Sep 23, 2021
Skyscrapers with sparkling glass windows can give the skyline and any business an elegant look, but how do they clean windows on skyscrapers? To keep the windows pristine, high-rise window washers take the time and follow the proper safety measures to scale up the side of the building and clean the glass. Snow, smog, debris, bird droppings, rain, and sometimes even food can leave an industrial building’s appearance looking messy and unkempt. With the proper climbing and safety tools, high-rise window cleaning can provide a better appearance for the building and windows, resulting in a building that projects a high-quality aesthetic.
A Primer on the High Rise Window Cleaning Industry
The Industry Is Recovering
The high-rise window washing industry continues to gain momentum after a 5.2% decline in activity in 2020 due to Covid and other disruptions. As the industry of skyscrapers grows and society slowly returns to normal after dealing with the pandemic for almost two years, there is a 2.2% annualized rate, including an increase of 6.9% in 2021 alone. This upward trend indicates that more buildings will need high-rise window washers. As the recovery process continues, more people will look to join the industry. As of this writing, the industry has employment of 123,000+ workers with 40,000+ businesses receiving service. Those numbers are not exact, due to how the US Bureau of Labor Statistics combines window washers and all janitorial services into one category. Thus, sources vary widely on the exact number of workers and growth rates in each group.
Safety Is a Top Priority, Resulting in a Massive Decline in Fatalities Over Recent Decades
There was a time when the high-rise window washing resulted in many, many fatalities, and this is due to old ways of approaching safety. Today, safety takes a top priority when scheduling any high-rise services, and the emphasis on safety has resulted in the risk of fatalities declining over time. However, that lower risk is not an excuse to forgo proper training and experience when looking for a high-rise building services provider.
Seasonal Change Also Influences Demand for High rise Window Cleaning.
There are many factors that contribute to making it more difficult for high-rise window cleaning, including seasonal-related concerns and fluctuating demand for services. Wind alone causes issues for high-rise window washers. Now consider how hurricane season will influence the demand for services; still, professionals must take care when cleaning windows. Meanwhile, heat waves and periods of extreme precipitation can also affect the demand for window cleaners, due to the safety issues and added difficulty of reaching the actual windows. A heatwave increases the potential risk of heat stroke or dehydration because workers have no shade while suspended or on the platform.
FAQs About High Rise Window-Cleaning
Seeing window washers high in the air on the side of a building can raise some questions about the job, such as how much is a skyscraper window cleaner paid, or what is the average salary for a skyscraper window cleaner? Most business owners of high-rise buildings and glass-front offices choose to outsource window cleaning to professional services to save a considerable amount of time and effort. Window cleaning requires specific skills and training, and anyone scaling a building must make safety the top priority. Looking into the window cleaning business can raise questions as to exactly how the process is done and how much risk is involved.
How Often Do High Rise Windows Need Cleaning?
To determine how often a building requires cleaning will depend on the type of businesses in the building, the surrounding environment, the amount of foot traffic within the building, and whether smoking is permitted inside the building. In addition, if a building is a clean, non-smoking office space that is located on a clean street, the windows will require cleaning less frequently. However, the windows will need more frequent attention if the building is:
- For industrial work or a medical facility.
- Subjected to a larger amount of foot traffic
- Located on a busy street or near a large body of water
- Subjected to frequent smog or avian visitors.
An example of a building that requires window washing more frequently is the Empire State Building in New York City, where the windows open and employees on higher floors will actually dump food or beverages out the windows.
What Types of Risks Do Window Washers Face with a Tall Building?
Having to scale a building that can reach over 15 meters in height can quickly add a significant risk factor to the job of window washing. Working at higher elevations requires a specific set of skills along with keen instincts (much like those associated with rock climbing) to handle the height with proper mobility and follow the proper safety measures. Aside from the extreme heights and risk of falling, wind can affect the stability of the scaffolding and suspended platforms, which increases the chances of an incident. The scorching sun, heavy precipitation in the form of snow or rain, lightning, and colder temperatures are all weather conditions that can add difficulty and risk of injury for workers. In the colder months, window washers use cool or lukewarm water because using hot water in lower temperatures may cause the glass to break and possibly cause serious injury.
How Long Does Cleaning Take?
It all depends on the building, equipment, and the window team’s level of training. Every building presents unique challenges because of its design and every team member brings their own set of skills and experiences to the table as well. Depending on the tools, equipment, and products used, cleaning can also become more involved and detail-oriented.
Every building window washer has his or her own approach to the job. And naturally, a larger building will take longer than one with fewer floors, fewer windows, and less space to cover. However, the types of cleaning services required can also increase cleaning timelines. More in-depth cleaning may take longer and require specialized high-rise window cleaning gear. Also, checking and repairing seals and waterproofing envelopes may be a more involved process than anticipated.
