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Water Restrictions – The Facts

So this week has seen a return to the hot summer weather in the Lower Mainland. While we are in better shape than last year, its still likely that we’re going to see water restrictions later in the summer.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 8.59.16 AMLast year there was immense confusion on what the water restrictions actually meant for the different types of exterior cleaning: window washing, pressure washing and building facade cleaning. Two of the three require significant amounts of water, which means we are subject to the water restrictions (sort of, more on that later.) With this in mind, a number of our clients cancelled work that was legally permissible to occur. Certainly they should be applauded for their proactive approach to water conservation, but it was done without understanding the regulations that govern this area, or the safeguards we have put into place to redress any problems we may encounter.

As you are probably aware, water restrictions are based on a four-stage system. As of last month, we are at the Stage 1 restrictions: the most tangible aspect for most people is watering lawns only on specific days. However, as the summer moves along, it is likely that we will see Stage II and perhaps even III restrictions. This gets a little more complicated. At Stage II, there are actually no restrictions on commercial cleaning of residential windows, driveways, patios or other features.

This changes once upgraded to Stage III, where there can be no pressure washing, however window washing of all types is permitted to occur. That however does not mean we can’t clean buildings: we just cannot use water from the public system. Last year we invested in large portable water tanks that we can bring on site to store water for our cleaning tasks. Since they are filled with water from private sources (including potable recycled water sources), they are not covered by the restrictions. A number of buildings were cleaned this way last year without any problems whatsoever. Moreover using public water for building façade and pressure washing is permitted if it is in preparation of applying a treatment or painting. For example, we completed some water proofing and caulking last August.

So as we enter into the hot months of the year and you are concerned that your building’s exterior won’t get cleaned, don’t be. We’re already on top of it, ensuring that you get the work done when you needed and with a minimum of fuss. That’s the ServiceMaster Clean difference.

Balcony & Patio Cleaning

power wash guyOver time discolorations and stains may occur due to normal usage despite the best efforts of residents to keep it clean. These cannot be cleaned through regular methods and require more aggressive cleaning methods, such as power washers, sweepers or hand scrubbing with a release agent.

Given the disruption this would cause if everybody cleaned their own balconies with such methods, it is best that a strata periodically organize a cleaning for all residents. This also ensures that any runoff from the balcony washing is properly managed cleaned up properly and does not affect the appearance of units below.


 Exposed balcony and patios generally should be cleaned once every two years or more, depending on their surface composition. These generally see greater weathering and the benefits are more apparent.

If the balcony is part of the gutter system, then it should be every year, since blockages may cause overflows and potential damage to the building’s structure. For covered balconies, the cleaning interval can be extended out further: every three or more years.

Eyebrow Cleaning

tower sketch-3Eyebrows are the areas at the base of verandas, decks and other features. While they cause fewer potential problems compared to other aspects of building maintenance, they are they are also some of the most apparent visual features on a building.  Cleaning them should usually be undertaken at the same time as a façade and/or window cleaning. This should create efficiencies as crews can clean all three at once, and keep the building’s appearance uniform.

Roof Abatement & Cleaning

 The third major structural exterior area to consider is the roof. As with exterior façade, biological growth can cause significant damage to the roof structure if left untreated.west coast style lowrise 3

However, the potential for catastrophic damage is more apparent: if a roof is compromised it can cause leaks that may cost thousands of dollars to remedy.

Technique and Frequency

Cleaning and maintaining your roof is really a two-step process, which is important to understand the frequency.

The first step is to clean the roof. This is almost always accomplished by an individual cleaning off debris and growth with a brush, or by hand. There is no quicker alternative, but this method ensures that no growth will remain that could effect the integrity of the roof.

Once the removal is complete the second step abatement work,  should progress. This usually involves applying an anti-fungal agent that will retard any growth for occurring. They can remain effective for over two years. Thus a realistic service interval could be 2~4 years, depending on the condition of the roof, its composition and biome. Subsequent visits will usually require significantly less time, since there will be less growth to remove, and efforts should be focused on reapplying the abatement agent.

