building cleaning
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Building Facade Cleaning (BFC)

Building Facade cleaning.

BFC as we often shorten it to, is a major area of work that we offer. Its vitally necessary too. Our high moisture weather patterns, particularly in the spring, are ideal  growing conditions for a number of surface growth. This can include algae, moss, lichen and mold. However buildings can also be affected by oils, greases and soils, which present their own problems. All of these issues can start to become apparent in under two years.

At first, dirtied surfaces are only a cosmetic issue: it can give a prematurely aged look that drives down property values and potential rental income. Left over time, growth and soiling can leave lasting damage to the building.This can take many forms. Some forms of algae and molds release chemicals that can bleach a surface and cause weathering. At its worse, it can be a source of serious damage. Algae and molds can weaken vinyl siding, concrete and mortar, leaving them brittle and easy to damage. Wood siding is equally effected, as molds and mosses feed of their surface and accelerate rotting. Left untreated, any of these issues could become a serious problem, leading to costly repairs and major inconveniences for residents.

We employ a number of techniques to clean these surfaces effectively. Perhaps one the one that is most familiar to people is pressure washing. However its limited in what it can clean. The high pressure spray can damage wood, old vinyl and even certain types of brick. For these areas, we use the tried and tested brush scrub. This is a gentler approach, but it takes significantly more time. For particular tough areas we also apply a specialized cleaning solution that breaks down hardened grime that can’t be removed by regular soap and water. These can be applied separately, or as part of an in-line spray system.

In general, late spring and summer are the best times of year to undertake facade cleaning. The hot drier weather aids in two ways. The first is that most biological growth are weakest in these months due to a lack of water and are easier to remove. Second, the weather allows for quicker drying, which prevents streaks from forming and prevents any further growth from coming back.

Is your building showing some growth, or looking dirty? Call us today to get a quote.

ROPE ACCESS IN ACTION ! “The signature Woodwards 43 tower” The Cleaning Of An Historic Giant!

In the past week, ServiceMaster Clean Vancouver has been cleaning the Iconic Woodwards Building in the downtown core. While this is a phenomenal opportunity, it also presents quite a few technical challenges for our technicians. First, the building incorporates a number of different architectural styles, which emulates its different history. However many of its features vastly increase the difficulty of cleaning the building. It is really a fantastic example of the advantages of rope access system employed by ServiceMaster Clean.

Here, a technician wears a safety harness that is connected to a rope via a mechanical descender. While this may seem more risky, rope access is much safer than other systems. It is also more efficient: technicians can move up and down, have more ability to move side to side than any other method. It is the preferred method to clean very high-rise buildings outside North America, such as the world’s tallest building, the Burj Kalifa in Dubai.

The signature Woodwards 43 tower exemplifies the advantages of the rope access system. It has large cornices (the lip at the top of the building), which limits a lot of the options for cleaning. For example the Bosun chair cannot be used with this feature, because they cannot get under the overhang.


But, as you can see in this photo, our technicians are able to re-route their lines under the cornice, which brings them much closer to the building. This represents perhaps the biggest disadvantage of Bosun chairs: they are really only a descent system, with very limited mobility options for a suspended worker. Individuals cannot attach themselves to different lines, go up, or even conduct a self-rescue, if part of their equipment fails. Another example of chair’s limitations is the presence of large exterior metal girders on each floor of the W43 tower.



Since these are not balconies and there is no place to latch onto, the girders all but rules out the chair as a viable cleaning method. Rope’s flexibility allows workers to latch onto different ropes in order to provide a safe, effective work environment at height, as this before and after photo makes clear.


In January Worksafe BC introduced a series of new regulations for rope access work, that required all technicians and supervisors to have specific levels of training appropriate to their role. This will mean that some companies will need to invest in training to bring their staff up to the minimum standards, and will result in some higher costs being passed along to the customer. This is not the case with ServiceMaster Clean Vancouver, as we are already broadly compliant with the regulations. All of our rope access technicians were required to obtain a recognized rope access qualification before they took their first step off of a building; we considered this a matter of basic safety.

Bosun Chairs did not face any new regulations. This was not because the method is superior to rope access; rather it is because it is less. Workplace BC acknowledges that chairs cannot be used in a wide variety of situations, so its current regulations are sufficient for its limited use. Even so, unless a tower is an unremarkable box, Bosun Chairs are slower, and more cumbersome to use than rope access. The only difference is that the training standards are far lower, so the labor costs are lower.

So when you’re considering exterior cleaning of high-rise towers, it is really important to understand these considerations and make your decision accordingly.

Customer Success with gutter maintenance programs!

customer_support_to_sucessOur job at ServiceMaster Clean Residential is to make our customers successful; end of story. However our “customer” is not a single entity. In reality there are two. The first is the property managers and then there are the buildings and their residents. While you are there to represent the interest of the buildings, they also have their own needs that must be taken care of.

ServiceMaster’s gutter maintenance programs are an example of how we enable both to have success when it comes to dealing with their gutter systems throughout the year. Lets go through many of the stories that we encounter. You ask us for a quote, you select the gutter maintenance option on behalf of your strata. For this your building benefits from a higher level of service, one of the benefits being service calls included after the initial cleaning of the gutters.

