a toilet, we may notice a faucet in need of repair, and bring that up to them. We want to let our customers know what’s going on. For example, we offer to check for carbon monoxide on every visit. We give them the option of repair or replacement. Ultimately they make the decision, but we like to educate them on the options they have,” says Reinke.
Reinke says this same policy of helping the customer understand their options is true of John Henry’s work in HVAC as well as plumbing. “On the HVAC side, we provide a service maintenance plan with the heating and air conditioning. We come out twice a year and service the equipment, make sure it’s all working. Usually before the summer and before the winter,” concludes Reinke.
What are considerations home owners should give to their garage door to improve their home security and how can an improved garage door add value to a home? Jacob Hiatt with Raynor Doors of Nebraska has been involved in the garage door business since he was young; Hiatt’s father founded the Lincoln business in 1995. Hiatt has worked professionally for Raynor Doors of Nebraska for nine years, and he discussed important considerations for homeowners who need a garage door for their home and how recent technology has improved security.
- Insulation: The more insulation a door has, the more it keeps out noise and keeps the temperature in the house regulated. “That means lower energy bills. Since the garage is so big and attached directly to your house, if you insulate your garage door, your utilities won’t have to work as hard,” says Hiatt.
- Quality: “Most of the time when it comes to picking out a door, cheaper is not always better. You’re buying the quality of the door. Do you want to have to replace it in the next 5 years, or spend a little bit more for the quality and be set for the next 15 years? Basically, if you buy cheaply, you’re going to get cheap,” says Hiatt.
- Safety: “We recommend an OSA. Oil service and adjust. It means you go over all the moving parts in the door and the operator, and check all smaller parts to make sure they’re tightened and well lubricated. Most of the time if you hear something that just doesn’t sound right, or if you look at it and it just seems it’s not supposed to do that, we recommend you call for maintenance.”
- Theft-prevention: Some garage doors can be set to close automatically if they have been left open by accident. An automatic deadbolt locking system called “Raynor SecureLoc” can also be used to prevent a door being forced open without the use of the garage door opener.
- Privacy: Satin glass allows more light into the garage door, but will not let outsiders see what is inside the garage.
- Hiatt says that Raynor Doors of Nebraska’s showroom has been set up to help customers visualize different styles of doors and find the right fit for their style and home. “We have a showroom at our office. We have 8 doors on display. It’s good to show them a visual representation of what their door can look like. Obviously, we don’t have every single style in the showroom, but we have a software where we can show them what their door will look like on their house. We will recommend based on our experience from the past what we think might be a good style or fit for a house,” says Hiatt.
A concern for many home and property owners is not understanding their options, or why each product costs what it does. Cecil Grant with Overhead Doors of Lincoln offers advice based on his conversations with customers who have commonly had these concerns: “Here’s one thing a property owner should consider, whether he or she has an existing building or having one built: is the door and opener correct for that particular building? For instance, having a non-insulated door installed on an insulated building. The heating and in some cases the air conditioning costs would be more than if an insulated door was installed. Another question would be: Is the door opener correct for the door size and weight of the door? If not it could result in the opener wearing out before its time.”
Grant strongly recommends his customers to use their ears to discern when a door is in need of maintenance or replacement. “Sound is a great indicator on both garage doors and openers that something may not be right and needs checked out. When first installed a door and opener sounds smooth and quiet. Over a period of time as both are being used and neither have been serviced they tend to start making noises not heard at first.” Here are three common sounds to listen for which indicate a door may be in need of service:
- Popping and cracking
- Rollers clicking
Grant uses some simple reminders to always ensure his own doors are properly maintained: “When I pull the lawn mower out for the season I service my door and opener. When I pull out the snow blower for the season I service both again. It’s just an easy way to remember to service both.”
For advice on how to reduce costs through building maintenance we spoke to Jim Johnson of Biggerstaff Plumbing and Heating, Inc. “Nothing makes us happier than a customer reporting back to us with a cost savings of 30 to 50% on their heating and cooling bills,” says Johnson. “It’s important for tenants to keep on top of property maintenance because in their lease they are usually the one paying the utility bills. If a system starts to lose efficiency and capacity from a lack of maintenance the utility bills can double. We’ve seen it happen.”
