There’s nothing simple about new construction window cleaning. Trust me, I’ve been in the business for a long time. This is a brief rant about responsibility in the construction industry in general.
It’s widely accepted that the window cleaner is solely responsible for the condition of the windows after they’ve been cleaned. Current reasoning is that, “if there are scratches, then they must have been caused by, and only by, the window cleaner.” However, the reality is that precautions can and should be taken by all trades before, during and after the window cleaning is done to ensure a scratch-free window in a new construction environment.
It’s the rule rather than the exception that the construction window cleaner will encounter excessive plaster, paint and texture overspray, or splashed concrete, mortar and mud, plus smeared silicone and grout on the windows. Although a moderate amount of these items can be expected, the current practice of an accelerated building schedule, coupled with the declining level of competence and the capability of other trades, has resulted in an irresponsible attitude toward protecting the glass, window and door frames in new construction. It then becomes the responsibility of the construction window cleaner to remove all such debris from the windows without damaging the frames, glass or sealant.
The reality is, many window cleaners are not properly trained to clean windows safely, to determine the cause of existing scratches, or to even notice that there are potential hazards on the glass.
There are 2 main causes of scratches on glass. First, there is the damage caused by subcontractors during the construction of the house. The second source of scratches is the technique by which the window cleaner chooses to clean the windows and doors. The tools and methods used and the preparation taken prior to cleaning the window are all significant factors. For example, the glass must be kept wet during the cleaning process. Razor blades or broad knives must never be moved backwards on glass. This will trap debris under the blade and cause scratches.
Once the major causes of scratched glass are recognized, all parties must work together to prevent the problem from occurring. Care must be taken by the general contractor as early as the bidding process to ensure that hired subcontractors are qualified and careful. In the short term, an acceptance of a subcontractor’s appealing low bid may lead to expensive problems down the road.
Subcontractors should be required to protect all the windows in the area where they are working to prevent any damage that may be caused as a result of their work. In the grand scheme of things, tape and plastic can do a lot to protect the windows!
Any window cleaner hired for a project must have the knowledge required to clean windows in a construction environment without causing damage, and should also know the limits of his or her ability. Once again, a low bid may indicate a lack of experience necessary for safe and effective cleaning. Excessive amounts of debris on glass, whether texture, paint, plaster, concrete or anything else, should be brought to the attention of the job superintendent prior to cleaning. If some of these issues could be kept in mind moving forward, everyone, including our customers, would be much better off!