Our production team cleans the gutters at your building provides a completion report on the overall condition, which often includes some pictures or video footage. Unfortunately, gutter cleaning in the lower mainland is not a one-time event. As a rainforest with large numbers of coniferous and evergreen trees that shed needles year around, drains can become plugged all throughout the year. So its not uncommon to have someone from a building call a few months after a clean about a badly overflowing gutter, and how the world is going to end if its not dealt with ASAP.

Your next move is where the success truly happens for both you and that building.

You contact us, we respond within an hour and we dispatch a crew soon after. They attend to the area, rectify the problem and provide a report we then forward to you (and you can forward to the affected building). It should also be mentioned that you wont be getting an invoice for the service call, so at the end of the year your budget number will be your actual, not an initial service and multiple services afterwards.

This leads to success, for both you and the building you represent, which is what we are in the business to do.

For more information on gutter our gutter maintenance programs please click here

Polygon: An Expert Developer’s Recommended Maintenance And Warranty Requirements

I had the opportunity recently to review Polygon’s official building envelope review submitted to a strata for which we provide maintenance services. It was a welcome chance to add this expert developer’s recommendations to our own, and share with you the insight obtained by reading their recommendations and why the items below should be addressed.

Here are direct quotes regarding what Polygon recommends in their literature to ensure buildings in Vancouver remain structurally sound through the use of programmed maintenance.

Exterior Walls

(relates to building facade cleaning service)

“The exterior cladding of a building is the first line of defense against water penetration. Any damage, deterioration, or organic residue build-up must be addressed immediately to prevent the build-up of moisture against the sheathing membrane behind… Strata should monitor and maintain exterior cladding as part of a regularly scheduled maintenance program.”

Important note: Potted Plants

“Potted plants and other items were located against the exterior building surface. Items stored against exterior siding must be removed to prevent debris and moisture build-up, and to limit access for insects that can damage the building envelope.”

Exhaust Vents

(relates to dryer and bathroom fan cleaning service)

“Clothes dryers, bathroom fans, and range hoods exhaust a significant amount of moisture laden air from a home. Vent covers and/or exhaust hoods should be visually examined and cleaned on a regular basis to ensure they are free and clear of lint and debris, and residents need to clean their dryer lint screens after each use. The strata should arrange for regular duct cleaning through a professional cleaning company. Also, there needs to be regular reviews of ducting and duct connections to vents, especially after duct cleaning, to ensure they are intact with no air leakage; and remember to inspect that damper flaps are operating properly to limit the entry of birds and insects.

These maintenance initiatives need to be incorporated into the strata’s maintenance program. A compromised ventilation system can be very costly to the owners. If the mechanically exhausted air becomes impeded due to clogged vents or debris filled ducting, condensation will form in the ducts resulting in water damage to the ceiling. A more common problem is the buildup of unacceptable humidity levels in a home. The most common non-warranty issue for residents during the cooler months of winter is condensation due to humidity. This is almost always due to either a compromised ventilation system due to lack of maintenance or residents failing to use their exhaust fans…”

I always welcome information from experts in our industry or related industries that help further the understanding of what should be done to maintain our homes.  By sharing this knowledge, everyone wins.

Algae and Moss Cleaning

Algae.  Moss.  It feeds.  It grows.  It takes over the shady sides of your buildings and becomes more than just an ‘uglifier’.  It can eat into the surface of the building and do permanent damage.  It erodes paint, wood, and even concrete, the roots biting into surface and deteriorating that surface as it grows and spreads.

So what can you do about it?  Start by cleaning it off.

  • Pressure washing on vinyl siding is possible, if you have a skilled worker doing the task.  Washing must be performed in a downward motion, so as not to force water up and under the siding.  Care must be taken not to force water into the building envelope.
  • Hand scrubbing with a stiff bristle brush, soap, and algaecides also works, if you can’t pressure wash.
  • To help prevent it coming back year after year, using an algaecide with your cleaning will diminish the problem over repeated cleanings, lessening the return of growth over time.  There are types available which won’t damage plants around the area in which you’re working.
  • Trim back the landscaping; if you have algae growing on the shaded sides of your building, have the landscapers trim in ways that let more light into the shaded areas.  This will help reduce algae growth.
  • Clean the buildings in mid-summer.  The long, hot, dry days help in the cleaning process, by evaporating the water used in the cleaning process.  Also, this ensures you’ve waited until after the algae growth season (rainy, short winter and spring days), but you’ve cleaned and killed it before those conditions come back.
  • Paint an algaecide preventative coating onto troublesome surfaces.

Awnings – Architecture Changes Bring Challenges

Inward slanting awnings – this is a newer feature being found in Vancouver over the last couple of years.  I’ve heard (though I may be wrong) that this is due to a change in Vancouver building law which no longer allows rain to run off of a building awning and onto city sidewalk.  Instead, the rainwater is directed downward to a gutter running the length of the awning where it meets the building.  It then flows through a downspout into the city sewer system.

We had a question from a couple of property managers concerning this type of glass canopy that appeared to be leaking.  If there are drips coming from the bottom sides of such a structure.  If the gutter at the base of these awnings is not regularly cleaned, they may become clogged with leaves, debris, and garbage thrown from above or blown off balconies by the wind.   Cleaning these gutters should get rid of any leaks you may be having.

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