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Landscaping and Exterior Maintenance Red Flags for Commercial Properties

 May 17, 2023 |  Property Management, Property Maintenance, Commercial Inspection |  exterior maintenance, commercial landscaping

Every property manager is well aware of the importance of landscaping when it comes to presenting a business in a positive light. With that said, good landscaping extends far beyond curb appeal. Some landscaping features can pose serious hazards, and with increased liability concerns, exterior maintenance on commercial properties should never be overlooked.

Our expert property inspectors at NPI have had the benefit of walking the grounds of countless commercial properties over the years. In doing so, we have identified a few trends in landscaping or exterior maintenance that are too commonly neglected by property managers or building owners. Make note of these landscaping red flags to ensure that your commercial properties are safe and secure.

Commercial Landscaping Starts with Water Management
One of the biggest issues that property inspectors will be sure to point out surrounds water drainage management. From the roof, to the siding, to walkways, and to turf and grass, nearly every aspect of a commercial property can be adversely affected by poor water run-off and drainage.

So many commercial buildings opt for flat roofs, which can easily allow rain to pool and persist, leading to unneeded water weight strain and leaking to interior spaces. Even if scuppers and drains are unclogged and operating correctly, a commercial property needs correct grading to direct water run-off away from walkways, parking areas, and naturally away from structures. Swales, French drains, and rain gardens can all be artfully integrated into a property’s overall landscape design to create an attractive and functional water drainage system.

When these systems work poorly, property owners should expect their roofs, walkways, and even foundation to degrade at a rate much faster than expected, and any areas that allow ponding will attract things like mosquitos and other unwanted outdoor critters. The problems that arise due to poor water management compound rapidly, which is why this is such a major concern to commercial property inspectors.

Managing Tree and Plant Overgrowth is a Priority
When it comes to the actual greenery, trees are going to be a primary area of focus regarding structual integrity and safety of any passersby. Anyone who has worked in an office building on a windy day, only for a tree branch to distract them by repeatedly scraping and tapping their window knows how much of a bother overgrowth can become. Overhanging branches can break loose during storms, falling onto roofs, into windows, or even onto cars. Simply falling onto walking paths can become a tripping hazard if not cleared in a reasonable amount of time.

Some plant trees solely based on aesthetic preferences, but for safe clearance away from buildings, trees should be placed approximately half as far away from the structure as their projected height. Then, their roots should be the next consideration. As tall as a tree grows, their roots will have a similar depth and spread. Tree roots are known to grow into sewage lines and other important systems, as well as disrupting walking paths. When planting new trees and maintaining plants, property managers and landscapers should consider these opportunities for obstruction, as well as the potential to block sight for drivers.

Plants and foliage are great to incorporate into any landscape design, but poorly maintained growths create issues beyond tripping and visual confusion. Depending on how late a commercial property is expected to operate, nighttime lighting may be an important aspect to allow for safe foot traffic. Plants that end up covering pathway lights will make these walkways more dangerous to maneuver while also encouraging vandalism and burglary. Landscape maintenance doesn’t just protect a property from premature degradation, it protects tenants and their customers as well.

Keep Walking Paths Clear and Safe at All Times
Speaking of walking paths, while good water drainage and landscape management will allow for safer, more even sidewalks, good property management should also include regular clearing methods to keep any visitors’ experiences positive. In areas where snow and ice is a concern, this means timely snow removal systems. Then, a regular process for removing common debris like branches, acorns, and leaves should be outlined. Walkways are there to be used, and a cluttered or dangerous path only encourages people to cut through grass or find alternative routes, which are sure to pose even greater risks for slips and falls.

Properties that are particularly hilly should also consider the necessity of guard railings for their paths or landings. Drop-offs of 30 inches or more require guardrails for building code compliance, which means that any height changes due to erosion or other damages may necessitate adjustments. A lot goes into a well-maintained commercial property. Starting off with safety in mind is the best strategy to keep tenants content.

To extend the life of your commercial property and show your tenants that building maintenance is a priority, be sure to schedule your next inspection with NPI!

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National Property Inspections, Inc., founded in 1987, is one of the oldest companies in the inspection industry. Our reputation is built on honesty, integrity and professionalism. National Property Inspections operates as Global Property Inspections in Canada.