Preparing for a Dry Summer: Implications for Property Maintenance

As the chill of winter fades and we step into the promise of spring, it is time to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead. In Vancouver, renowned for its lush greenery and temperate climate, whispers of a dry summer are stirring among meteorologists and environmental experts. This forecast, driven by minimal snowpack, carries significant implications for property maintenance, particularly for services like window cleaning, pressure washing, and building envelope cleaning. 
 
At Black Tie, we recognize the importance of early awareness and proactive planning to ensure seamless operations despite potential hurdles. Last time Vancouver implemented stage 3 water restrictions was in 2015, and exterior cleaning services crawled to a halt throughout the Lower mainland. 
 
Despite changes in regulation that will now allow exterior cleaning services to still operate during stage 3 restrictions, the public perception and widespread desire to conserve water will most likely affect operations in the summer months.
“Water restrictions apply to all services using running water and do NOT apply to other services such as mop and bucket work”
Here’s what property managers need to know as we brace for a dry summer

Water Restrictions on the Horizon:

With dwindling water resources, it’s inevitable that water restrictions will come into play. Vancouver typically implements various stages of water restrictions during dry periods to conserve water. Property managers should familiarize themselves with these stages and anticipate how they will impact their cleaning schedules.

Impact on Cleaning Services:

The dry conditions may affect our ability to perform certain types of work, such as pressure washing and building envelope cleaning, which rely heavily on water usage. As water becomes scarcer, we may need to adjust our cleaning techniques and schedules to adhere to conservation measures.

Solutions and proper planning:

Early awareness of these issues is key to effective planning. Here are a few planning tips and solutions that will help minimize the impact of a dry summer on your properties maintenance schedule:

Proactive planning around water-heavy services: 

Parkade cleaning, power washing and building envelope cleans should be booked before May or later in the season, in the fall or even in winter. Building envelope cleans are ideal winter time projects and also come with a substantial low season discount, so why not schedule them when water restrictions are less stringent, and water availability is more stable.

Understanding the restrictions: 

Under the most recent regulations, exterior cleaning, including power washing and water-fed pole cleaning is still allowed, even under stage 3 restrictions. However, it is fair to assume that several stratas will decide to cancel or postpone services in order to do their part to conserve water. Both managers and service providers need to prepare for this eventuality and avoid project interruptions and last minute cancellations if they are not mandated by city bylaws. 
 
Last minute shuffling of schedules create extra work for everyone, so by being aware of 
the regulations, we can avoid scrambling at the last minute.

Doing our part: 

During the dry summer season, we do our best to limit water consumption by using shut-off valves on our water-fed poles, ensuring that the water is only running while the brush is in motion.
 
During the drier months, we also focus on hand washing, which is the primary method of cleaning for high-rise buildings (mop and squeegee). This method of cleaning uses very little water and can be performed even during the harshest stage of restrictions.

Managing Expectations:

By communicating these potential challenges with their clients, property managers can help set realistic expectations for the upcoming summer cleaning season. Educating customers about the impact of water restrictions and the need for flexibility in scheduling will foster understanding and cooperation.
 
In conclusion, while the prospect of a dry summer may present hurdles for property maintenance services, proactive planning and clear communication can mitigate its impact. By working together, property managers and service providers can navigate these challenges and ensure that maintenance needs are met efficiently and responsibly.

