Plugging the Leaks in Your Budget

The small drip under a restroom sink goes unnoticed for weeks. Then one day, a staff member arrives to find three inches of standing water in the ministry office area. The flooding destroys books, computer equipment, and furniture. The resulting cost and cleanup efforts could have been avoided with a preventive maintenance program.

Small Fixes Prevent Major Hassles

“Preventive maintenance involves looking for small problems and fixing them before they become major issues,” said Tim Cool, founder of Smart Church Solutions. A structural or mechanical breakdown is usually preceded by a long period of deterioration. The deterioration occurs because it’s not obvious, which makes routine inspection and maintenance so important.

For example, a piece of equipment that is not lubricated on schedule will continue to function until a bearing burns out. A flat roof that isn’t regularly inspected suddenly fails during a major rain. Eroded mortar joints may be overlooked until a brick wall buckles. What starts as a small maintenance issue often leads to significant, and costly, failure.

Start with a Plan

Generally, preventive maintenance does not require a high degree of technical skill. It is essential, however, that ministries develop and follow through with their plan.  Ministries that rely on volunteers to manage facilities, need to understand what services can be performed in-house and what services should be handled by a professional.

Common areas that require preventive maintenance include:

  • Cleaning gutters and drain pipes—Prevents water from backing up on the roof, causing water damage.
  • Inspecting/re-tarring flat roofs (every two to four years)—Deters water damage, roof collapse.
  • Checking steeples, towers, and shingled roofs (every two to three years)—Identify leaks leading to water damage.
  • Inspecting boilers, furnaces annually (or biannually)—Prevents fires caused by faulty equipment.
  • Cleaning air ducts (every three to five years)—Improves furnace efficiency and prevents fires caused by an overworked furnace.
  • Trimming trees and brush—Prevents dead branches from falling on people or vehicles. Reduces hiding spots for criminals.
  • Emptying grease traps—Removes congealed grease below kitchen sinks that can clog drainage pipes and lead to sewer and drain backups.
  • Cleaning ventilation hoods—Removes grease buildup above kitchen stoves that can lead to fires.
  • Sealing asphalt parking lots annually—Limits cracks that lead to potholes and twisted ankles.
  • Maintaining vehicles (oil changes, tire rotation)—Reduces the likelihood of accidents and breakdowns that can cause injuries.

The following checklist from Smart Church Solutions is a starting point for developing a preventive maintenance plan for your ministry.