Johnson offers advice to tenants on how to protect themselves from high costs:
- Ensure filters and condensate lines are checked regularly: “Clean filters in regular intervals are a must. Properly
- flowing condensate lines need to be checked as often as the filter gets changed….Ceiling/water damage will anger most office managers and it’s very avoidable by having the equipment regularly maintained,” says Johnson.
- Remember the two major energy burners: “The two biggest power consumers in any commercial office building are the lights, and the heating and cooling. More efficient light fixtures using LED technology are available, and as heating and cooling go, high efficiency equipment with modulating/inverter technology is also available,” says Johnson.
- Consider how often your building is used: “The way the building gets used is the biggest factor in determining how often the equipment should have scheduled maintenance. Some of our customers require quarterly maintenance and some just twice a year,” says Johnson.
- Check that your refrigerator coils are cleaned: “Most of today’s refrigerators have a coil underneath them that needs to be cleaned. I’ve never opened one that’s been running for at least a year that wasn’t a blanket of dust,” says Johnson.
Johnson emphasizes that professional maintenance can not only help these systems work better and last longer, it also promotes the health of everyone who uses the building. “Better quality filters and Indoor air quality products make for a healthier home or work environment,” he says.
The considerations for a home can differ significantly from what a small or large sized business will need for their plumbing. Jordan Gottula with Mark’s Plumbing has worked for large and small clients and offered a perspective on how property owners should factor the size of their building into their maintenance needs. “Usually for a business it costs a lot more because business buildings are typically a lot larger. They have larger sewers, so the prices go up on materials. They also have more restrictions on what they are allowed to hook up to stuff. For example, soda machines. What we do is prevent contamination on your water supply,” says Gottula.
Most property owners know that it is important to have a house inspected before purchasing it to avoid expensive repair costs. What many may not know is that it is also a good idea to inspect the sewer system connected to the building. “Most inspections don’t inspect the sewer, which can be the most expensive thing for home repair. I encourage they get that inspected. That could cost upwards of $2,000 for minimum repair, and full replacement could cost up to $8,000. You could end up paying that out-of-pocket repair costs.” Gottula also recommends checking the lifespan of their water heaters. Due to harder water in the Midwest, Gottula finds that most water heaters have a life span of 10 to 12 years. There are also special requirements for restaurants and small businesses with kitchens. “If a business owner has a restaurant, they are also required to have a grease trap on their sewer system which catches any grease that goes down. Most small business owners forget to clean them out every three months.” Gottula emphasizes the value of a thorough inspection, which includes a sewer inspection, for any homeowner or business that wants to avoid out of pocket repair costs.
Large and growing businesses often have specialized technology and maintenance needs. Established in 1994, the mission of Engineered Controls is to offer building control solutions including system design, new construction and owner-direct retrofit sales, installation, repair service, and preventative maintenance work for smart buildings. “The comfort and safety provided by proper maintenance of your building’s mechanical and electrical sub-systems enables you and your employees to give proper focus to your core business or mission,” writes Engineered Controls in a description of their services. “The bottom line of properly controlled and maintained building systems is maximum employee satisfaction, maximum productivity and cost savings,” writes Engineered Controls.
One of Engineered Controls clients has been Father Flanagan’s Boy’s Home, known around the world as Boys Town. “We spent most of the time listening,” said Pat Killeen with Engineered Controls. “It was essential to thoroughly understand Boys Town, and the pitfalls and problems with existing vendors and systems. Most of all, we needed to have a clear vision of what Boys Town wanted to achieve,” said Killeen. The purpose of this process was to help Boys Town integrate a comprehensive and cost-effective building system, which Engineered Controls continues to help them maintain efficiently.