Pressure Washing Pitfalls Unveiled: Top 5 Failures that Highlight the Importance of Professional Help

Rope Power washing

In the building maintenance industry, pressure washing is a commonly used method to clean and maintain various surfaces. However, if not done properly, it can lead to some significant failures that can damage surfaces or cause other issues. Here are the top 5 pressure washing fails in the building maintenance industry:

  1. Surface Damage: One of the most common failures is surface damage caused by using excessive pressure or the wrong type of nozzle. If the pressure is too high or the nozzle is too close to the surface, it can cause cracks, chipping, or etching on delicate materials like wood, stucco, or painted surfaces.
  2. Water Intrusion: Pressure washing can inadvertently force water into areas where it shouldn’t be, such as cracks, crevices, or building openings. This can lead to water intrusion, resulting in damage to the building’s structure, including rot, mold growth, or electrical issues.
  3. Window Breakage: Improper pressure washing techniques near windows can lead to shattered glass. High-pressure water directed at a windowpane or the window frame from the wrong angle can cause the glass to break, posing a safety hazard and requiring costly repairs.
  4. Chemical Mishaps: Pressure washing often involves the use of cleaning chemicals to remove tough stains or dirt. However, using the wrong cleaning agents or applying them incorrectly can damage surfaces or harm the environment. Certain chemicals may react negatively with specific materials, leading to discolouration, corrosion, or even toxic fumes.
  5. Inadequate Preparation: Failing to prepare the area properly before pressure washing can result in additional problems. For example, not removing loose debris, such as leaves or dirt, can cause clogs in drainage systems or lead to the debris being forcefully sprayed onto nearby surfaces. Inadequate protection of nearby objects or landscaping can also result in accidental damage.

To avoid these pressure washing fails, it is crucial to hire experienced professionals who are knowledgeable about the appropriate techniques, equipment, and cleaning agents for different surfaces. Proper training, careful planning, and attention to detail are essential to ensure a successful and damage-free pressure washing process.

Making Things Right – when roof anchors are an afterthought

af·ter·thought: /ˈaftərˌTHôt/ noun: an item or thing that is thought of or added later.

Unfortunately, this is sometimes the case with anchor or access systems on newly built properties. For all the flash and promise of life-changing lifestyle experience outlined in the fancy pre-sale brochure, something as simple as to how windows will be accessed and cleaned is often overlooked.

This was the case at The Flats, located on east Georgia, in Vancouver’s Chinatown. The new trendy modern 9 story structure was completed in 2014 and houses 29 condo units. 

We were initially approached by Tribe management in the fall of 2021, asked to provide a window cleaning and dryer vent quote for the property. We were warned that other companies had looked at the building and were unable to provide a quote, due to access issues. The building not only lacked roof anchors that could be used for rope access work, it also had power lines and other obstacles at ground level, which made elevated platform (boom lift) access impossible. 

After attending the site and making our initial assessment, we came to the conclusion that the only viable solution would be to install anchors at roof level. We engaged our construction services division to provide a deeper analysis and to provide a proposal detailing the number of anchors and locations proposed. Since some of the anchors would need to be located on the penthouse balcony, aesthetics needed to be considered and owners consulted in the process. 

In late winter, our proposal was accepted and the anchors were installed in spring of 2022, providing a safe, long-term solution for access to the exterior facade.

“I was so glad to find a company that could provide a quote for all the services we needed, AND also solve our access issues. I love that Black Tie is a one stop shop.” – Lara Carino, Community Manager, Tribe Management Inc.

It is important to note that our team is uniquely positioned to offer the most comprehensive and cost-effective solution when it comes to anchor system. Being intimately familiar with rope access regulation, we will provide a proposal that will ensure all areas of the building can be accessed safely, with the minimum number of anchors possible.

The Flats is one example of a problematic building, but we frequently come across similar issues, especially with 5 to 7 story wood frame buildings, that are too tall to be cleaned from the ground, and have no anchors that can be used for rope access or suspended work platforms. While we aim at educating developers and builders, we sometimes have to deal with what is clearly and afterthought. If you manage one of these problematic buildings, please contact us, and we will gladly help find the best solution for your property, working closely with owners or strata council to get to the best outcome.

Have you met Liv?

Liv

If you have called or emailed our office in the last 3 years, you have most likely had the pleasure of interacting with Olivia, or Liv, as she prefers to be addressed.

