A parking deck in St. Paul, MN, is in danger of collapse. Emergency crews have shored it up and the city has given the owner 30 days to affect permanent repairs — read about it here.
Here’s the thing. All garages age. Most will have problems particularly where there is ice, cold, salt and the other effects of severe weather. What to do, what to do?
When a garage is constructed, a plan for maintenance should be put in place. That means that drains have to be regularly cleaned, that floors need to be washed, that it needs to be inspected, and usually, about every 10 or 15 years the decking needs to be replaced. Yes, that’s right, millions need to be spent on maintenance and repair.
To do that, a maintenance fund needs to be set up and every year, and hundreds of thousands of dollars put into that fund so when the work needs to be done down the road, the money will be there. When I asked Dale Denda, parking statistic guru, how often these funds are set up and funded, he just laughed. "Almost never."
Most owners don’t think of garages as needing maintenance. They are steel and concrete. What can go wrong. When a garage is new, there is no need for maintenance. Its clean, crisp, and strong. But what happens is insidious.
LIke the ice that breaks up rocks on high mountains, water slowly creeps in the cracks of in the concrete. If the deck coating is allowed to wear off, this happens sooner rather than later. The water, when it freezes, makes the cracks larger. Finally the water, usually mixed with salt off the cars, reaches the rebar that holds the garage together. The rebar rusts and expands. Big chunks of concrete fall off the garage onto the hoods for Mercedes and Lexuses. (They never his 10 year old Hondas).
Faster and faster the garage is weakened until finally it can collapse.
Usually, the owner decides just before the collapse that something needs to be done and pony’s up a few million so the concrete can be removed from the rebar, the rebar cleaned, and then new concrete poured.
At this point I’m sure the owner wished he had put a maintenance program in place and kept the coatings on the decks properly sealed and in the worst case, put the money aside for the repairs that were certainly coming down the road.
St Paul — perfect weather for parking deck disaster. Is the maintenance fund in place?