The best way to get an accurate estimate on how long your building’s cleaning services may take is to discuss it with the window cleaning team. They usually can provide an estimated timeline for completing their work. They will have access to the finest high-rise window cleaning equipment and supplies to ensure the results meet or exceed expectations and standards. Additionally, work can be planned and scheduled so as to make a minimal impact on business operations.
How Much Do Properly Trained Window Washers Make?
According to a recent survey highlighted on Salary.com, high-rise window washers in the United States currently can earn an average of around $22 per hour as of August 27, 2021. The normal pay range for general window washing falls between $19 and $27, depending on location, the level of education and training, specializations, and other factors.
Window cleaners might charge less because they have limited experience washing windows or in the building maintenance services industry. Or they may be offering a baseline cleaning service with no additional perks like inspections and leak testing. The high-rise window washing equipment they use can also impact services and rates. Therefore, checking rates and services and looking at more than one provider helps building managers find the best building window washer services for their unique set of needs.
Professional high-rise window washers bring added value to the building maintenance team and are worth their weight in gold. For instance, the Empire State Building, with its 102 floors, takes six men about four months to clean — and once they’re done, the window cleaners must start all over again. The act of window washing is a highly specialized job that requires additional pay.
What Type of Certification Should Window Cleaning Crews Maintain?
To ensure the continued safety of all workers on site, window cleaning crew members must have several critical safety certifications and meet specific training requirements before work can safely begin:
The IWCA Safety Certification Program is made up of five essential training focuses that keep window washers safe: Route/Residential, Commercial Ground, Rope Descent Systems, Suspended Scaffold, and High Rise Specialist. Window cleaners who receive certification complete all courses, during which they learn about the safe use of basic window cleaning equipment and chemicals, as well as the safe completion of more complicated and hazardous high-rise cleaning services. This comes together to ensure the safety of both workers, occupants, and street-level passersby when window washing high-rise buildings.
OSHA 1910 Training
For any team member whose job requires working in an area where there is a higher risk of falls, the employer is required to provide proper professional training and safety certification for each employee before any work commences. Certifications include the use of equipment, proper inspection and maintenance of equipment, utilization of PPE and safety equipment, hazard identification and mitigation, and proper safety reporting protocols. All high-rise window washers must have this training and certification(s).
The Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA) and the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT) are internationally recognized standards when it comes to rope-related work and safety protocols. Certification is attained by completing a 4-day course and passing both a written and hands-on test. The grading parameters for both tests constitute a simple pass or fail. Failure to pass the building window washer tests means no certification and the course must be retaken.
Working with a trained and experienced professional makes it easy to get the best services and answers to all your questions, such as how often do skyscraper windows get cleaned, how much should I pay for window washing services, and do I have to provide the high rise building glass cleaning equipment myself?
The High Rise Building Glass Cleaning Equipment Needed for Window Cleaning
As with any job, producing professional results requires using professional-grade tools and equipment. For commercial building window washers, three are three main categories of tools that make their jobs safer and easier. Together, high-rise window washing equipment and quality high-rise window cleaning gear enable these individuals to do the best possible job. Here are a few examples of the common skyscraper window washing equipment utilized for these aerial feats:
Skyscraper window cleaners utilize these tools to navigate a building’s exterior:
- Movable platform: While fixed scaffolds can be useful for short buildings of only a few stories, a high-rise window cleaning platform allows window washers to access higher windows while keeping them safe and secure. The platforms can be automatic with an electric motor to power them or they can be moved by hand. This is the most common way for high-rise window washers to move about the building.
- Bosun’s chair: If the window washer is not standing on the platform, they typically use a bosun’s chair. This is a one-person-sized platform where the window washer can sit as they are moved along the exterior of the building. Often there are hooks and attachments for the bucket and other tools, so they are easily and safely accessible.
High rise window cleaners typically use these kinds of cleaning tools with most jobs:
- Toolbelt: Keeping vital tools and accessories within easy reach helps window washers stay efficient and it also keeps them safe while they work.
- Bucket: The bucket holds whatever cleaning solution is being used on the windows, whether it is a simple soap-and-water mix or a solution with ammonia mixed in.
- Sponge or T-bar wand: Window cleaners often gravitate toward one of these two tools to get the window wet with the cleaning solution.
- Squeegee: A window cleaners’ best friend, squeegees are used to wipe the dirty water away—and it is key to getting a clean, clear, and streak-free window.
- Glass scraper: The glass scraper often comes in handy as it allows window washers to easily remove caked-on dirt and grime, such as bird droppings or tree sap.
- Towels: Rags and towels can help remove any remaining drops from the squeegee and are useful for buffing and final polishing of the windows.
- Spare accessories: The bars of the squeegee and other components of common tools can wear down over time, so having a few spares on hand is always good.