Liv joined us in early 2018, as she helped get our Victoria location off the ground. Her life partner, David Bell, moved to the Island to manage the location, and Liv offered to roll up her sleeves and work alongside Dave, doing whatever needed to be done, including cleaning windows and gutters, cold calling potential clients and visiting sites around Victoria to prepare estimates. This was a complete 180 from her career in fashion, and she handled the transition and steep learning curve beautifully.

Her efforts didn’t go unnoticed and in 2019, Liv was promoted to head of customer service team, and started handling all client communications for both our Vancouver and Victoria locations. Her ability to handle large volumes of communications efficiently and to create systems that would streamline our back office processes has been extremely invaluable.

As our operations keep expanding in BC and Alberta, Liv has now taken on the role of operations manager for our back office management team, and oversees all admin functions, ensuring that our clients, in each location, get the same friendly service and personal touch that she has been known for.

Did you know that November is Fall Prevention Month?

At Black Tie Property Services, Fall protection is front of mind for all of the work-related activities that we do. In the window cleaning industry, a large percentage of injuries are a result of falls.

According to WCB-Alberta data, in 2015, 20.5% of Alberta’s workplace lost-time claims were the result of falls as follows:

1) 13.9 percent – fall on the same level;
2) 6.0 percent – fall to a lower level;
3) 0.6 percent – other falls.

The severity of falls is often underestimated; serious injuries or death can result from falls of as little as one metre. Unsafe ladder use, particularly in construction and maintenance, causes falls, but even stairs present a hazard. That’s why Black Tie’s number one core value is SAFETY FIRST. We employ trained professionals who adhere to the highest standards in safety.

All of our technicians from high-rise rope access to ground crews working with step ladders are trained in fall protection. We do not use subcontractors.

Here are some things we do at Black Tie to minimize the risks of falling:

  • Weekly toolbox talks
  • Monthly company-wide safety meetings
  • Created a Joint Occupational Health & Safety Committee
  • Appointed Kyle Egeland as our National Safety Coordinator. In this role, he oversees the overall safety program in place within all companies operating under the Black Tie umbrella
  • WCB + Worksafe

Hope you all stay safe out there! Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions about our safety first protocol at Black Tie.

Chemical Clean – Why & When you need to book (hint – it’s soon!)

Most property managers are somewhat familiar with the terms “acid wash”, or “chemical clean”. But how can you determine with certainty if this is needed? And what factors should you consider before booking the service? Below, we will answer these questions and provide some helpful guidelines around booking your next acid wash.

Why does the building need this?

So, you just had the windows cleaned on a building you manage, and were told “This will need an acid wash”. 

Those comments may have come directly from your service provider, or may be the result of several complaints from residents, pointing at their stained windows and demanding better results. Whatever the case, the cause of staining on glass will generally fall into one of two categories:

  1. Construction debris: On newer buildings, it is not uncommon to find that the initial post-construction clean was not done as thoroughly as required. We quite often find remnants of silicone, paint or exterior membrane that was not cleaned off properly. It is also very common to find mineral deposits or concrete slurry resulting from rain water dripping down from the unfinished concrete slab and onto the glass, during the construction process. An acid wash or chemical clean will definitely be needed to remove those stains. 
  2. Mineral deposit accumulation or hard water stains: This type of staining occurs over time, and is caused by rain water hitting various surfaces on a building. The raindrops pick up minerals, and subsequently drip down and dry on the  glass, leaving stains that look like water spots. This is very common on brick buildings or buildings that have elements of uncoated concrete or aluminum. 

In both instances, an acid wash will be required to remove those stains.

Example of glass and window frames stained with minerals leaching from brick and mortar above.

Example of stained railing glass resulting from water hitting the concrete pavers and splashing on the glass and staining it over time

What does the process look like?

The most effective product to remove mineral deposits from glass surfaces is hydrofluoric acid. This product is extremely toxic and presents a serious health hazard to workers if not handled with proper care. It also has the potential to damage glass and other surfaces it comes in contact with, so doing your due diligence and hiring experienced professionals is key.