Building Envelope / Facade Cleaning

Along with windows and the roof, the building façade is an important element of a location’s appearance and long term maintenance.

yellow sprint mid riseOils, dirt and soot buildup tend to be cosmetic issues that are comparatively easier to resolve. However, the wet west coast climate is an ideal climate for biological growths such as algae and moss.

Left unchecked, they can become a serious issue. Biological growth can release chemicals that can bleach a surface or weaken vinyl siding, concrete and mortar, which leaves them brittle and easy to damage. Wood siding is equally affected, as molds and mosses feed off their surface and accelerate rot. Left untreated, any of these issues could become a serious problem, leading to costly repairs and major inconveniences for residents.


There are three approaches to façade cleaning.

Hand Cleaning/Soft Wash

o These generally involve an individual cleaning the surface with mechanical action. This usually includes a water brush of some sort, with soap or some other agent used to loosen dirt and growths.
o This can be the most thorough approach to cleaning the façade but it is also the most time consuming. It is best used in cases where other techniques are unavailable or there are particularly stubborn issues on the surface.

Pressure Washing.
o Very effective and efficient: will remove almost everything from a surface.
o The high-pressure spray can damage wood, old vinyl and even certain types of brick. Thus it is critical that the façade is tested beforehand for its durability.

Cleaning Solutions
o Solutions are used often in conjunction with hand cleaning or pressure washing. They help to break down hardened grime that can’t be removed through either option alone.


As with other areas, the cleaning frequency may vary, but issues can start to emerge in less than two years. Residents should remain vigilant of these issues, and once contamination emerges cleaning is recommended. In general, spring and summer are the best times of year to undertake facade cleaning. The hot and dry weather weakens the growth and makes it easier to remove.

Window Cleaning – High Level Overview

High Window washerWindow cleaning can have a dramatic effect on the appearance of a building, both on the outside and the inside. From the inside, a proper cleaning of the external glass allows more light into individual units. From the outside, clean glass will certainly make the building look much more attractive.


Another issue is window calcium staining. This frequently happens when water with heavier mineral content evaporates on the window, leaving behind a calcified residue that can damage a window (specifically the rubber seals) leading to a premature replacement.


Windows typically should be cleaned once a year. This keeps them looking their best, and avoids any potential for damage. For high-rise locations near the water, an additional cleaning may be required to prevent staining.

Low Rise Window (less than four stories).


Window cleaning is generally separated into two groups: hand cleaning and pole clean (commonly known as tucker pole). Each has their advantages and disadvantages, which apply to specific situations.


Pole Cleaning

This approach to window cleaning involves the use of a long pole with a water brush at the top. Commonly know by the brand name, Tucker pole, an individual can usually reach a window four stories high. This is the most cost effective method of cleaning: very little set up is required for each window. However, it is less effective when there is more resistant accumulation on the glass (such as construction residue), or where access directly below a window is limited (such as due to prominent architectural features or ground brush). For the vast majority of situations, a pole-cleaned window will be indistinguishable from any other method.


Hand cleaning

This usually involves an individual coming within an arms’ length of a window and cleaning it with a squeegee and/or other instrument. All ground floor windows are cleaned this way. However, for second story and above, this is accomplished by a ladder, boom lift or by standing on the buildings features with proper fall arrest gear. This is a much more time consuming process, requiring significant effort to get to each window. However, it is a more thorough clean, and may be appropriate in specific circumstances.



High Rise


Rachel HartHigh Rise window cleaning is almost exclusively undertaken through hand cleaning, utilizing one of two access methods: rope access and bosun chair. There are significant differences between the two. Chairs (bosun) are less regulated than rope access, and are significantly less safe. This is because they do not have two constant points of restraint (only one) and lack a self-rescue capability. Moreover they are descent-only systems, meaning the user is very limited in the direction they can move. If they discover an error above or to the side, they often are unable to deal with it and will leave the deficiency.


Rope Access is becoming the standard cleaning and maintenance method for high rise buildings. Individuals applying this method must have passed one of two industry regulatory programs; IRATA or SPRATT.

irata logo



They can move up or down, and even laterally when additional ropes exist. This flexibility enables technicians to be significantly more effective at cleaning, as they are able to adapt to changing circumstances.