Home owners who are considering moving to a rural neighborhood in Nebraska, or business owners considering expanding into a rural market, may not have considered the unique issues for homes which are not connected to an urban sewer system. Jamie Kubik with Southwick Liquid Waste has practical advice for those who currently own property connected to a septic tank system, or those considering purchasing property in the country where such systems are more common. Kubik says that, although maintaining a septic system is not difficult, property owners who are not used to such a system may be unaware or forgetful of what they need to do. “The most important item for a customer to remember is to keep the tank pumped regularly. Unfortunately, since you only need to pump a tank about every three to five years, this is hard for customers to remember.
Here are Jamie Kubik’s four key pieces of advice for owners of property with a septic system:
- Consider water usage: “All septic systems are sized according to the number of bedrooms in the house. It is assumed that there is at least 1 person per bedroom in a home and that one person uses about 100 gallons of water a day. Therefore, when the water usage EXCEEDS this amount, there will be problems with the system. Again, I use the analogy of a five-gallon bucket being asked to hold 20 gallons of water. The same is true for your septic system.”
- Ensure the proper, single-ply toilet paper is being used with your septic system: “Customers living on septic need to be very mindful of what they flush down the toilet. Items can get easily plugged or caught in the lines. Just because something says it is septic safe doesn’t mean it is. If water can’t break it into small pieces, don’t flush it.”
- Do not interfere with your property’s lateral field/leach field/drain field: “Customers should know where this area is located in their yard and leave it alone. Don’t drive over it, build over, or plant anything more than grass on it. It needs to be left free to evaporate water.”
- Pump your tank every three to five years: “Think about your septic tank like you do changing the oil in your car. It needs to be done regularly. The more people who live in the house, the more frequently it needs to be pumped.”
In addition to sending their customers with septic systems helpful reminders, Southwick Liquid Waste also offers service contracts which allow them to take care of regular maintenance and pumping. “For a monthly fee, we come out every six months and give the system a check-up and then every three years we pump the tank,” says Kubik.
As the local owner of The Tint Shop, Keith May has personally worked with clients to recommend and install a variety of quality window films from 3M’s cutting-edge, patented products. These products can serve a decorative function and also help minimize strain on HVAC systems by blocking UV solar radiation during the summer and insulating heat during the winter.
“Energy savings is the biggest thing window film does, along with UV protection. There’s a lot of money and expensive wall coverings and floor coverings being put in buildings lately and UV just destroys them. Window film blocks out 99% of the UV rays,” says May. While helping clients install the right window film in their homes and offices, May has seen many examples of how UV radiation can damage property. “When I walk into a home or building that’s been there for a few years, if you just lift a rug up, you’ll just see the discoloration the UV has caused,” he notes.
May says that different 3M products can serve different functions depending on a space. For example, decorative film can provide an aesthetic look, prevent employees in large glass buildings from becoming distracted, prevent people from walking into panes of glass, and deter people from peering into offices. It can also unify the look of a building and prevent unsightly clutter from being seen from outside the building. Other films are designed to promote better energy savings and are more cost effective than fully replacing older windows.
“If the film is blocking out 50–60% of the UV coming in, or keeping 30–35% of the heat in during the winter months, that puts less strain on the HVAC system. In essence, it reflects the interior heat back into the building rather than letting it escape. You lose about 30% of your heat through windows. 3M’s Thinsulate film is the only film built to correct the problem of escaping heat,” says May. “Other patented window film products are built to add strength to a window. 3M has security and safety films that will hold the glass together and hold the glass in the frame. It can help deter theft and prevent shards of flying glass. The safety and security films are made thicker and stronger than the regular silver films are. It can never fully prevent theft, but it can buy more time in many cases and can discourage thieves after a failed attempt,” says May. Whether it’s for older buildings hoping to add UV protection without the expense of fully replacing old windows, or newer buildings with significant amounts of glass hoping to provide better insulation and comfort to their employees, window films are a practical choice to consider.
Whether it is plumbing, heating and air conditioning, or security, a house or workplace is often a complex system of parts. Keeping these systems maintained and replacing them when they expire protects the health and safety of the people who use the space, and can save money in the long run by preventing expensive disasters.