The process usually entails application of diluted acid to the affected windows, followed by thorough scrubbing using mops and non-scratching scrubbing pads. The glass, gaskets, window components and surrounding areas are then thoroughly rinsed using a low-pressure hose. For a perfect finish, we will sometimes recommend to follow the acid wash with a regular squeegee clean, as the process can leave drips and water spots behind. Work can be performed from ropes, swing stage, or a boom lift.

Is timing important?

Most people associate window cleaning with sunny summer weather. However, when it comes to chemical clean or acid wash, cooler cloudy or rainy weather is best. Here is why:

  1. The chemical absolutely cannot dry on the glass: If it does, it may etch it and permanently damage the windows. This makes working in the sun near impossible and the whole process much more difficult.
  2. Worker safety is paramount: That’s why when working with dangerous chemicals, a full rubber suit and gloves are required which become extremely uncomfortable to wear in the summer heat.
  3. Cost Savings: There may be cost savings in having this done in the off season. Window cleaning companies may offer better rates once the peak summer season is over. Also, performing this work in the rainy season may allow you to eliminate the final step of detailed squeegee clean, hence eliminating that extra cost altogether. 

In Summary 

Now that you have all the information on hand, you are ready to book your chemical clean. Here is a quick summary of what you will need to make your project a success:

  • Understand the issue – Is this an existing building with staining that happened over time, or is this a new project in need of a post-construction clean? If dealing with more than just staining, a full post-construction clean might be needed, and an acid wash may not be sufficient.
  • Vet your service provider – Do not be afraid to ask questions! Ask about the process. Ask for a Safe Work Procedure document specific to chemical clean. Ask about the product used and the MSDS sheet. Make sure to get at least two references that back the legitimacy of your provider, and ensure that the references are specific to acid wash.
  • Discuss Timing – Make sure your clients understand that optimal timing for this work is different from regular window cleaning. This will make booking the service easier and may also save your clients money.

Of course, if you have any questions around acid wash or post-construction cleaning, we would be happy to answer them. Our team has over a decade of experience in post-construction work and has developed clear safe work procedures around acid cleaning.

 

Dryer Vent Cleaning – Make Sure It’s on Your Radar!

As summer slowly comes to an end, most exterior maintenance tasks have been looked after. Windows have been washed, fresh coats of paint have been applied, and with the exception of maybe one last gutter cleaning before winter, most of us probably feel like we can close the book on summer maintenance projects. One task that often gets overlooked is dryer vent cleaning, as it may not be as obvious. Clogged dryer vents can cause major problems in condo or rental properties, and fixing issues once they arise is extremely costly compared to conducting preventative maintenance.

Common issues resulting from poor dryer vent maintenance include:

  • Loss of efficiency and longer drying times
  • Dryer overheating and potential fire hazard
  • Heavy condensation in dryer ducts, resulting in mold and potential leaks

An easy way to avoid these issues and keep an eye on any irregularities within the vent system is to schedule annual dryer vent cleaning as part of your regular exterior maintenance program.

Vents can be cleaned from outside only, or from the inside and outside (suite access is required) for a more thorough cleaning.

There may only be a few weeks of good weather left, so if you have yet to book dryer vent cleaning on your high-rise or low-rise properties, we would be happy to provide a free no-obligation proposal and answer any questions you may have.

BOOK NOW and get 10% off the quoted price for any services booked before October 31st, 2021.

5 Reasons Gutter Cleaning Should NOT be neglected

Over the past year and a half, we’ve noticed that gutter cleaning has been a service that many condos and rental properties have neglected in an effort to save money. Unfortunately, skipping essential maintenance services can expose your property to even steeper expenses and here’s why.

