What is Construction Residue?
This article is being written in response to customer e-mails we receive like the one below.
“What do you mean, construction residue? I’m on the opposite side of the building, facing away from the construction (across the street from this strata), so it must be something else on my windows.”
The person in this example thinks we’re telling them that the construction site across the street is putting residue up into the air, which is then dirtying their windows more so than usual.
To correct this impression, let me state what we mean when we say we have found construction debris on the glazing.
When a strata building is being constructed, the builder installs the windows prior to completing the project. In order to protect the surface of the glass from damage, in most cases, a blue plastic sheet is glued onto the outside surface. This reduces the amount of scratches and construction material that ends up on the glass.
As the photo above demonstrates, by the time it is to be removed, the blue plastic doesn’t usually cover completely any more. And, when it is peeled off and the windows cleaned, there is often more finishing work to be done in the building process; painting, caulking, sealing of concrete, etc.
At this point, the initial cleaning of the glass must be done before the developer turns the building over to the strata. This first clean is critical, as it must remove the glue that was used to adhere the blue plastic to the glass, as well as concrete spatter from glazing and frames, paint spatter, silicone, caulking, dirt and other gunk so that the strata will accept the building as it is turned over to them. This then releases the developer from its responsibilities.
Problem: this usually is done as the building is near completion, but usually not as the very final step. There are still trades working around the building finishing it up while this cleaning is going on. So even if the initial construction clean of the windows is done perfectly, more paint, silicone, caulking, glue, concrete and other such materials can get on the now unprotected glass in the weeks or even months before it is inspected and turned over.
But you would think that this would be noticed during the walk through inspection, right?
Not if several months have passed, and now the glass is covered in a layer of dirt. This hides the construction debris still on the glass.
Remember – this is a newly constructed building. There is dust being swept off balconies, landscapers putting down sod around the base, and all the other dust from drilling and sanding and finishing being washed down the sides of the building by the rain. The windows get dirty again fast. This dirt covers up whatever glue residue, calking, and silicone may remain on the windows.
If the building is accepted without a fresh window cleaning service being done just prior to the hand off, this will go unnoticed.
So, construction debris is materials left on the glass from the original construction of the building, that cannot be washed off with soap and water. This issue can remain hidden until the first regular maintenance window cleaning service is performed. Once the layer of regular old dirt is washed off, the stuff that remains behind is revealed.
You may wonder why this is an issue for the next window cleaners to remove. Here’s why:
Time. The quote for a maintenance clean was for labour time to clean all windows using soap and water or a tucker pole. The additional time it will take to remove construction materials is great; it may involve razoring, using chemicals, and going over each pane of glass several times to ensure this stuff is gone, rather than just once. It can increase the time needed to clean a single pane of glassfrom 45 seconds to up to ten minutes, or in bad cases, much more.
Tools. The specialized chemicals or equipment to address construction materials isn’t carried around by window cleaners when doing a maintenance clean. Using the chemicals required to do so (depending on what is actually on the glass) can require full rain gear and protective gear to ensure skin doesn’t get burned. (Muriatic acid to remove concrete spatter).
Access. In some instances, the reason why the construction material wasn’t properly cleaned off in the first place, is that the windows it is on are located in a difficult area to get to on the building.
There is one strata where we have discovered a lot of construction residue left on the top floor – an area where getting a person up to it using a lift is impossible due to the landscaping and building structure, and most glass needs to be cleaned by tucker pole. That means it was probably skipped during the initial clean, and the problem was left for the next person to come and clean the windows to try and deal with.
Understanding these issues is the first step in getting to a positive resolution between all parties. Otherwise, strata can be confused as to what is meant by construction residue and why this takes more time and is therefore more expensive to remove than regular environmental soiling removed during a regular maintenance clean. Tenants do not understand what is on the glass and why; all they see is a dirty ‘splotch’ that they expected would not be there after the window cleaning service. Hopefully this will help further understanding so that strata members know what is to be addressed, rather than just becoming frustrated when seeing that something remains on their glass. Extra time and attention may be needed and the cost for that, if caught in time, may be able to be charged back to the developer under warranty.