Maintenance hints and tips

GutteringFrom time to time when out visiting schools, I notice quite a difference. Some schools look old and tired while others look really beautiful – exciting and very welcoming.

The age of the buildings should not matter; it is how they are being maintained.

Maintaining your property requires good planning with the assistance of the property manager. After all, we are all caretakers managing the property of behalf of the Ministry.

How do we achieve this? This could be in a form of a collaborative approach between the principal and the property manager to define a workable scope of works or a practical job list of activities to actually maintain the property including buildings that will be a positive talking point, not only within the school itself, but within the community.


Some schools have large grounds that require resources to maintain. Now I know that cruising around on the latest ride on mower technology almost counts as a hobby for some but you have to question whether this is best use of your precious caretaking resource, not to mention, how much time is required to maintain these machines in good working order (do they have the mechanical experience)? Consider contracting out this type of work to an experienced contractor.


Nicely maintained gardens are always very welcoming, not only to visitors but also to the parents that drop off or walk their children to school.

The sight of weeds and long grass that has been growing for months on end is not a pretty look at all. Consider the use of good mulch along with various types of ground cover.


This item comes up quite often, whether being car park, driveway or hard courts. Inevitably, there will be some wear and tear from time to time. Try and keep on top of any damage that has occurred. Small holes become large holes in a short timeframe. In some cases, early patching will be a cost effective solution. This may also help to reduce any injuries to students tripping up in a hole on a hard surface.

Roof Guttering

This one is always a goodie. How many times do we see grass growing up to 300mm tall out of the guttering? If I can see it, I am sure many others can see it as well. I have even seen Toi toi grass growing out of guttering!

Some property managers are very proactive and maintain clean gutters, others, I can sympathize with due to the design of the building or being multi-level, maintenance can become a Health and Safety issue.

Once again, consider contracting out this type of work to an experienced professional company that has the safety equipment to handle even the most difficult situations.

This could be carried out twice a year, depending on the building location in relation to adjacent trees with autumn leaves falling. Particular nuisance trees include Pine, Conifer and various forms of Oak. There are various types of gutter guard/screens on the market that are worth investigating. Consider trimming offending tree branches back.

Tennis balls are always a favourite of pupils; “Hey Johnny, how many can we land on the roof today?” Long lost balls eventually find their way down to block the down pipes. If unattended, heavy rains will certainly overflow the gutters and in some cases, may spill over and make their way into the classroom wall linings with costly repairs.

Heating and Cooling

Both of these items are essential in today’s schools, and their maintenance is important for both staff and students comfort.

Heat pumps are used quite extensively today; they should be maintained by a service contract to make sure that they are running in a cost efficient – balanced mode. We know heating accounts for a large portion of the energy costs within the school. Filter cleaning, where appropriate, also needs to be carried out on a regular basis, also checking the condenser, if located on the ground, is not being obstructed by recent growth of any garden shrubs.

We are noticing many of the older coal type boilers being converted to gas for more efficiency with the actual coal storage area being converted into more sizeable workshop area or additional much needed storage. With line gas being installed to many outer suburbs, some larger schools are actually running a series of smaller boilers close to areas of need, hence being more efficient with overall cost savings.

Even in cases with no line gas, the use of the larger 220kg cylinders in a bank of four to six is an option providing you have a local distributer to actually refill at your site with no requirement to swap bottles.

Don’t forget boilers, they also require maintenance by an authorised contractor during the summer months.

Exterior Building Structures

Many schools have a painting service contract while others opt for the quotation system when painting is due. Regardless of which type you use, do not put it off.

Not only for cosmetic reasons, but also as a first line of defence for the building fabric. As mentioned earlier, even old schools can look wonderful with fresh new paint.

Buildings being what they are accumulate dust and grime either from heavy vehicle traffic passing by or wind-blown dust from neighbouring fields.

Chemwash is a good solution to maintain the integrity of the paint by a soft wash process against a full water blast hosing down. Chemwash is also very useful particularly when moss is built up on translucent sheeting. You may wish to look into other environmental credential (green) washes on the market.

Security & Fencing

In the past, many school grounds were left open for the public to either use on the weekends or to travel through on route to the local supermarket.

With much vandalism including graffiti occurring, many schools have opted to install secure fencing including security cameras. Fencing comes in many forms including various heights which are best left to the Board of Trustees along with your project manager for advice.

Cameras including security beams when activated (silent), have been very successful with security companies actually being able to catch the criminals while they are still on site. Other options may include local community presence out and about as a friendly deterrent.

Many of the above items are just common sense, however, take a step back and spend 15 minutes to compare your current situation at your school and say “if we did this or if we did that” how much more welcoming would our school be.

Good maintenance doesn’t just save money; it makes us feel safe in the knowledge that this place is cherished and respected.



Stan Field is a project manager from Opus International Consultants. He has worked extensively on educational projects. Stan provides fresh approach and the assurance of professionalism derived from years of practical experience.

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