5 Reasons Gutter Cleaning Should NOT be neglected

  1. Protect your gutter systems – Gutters that are full, and not draining properly become heavy and can warp and even separate from the building, creating a hazard for people below and requiring immediate and often costly replacement;
  2. Protect your roof – The proper flow of rainwater around the exterior of your home assures that water does not collect on the fascia boards. Water damage and mold and mildew infiltration can cause expensive roof repairs and a lot of unwanted stress;
  3. Guard Against Costly Service Calls – When regular maintenance is neglected, we see far more emergency calls and service requests that can become very expensive and burden on-site staff and residents;
  4. Avoid Pest Infestations – Birds, ants, termites, rodents and other tiny creatures find debris filled gutters a desirable accommodation. These unwanted visitors can nest, multiply and even infest your home;
  5. Protect Landscaping & Residents below – As water improperly builds up and pours over, any foliage, structures or people underneath are at risk.

To summarize: Routine cleaning of your gutters can prevent damage to your roof, exterior and foundation, saving you thousands in potential unnecessary repairs.

How often should your condos gutters be cleaned?

Most professionals will recommend that you clean your gutters two times a year; once in the spring and another time in the fall. However, depending on your city’s climate and the number of trees near your home, you may have to clean your gutters more frequently.

The Black Tie Way

Black Tie will ensure that all of your gutters are cleared of leaves and debris by cleaning them by hand so that each gutter can be visually inspected and proper water flow can be assessed. We may access your gutters by ladder or by lift depending on the specific build. But no matter how your gutters are accessed, you can rest assured that Black Tie will adhere to the highest industry standards and regulations when on your property.

BOOK NOW

THE SEASON IS SHORT! Frozen gutters cannot be cleaned, so between the time the leaves are down, and the start of freezing temperatures, there is a small window of a few weeks that gets booked up very quickly. Ensure that your condominium gets their preferred dates by booking early.

WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS ARE SAYING

We are always striving to improve our services at Black Tie.  We do that by listening to what our customers have to say and taking action whenever possible.  We value all feedback because it helps us align with our customers needs as well as ensure we are upholding our company values and service promises.  This month, we wanted to feature just a few of the lovely pieces of feedback we received from our customers.  Thank you for taking the time to let us know how we are doing.

Dear __Annonymous__

Thank you both for recommending Black Tie window cleaning service. I have lived here since 2016 …what a difference quality workmanship makes.  These window cleaners are actually doing hand window cleaning and drying.  Very professional. The previous company, Pacific Heights…never used this method.  They did the water spray with a brush.  Windows were streaky and not cleaned.  I observed them cleaning at least twice. As an owner, I’m very very pleased.  One a hot 27C day at 2:00ish pm …they were smiling when I told them they are doing an amazing job.   I know they just started only on one side … got way more windows to go. Just good timing that I was at home …witnessed some of their good work.

– Vancouver

I am usually home during the day and was not aware that Black Tie Property services had come and gone.  I contacted the company thinking they had “forgotten” my condo.  Much to my surprise, the supervisor made a personal visit to my condo and in the end, we confirmed that my windows had been cleaned.  And, much to my embarrassment, the “grime” on my deck windows was on the “inside”, which is my responsibility.  I’ve since cleaned the inside of my windows and now they are sparkling clean on the inside and out!  Great personal service from this company.  Thank you.

– Vancouver

Mr. Kyle has provided an excellent customer service from day one. I do not have enough words to describe the fantastic work he has provided. Our company will continue using Mr. Kyle’s Black Tie Property Services this year again as he has proved himself to be an exceptional professional within his area of expertise.  I totally recommend his services.

– Calgary

ALBERTA PROMOTION

Black Tie Property Services wants to offer you a break because well, you deserve one!

The past year and a half has been messy and we want to help clean up the chaos by offering you streak free windows, debris free dryer vents and muck free gutters at a price you can delight in.

Book 2 or more services between August 12th – November 30th, 2021 and you’ll qualify for our “Bundled Discount”.  You may also qualify for our “Introductory First Service Booking Discount”.

Contact us for more details!