If your high rise is considering a window cleaning, take some time to look at the options and consider which approach really suits you.[1]

[1] For more information on best practices on Window Cleaning Please Visit


How Do We Maintain the Floors in Our Building?


vaccum vanCleaning Common Area Carpets should be considered a “medium frequency” cleaning. Pre-planned maintenance is essential for:

  • Keeping the carpet looking great (Appearance Management)
  • Keeping the building healthy (air quality)
  • Increasing the life span of the carpet

(Reduce capital expenditures)

The latter point is critical: Most common hallway carpet is replaced before the end of its life because it greys out. This generally occurs when a carpet has been neglected and has not received proper cleaning over a long period of time. Microscopic dirt particles create striations on individual fibers, which cause it to lose its colour and turn an area grey. A regular cleaning will maintain its appearance far longer, since it removes the particles before they can cause damage.

The Building Blocks of a Carpet Maintenance Program


Preventative Maintenance – “Keep The Dirt Out”


Perhaps the simplest and most effective tool to keeping the common area carpets clean is the placement of appropriate entry systems (mats) at all access points.  Best practices is for entry systems to be at minimum 3 strides long.  A 15-foot long walk off area can effectively remove 80 % of the soil and moisture before it reaches the carpet.[1]



vaccum guy floor
Regular Vacuuming is the most important part of any maintenance program.  Make sure your janitorial provider has up to date vacuum equipment, which generally should include an HEPA filter or better. Technique is also important: the area around a baseboard is frequently neglected, leading to filtration lines appearing around them.


Spot Removal


Remove a spot or spill quickly and there is less chance if will become a permanent stain.  The chemistry behind spot removal is important as to not damage the carpet and have success removing the spot.


Interim Cleaning

whittaker traceAn interim cleaning is a low moisture, light extraction cleaning method. It is intended to be a midway point between vacuuming and a restorative deep clean. Regular vacuuming and spot cleaning can only postpone the need for a true restorative cleaning.  Interim cleaning utilizes systems with a goal of maintaining a carpets uniform appearance.[2]


Restorative Deep Cleaning


IMG_3923Deep or corrective cleanings are applied to return the carpet to a relatively clean condition.  Restorative cleaning uses systems that extract accumulated soils and cleaning residue at higher intensity to maximize removal of embedded soils.  Hot water extraction is the primary common restorative deep cleaning method. This usually entails applying hot water with a cleaning solution (usually a set of enzymes), which binds to dirt, oils and other foreign items within the carpet. The solution and dissolved impurities are then drawn out by the extractor, leaving the carpet restored to a clean status.[3]

[1] IICRC R100 Reference Guide for Professional Cleaning


[3] Reference  from carpet cleaning associations         Systems.aspx


Hard Surface Floors

Your Lobby & Parkade Entrance Floors 


As with carpeted floors, hard surface floors (marble, stone, tile, synthetics, wood and metal), also need proper care. It is a bit of a misconception that they need less maintenance than carpeted floors. Having an established and effective cleaning plan has several advantages including:

  • Maintains the appearance of the floors throughout the year.
  • Seals & protects grout and mortar lines from penetration and darkening by dirt and oily soils.
  • Makes daily maintenance/cleaning easier.Location photography staging working scenes of ServiceMaster Clean business services at such locations as Baptist Women's Hospital and Archer Malmo offices, Memphis, TN.

 Techniques and Frequency

Maintaining a hard surface floor requires several different approaches to cleaning at different intervals.

  • Daily prevention
    • Regular sweeping, followed by mopping of the tiles with a solution of water and a PH neutral cleaning solution, will help prevent stains and dirt to be ground into a porous surface. Sealants only provide temporary protection, particularly for grout, so daily cleaning is essential. As with carpets, floor mats at doors are critical for preventing soiling material from reaching carpets.
  • Quarterly Deep Cleaning
    • In addition to daily efforts, hard surface floors require deep cleaning as well. For stone based materials, a high pressure extracting system must be used, which can lift oils from the porous surface. Wood and metal does not need such a cleaning, but they do require a sealant, as do stone surfaces. These should be applied every three months or so to ensure maximum protection of the surface.

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