Repair VS Maintenance

Unplanned downtime in buildings is one of the largest causes of causing delays, unhappy residents, and delays in the management fee collections.

The maintenance goal is to keep facility assets working! Avoid following manufacturer’s recommendations, and you’re more likely to experience faster equipment depreciation, increased mechanical failures, and more emergency repair costs within your facilities. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the difference between the terms “repair” and “maintenance.” 

Is There a Difference Between Repair and Maintenance? 

We know that asset failure is inevitable. Some repairs are straightforward, while others require significant problem-solving.

Furthermore, the more complex the piece of equipment, the more essential preventive maintenance (PM) becomes. The more complex the machinery under your care, the more you will find yourself working with outsourced technicians from time to time. Why? It’s rare for maintenance departments to have workers on staff who know how to fix every possible scenario. 

Unfortunately, contractors sometimes perform work that in-house technicians could have completed were it not for one missing piece of the puzzle. For this reason, it’s essential to know the difference between asset repair and maintenance. 

Anyone who has worked as a maintenance technician for any time has undoubtedly heard their peers use the terms “maintenance” and “repair” interchangeably. Understanding the difference between the terms is crucial to running a successful asset management program, maintenance team, and business. So how do we define our two terms?

What Are Repairs?

Repairs refer to actions taken to restore the proper functionality of an asset. Essentially, it’s returning something broken back to optimal working conditions. The level of repairs required depends on the type of asset failure. There are two primary types of failure. They are:

  • Complete Failure: This refers to failures that make assets unavailable for use. The asset cannot fulfill its purpose until someone attends to it. For example, an engine failure will stall your car, rendering it undrivable until you take it to the mechanic. Asset failure most often leads to unplanned downtime, which is usually costly and requires emergency maintenance.
  • Partial Failure: In this instance, the asset still works to some degree despite the failure. You can still use the equipment, but it is either unsafe or minimally effective. For example, a driver can choose to operate a vehicle with a dirty air filter. But he may notice the AC isn’t as cold as it once was, or he may find himself sneezing because of poor air quality. Generally, you want to resolve partial failures as quickly as possible, so they don’t lead to complete breakdowns at inconvenient times. 

Obviously, some repairs are more expensive than others. How much money you spend on repairs will depend on the root cause of the failure.

Asset failure and subsequent repairs can be costly. While failure is inevitable, most asset failures are preventable. This is where maintenance comes in. Proactive maintenance can help you avoid major, costly repairs. Let’s look at what maintenance means.

What Is Maintenance? 

Maintenance refers to keeping assets in good working condition. It’s work done to preserve the functionality, performance, and safety over a machine’s lifespan—the primary goal of proactive maintenance is to avoid major or unplanned repairs. 

Experts sometimes disagree about how many types of maintenance there are. But, at its simplest, you can categorize upkeep into four types: preventive maintenance, corrective maintenance, predictive maintenance, and reliability-centered maintenance. 

Common maintenance activities include:

  • Installing condition-monitoring sensors and devices
  • Installing new lighting and air conditioning systems
  • Upgrading existing assets and systems
  • Installing new assets and systems
  • Performing safety inspections
  • Replacing asset components

Technically, repairs can also be considered maintenance work (corrective maintenance). However, the difference between repair and maintenance work is that repairs aim to restore functionality while maintenance looks to preserve functionality.

Put simply, repairs are done after downtime to minimize losses, while maintenance is done to prevent unexpected asset downtime.

Both repair and maintenance have the same end goal: to enable you to get the most out of your assets. It’s their approach to achieving this goal that differs. As expected, maintenance costs can vary substantially based on the complexity of the machinery and the parts involved. 

Common repair and maintenance expenses include costs incurred for:

  • Replacing broken or worn-out parts with comparable parts
  • Repairing HVAC units, toilets, and faucets
  • Cleaning building structures and systems
  • Pool cleaning (residential properties)
  • Routine inspections and checks
  • Changing fleet engine oils
  • Basic electrical repairs
  • Bulb replacements
  • Landscaping
  • Paint touch-ups

To properly supervise repair services, maintenance/building managers must understand the difference between which tasks fall into “necessary” vs. “we can do it ourselves.” In short, Repairs and maintenance are both essential for the optimal functioning of assets in the building.


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