Property Corner is periodic feature penned by Grace Presbytery’s Director of Property Management, Karen Ebling

If your buildings have sat empty during most days of this quarantine, you may need to give special attention to the facility condition before opening again. Unattended buildings deteriorate much more quickly than you may realize. Here are suggestions for consideration by your session, trustees, property committee, or handy volunteers:

1. If you shut down the HVAC, or reduced its use significantly, you may want to consider having it checked by a qualified HVAC service company who can offer specialized advice about air purifying, ventilation, and other concerns. In some cases, you may want to consider the use of stand-alone air purifiers for a period of time.

2. Accumulated dust and debris may be a new consideration if you have restricted your cleaning services during this time. Consider the feasibility of contracting with an outside company to do a deep cleaning in your spaces. If staff or volunteers are engaged in cleaning, reference the CDC guidelines for COVID-19 appropriate cleaning, and make sure everyone understands proper chemical use procedures.

3. Check all plumbing fixtures. Flush all toilets and turn on all water faucets. Remember to check your hot water and pipes under sinks. Slow leaks may not be noticed when you are not in the facility every day, and infrequent use of water fixtures can cause drying of rubber gaskets and other parts.

4. If you have a kitchen with appliances, check those for gas or water leaks, and consider running dishwashers through a cleaning cycle. Unused appliances need attention before the first church supper. Check in-sink garbage disposals and flush well with disinfectant.

5. If your restrooms or kitchen have floor drains, test the drains to make sure they flow. Further, make sure your building backflow drains are inspected regularly, as required by most cities and towns, but also as a good practice to prevent very nasty issues at an inopportune time.

6. Check all doors and windows for leaks or attempted break-ins, as we have seen these occurring at many local churches and other buildings that have been left unattended.

7. Check your floors for signs of leaks or mildewed carpet, as we have had several significant rainstorms during this quarantine period.

8. Some areas of our presbytery have experienced hailstorms as well, so a trusted roofing contractor may be the best inspector for roof damage or other problems you may not have recognized during this time.

9. One final check may be for signs of pests inside or around the property during this time: wasp, rodents, and fire ants are particularly damaging in North Texas and can build large nests during times of no occupancy. One church reported a large beehive that grew inside a wall.

The CDC provides a variety of printable alert notices that may be posted around the facility, as appropriate for your property. Consider the value of printing and displaying selected posters as reminders when people return to the building.

Finally, Grace Presbytery’s insurance company has provided an advisory on the consideration for reopening office spaces. This may offer you a way to consider a “soft opening” of the facility on weekdays for business, staff offices, small meeting spaces, or day schools before you open for congregational worship and larger program activities.

Start early by evaluating your facility. Attention to detail is an important step in creating an environment that is both welcoming and safe for your returning congregation and guests.

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