Maintaining Your Building During Temporary Closure

By Don Epp, SARC Facility Planner

Taking an Opportunity to Perform Some Overdue Tasks 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many organizations are closing their buildings to help slow the transmission of the coronavirus. Social-distancing is the new normal and the protection and safety of the clients and staff who would normally occupy these buildings is the highest priority for community-based organizations. 

While your organization is closed, there is an opportunity to perform deep cleaning and minor maintenance tasks. Some of these tasks cannot be done when the building is full of people as they could cause a fair bit of disruption. So, take advantage of this time, wherever you can, to pay a little more attention to extra cleaning or maintenance items that have been on your to-do list for too long. 

One strategy for deep cleaning is to focus on one room at a time before moving onto the next. For larger rooms, it‘s a good idea to section off the room into smaller rooms to ensure nothing gets missed. This strategy consists of removing everything from the room and cleaning from top to bottom. This gives the opportunity to clean the hard-to-reach places, a chance to re-evaluate which items should be returned, and rearrange the furniture in the room, if needed. 

Once everything is cleaned, items can be returned to their original location, or new locations can be found as needed. The layout of the furniture can be changed, artwork and posters can be updated and placed in a different spot, and decisions can be made about items that have been in storage for too long, or more efficient storage methods could be adopted. If you’re struggling to think about what you might focus on, here are some suggestions on deep cleaning opportunities with an empty room in an unoccupied building. Start from the top and end with cleaning the floor.  

  • Ceilings  
    • Wipe ceiling fans 
    • Remove duct grills (if easily removed) or vacuum the grill and surrounding area 
    • Remove light fixture covers and clean, replace burnt out bulbs 
    • Vacuum smoke alarms  
    • Be careful cleaning around fire sprinkler heads 
  • Walls 
    • Wipe and wash all the walls, especially in high traffic areas 
    • Patch and paint areas that are scuffed or damaged, or paint the entire room if there is opportunity 
    • Wipe all window ledges and clean window coverings  
    • Windows can be cleaned inside and out 
    • Clean storage closets especially at the top shelves 
    • Fill holes in the wall from hanging art work and posters, knowing that these items could be hung in different locations or replaced with something different 
  • Doors 
    • Inspect the door hardware and oil the hinges as needed 
    • Paint the door as needed 
  • Floors 
    • Depending on the flooring type, carpets can be shampooed or some flooring can be stripped and waxed. Easier to do when all the furniture is removed.  
    • Wipe all baseboards 
    • Tile grout, especially on bathrooms floors, can be cleaned 
  • Kitchen 
    • Move appliances and clean behind them. You will be amazed at what you will find behind your fridge and stove.  
    • When the fridge is out in the open all the shelves and drawers can be removed and cleaned.  
    • While the fridge is defrosting, vacuum the dust away from the back of the fridge, this will help make the fridge run more efficiently.  
    • The stove can be thoroughly cleaned inside and out too.  
    • The dishwasher, coffee maker, hot water kettles can be de-scaled to remove hard water stains and calcium build up with an acid based cleaner.  
    • Cabinets can be emptied and wiped 
    • Coffee and teacups can be soaked in a diluted bleach solution to remove stains as needed. CAUTION: Never mix bleach with any other cleaning product! 
    • Garbage and recycling containers can be washed out as well. 
  • Furniture and Equipment 
    • As possible, turn all tables, chairs, and couches upside down and wipe.  
    • It is a good opportunity to check the tightness of all the screws and fasteners to confirm the legs are attached securely, as well as to replace worn floor protectors on the feet of the furniture.  
    • Cushion covers can be removed and washed on some types of furniture, or wiped, or cleaned with an attachment from the carpet cleaner.  

Additional Reasons to Maintain your Empty Building

There are also risks involved with leaving a building vacant. It is important to check your insurance policy to see how often checks on the building are needed to make sure the heat is still on and there are no water leaks. It is also important to make sure the exterior of the building is maintained, the snow is shoveled, and the grass mowed. Rodents are always looking for a way into a building so make sure garbage and debris are removed from the exterior of the building. In spring there is a risk of water entering the building so making a path for meltwater to run away from the foundation is important.  

If you know that you’re going to be away from your organization for a day or two at a time before returning to check in on it, it’s important to do the following, to avoid theft or damage to the property:  

  • Remove cash or valuables from the property 
  • Put up a sign at each exit stating ‘No Cash on Premises’  
  • Unplug appliances that draw power when not in use (computers, tvs, microwaves, automatic coffee makers) 

While it is the best strategy to close well-used buildings to stop the spread of COVID-19, there is still an opportunity for one or two staff members to work on deep cleaning the building, whenever available. Once the people you support and the rest of your staff return to the building, all the hard work in the extra cleaning will be appreciated.


Please Note: The included information is for reference only, and SARC and its Members, their employers, officers, and Directors assume and accept no liability for any consequences arising from the use, non-use, accuracy, or legal compliance of any of the information, tools, or resources provided.

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