All building window washers use different safety tools during their work as well:
- Safety belt or harness: This is one of the most critical pieces of gear a window washer can have. If the platform falls, the safety harness is set up to be attached to the building itself to prevent them from falling.
- Protective gloves: Window cleaning is a wet and messy business. Gloves will protect against possible skin irritation from the cleaning supplies and from the wear and tear of repetitive movements. Most professional washers also wear gloves that help protect against frostbite when working in cold and windy conditions.
Additional High Rise Services That Accompany Window Cleaning
Often, window washers are doing more than simply throwing soapy water at windows. It takes a lot to get someone up on the side of a high-rise office building or skyscraper. Making the most of that time is critical, so many window washers also work as frontline inspectors as they work. Here are just a few of the other jobs that a window washer may do during their time up in the air:
- Building Envelope Inspection. Visual checks for obvious damage are a given when someone will be getting that close to every window in the building. Window washers can check seals, the facade, and window casings for signs of wear-and-tear damage.
- Painting and Metal Refinishing. Every building will need some occasional advanced cleaning and touch-up work. Routine cleanings are an excellent time to make note of faded paint or rusty areas that need to be dealt with sooner rather than later.
- Minimal Facade Repairs. Small cracks and chips can often be treated with some caulking and a well-applied patch. At times, the window washers themselves will be trained to do these minimal repairs using high-rise window cleaning equipment.
- Temporary Waterproofing. When leaks and problem areas are identified, it is often necessary for the window washers to use some sort of temporary waterproofing seal to keep things secure until a more permanent solution can be provided.
- Penetration Testing. While it is not as commonplace as other secondary services, the window washing crew may be able to perform basic penetration testing. These tests check for water and air movement into the building through cracks.
Benefits of Working With the Right Team for High-Rise Exterior Maintenance
For every business, the importance of presenting a pristine aesthetic appeal is a priority and can leave a lasting impression. This should also extend to the building’s exterior and curb appeal. The ability to immediately scale the outdoor workforce to meet changes in demand, such as during periods of severe weather, like hurricane season, is crucial. Depending on the provider, outsourcing puts all needs in the hands of a single entity. By teaming up with a high-rise exterior maintenance company, you can focus on growing your business on the inside with the customers, with the peace of mind that the exterior is being well cared for as well.
Extensive Experience in Building Management
Facilities managers can rest assured that the needs for grounds and exterior maintenance will be addressed as planned, and third-party contacts between the building management team and the contractor will increase collaboration. Working with a company with experience can ensure the ability to execute the plan and bring peace of mind that any unplanned maintenance will be handled by a professional.
Integrated Building Services, Including Inspection & Repairs
Staying up to date on services and repairs needed around the building can ensure the building’s structural integrity and aesthetic appeal. Maintaining a building’s finishes such as stone and metal and even waterproofing requires specialty services that only the best can provide. High-rise maintenance systems work best with routine and scheduled services like pressure washing to ensure the proper condition of the exterior.
A High Focus on Safety to Keep Your Liability in Check
Choosing the best team for exterior maintenance services will help in ensuring and analyzing the safety of the building and even bring in solutions to further improve that safety. For instance, outdoor lighting accents continue to be used as functional design elements along pathways, walkways, and entrances. This helps add a safety element to areas that would otherwise be dark.
Quality Results That Last
Everyone wants fast results, but the quickest way may not provide the best quality for the long run. This raises the potential of additional spend down the road to correct any errors. Going with the best option for exterior maintenance, both speed and quality can easily be achieved without causing damage to the building or the need to spend more money fixing errors.
Lower TCO Over Time
High-rise window cleaning systems also help to lower the building’s total cost of ownership (TCO) over time. This occurs by identifying at-risk areas of the building that may be susceptible to deterioration that results in water or air penetration and potential damage to the building.
Increased Building Aesthetic
A natural benefit of hiring a professional, experienced, and safety-compliant window cleaning company to clean a building’s windows is that it will keep your building looking great. The upkeep in window cleaning will present a professional look and help building owners and commercial real estate agents attract potential new tenants.
Summary: Know the Reality of Skyscraper Window Cleaning and Maintenance
The right strategy for high-rise window cleaning and maintenance begins and ends with experience. And figuring out the various nuances of window washing is much more than choosing a single cleaning solution or trying to find the best way to reach the windows. It’s the culmination of experience that can help your building look its best, work with the right professionals, leverage integrated high-rise exterior maintenance services and more.
Connect With the Right Company to Ensure the Highest Standards of High Rise Window Maintenance
Skyscraper window cleaning and maintenance must not be an afterthought, and failure to consider the risks and needs for each job will result in added liability and safety risks. Fortunately, the experts have already done all the legwork for you, and you can create a turnkey strategy for exterior building maintenance by choosing the right partner.
Contact Valcourt Building Services to schedule your window washing consultation today.