The Guide to Commercial Glass Repair, Replacement and Maintenance

Adam Robinson | Dec 14, 2021

Of all the issues commercial building managers have to keep up with, high-rise window replacement and maintenance is perhaps one of the most vital yet overlooked. The biggest reason many building managers decide not to invest in high-performing glass products or choose to put off vital repair and maintenance work simply comes down to cost. Oftentimes, the best quality products are budgeted out of a project simply for the sake of saving money on the initial cost of installation and building maintenance. However, the price tag for quality glass installation should be compared to the long-term costs of building construction and maintenance. In almost all cases, investing in the highest possible quality right from the start will more than pay for itself in less maintenance and repair expenses and overall energy savings. Commercial glass replacement can be pricey but dealing with massive cleanups and replacement costs can cost a great deal more.

Commercial glass maintenance is about more than just keeping windows and doors looking nice. Choosing the right quality glass and glass treatments can greatly reduce energy expenses and lighting costs and help building management to better control waste and maintain sustainability all year round.  According to Glass Magazine, “HVAC systems account for about 40 percent of total energy use in commercial buildings, according to the Department of Energy. Meanwhile, lighting systems capture about 16 percent of electricity costs.” This can greatly expand the expenses associated with keeping large high-rise buildings and offices light and temperature controlled. However, building owners can offset these costs by opting for high-performance glass and glazing products, utilizing smart window placement,  applying commercial glass tinting, and being energy-minded with the rest of their glass-related maintenance and upkeep.

What Is Commercial Glass Repair?

If a window in a home gets damaged and needs to be repaired or replaced, the homeowner simply calls a contractor or window installation expert to take care of things. The job itself is fairly easy and the worst that may be needed is a ladder to reach second-story windows or any decorative windows in an attic or crawlspace area. The process is fairly straightforward. However, this is far from the case when dealing with commercial glass repairs in large buildings, high-rises, and skyscrapers.  

For these sorts of glass repair and maintenance services, only highly trained and specially licensed workers are allowed to handle the glass and ascend to such great heights to deal with these sorts of glass repair and commercial window maintenance needs. In a nutshell, commercial glass repair focuses on addressing issues with cracks, chips, seals, and leaks that occur on glass panes typically found on commercial buildings and commercial high-rises.  These services often focus on larger buildings such as apartments and condos, office buildings, commercial centers, skyscrapers, and other large buildings with many glass windows and panels. It takes a highly specialized high-rise glass repair team to safely handle this sort of work.

Working with a fully trained and reputable contractor or glass company is essential when it comes to commercial glass care and maintenance. From specialized cleaning services to waterproofing membranes, to tints and glazing, many specialized services exist that can present a unique challenge when it comes to the care and upkeep of these glass panels. At these kinds of heights, with so many glass windows and panels, and so much care and attention needed, cutting corners and trying to cut costs by skimping on quality services is never a good idea. It is critical to work with skilled and experienced experts any time any work needs to be done on these sorts of glass panels, glass doors for commercial buildings, and other glass structures. 

What Causes Damage to Commercial Glass?

As is the case with any pane of glass, similar factors can lead to the commercial glass being damaged to the point it needs to be repaired or replaced. The difference is in the details and the specific ways these factors damage and impact the glass. Some of the things that can damage commercial glass include:

  • Environmental elements
    High-rises and larger buildings are known for one major characteristic- they go far up into the sky. That high up, the normal elements that would impact glass have an even bigger and more devastating impact. Wind, rain, sun, and temperatures are more extreme at these heights and can more easily damage glass panes and windows.
  • Natural forces and acts of God
    At these higher altitudes, glass panes and windows can be impacted more by environmental factors. Storms are more intense and wind pressure greater so the chance of glass breaking is higher. Additionally, there are other ‘acts of god’ that can damage commercial glass. These include things like hurricanes, hail storms, and the like.
  • Poor commercial glass window washing
    It is important to keep windows clean, and not just for aesthetic reasons. Dirt can weigh down the windows if it is allowed to accumulate and can create points of added pressure. These points on the glass can be more prone to cracking and breaking. Dirt and debris on the windows can also scratch the surface and create additional weak spots over time.
  • Accidents and mishaps during upkeep

Sometimes certain situations arise that really could not be fully prepared for or avoided. Maintenance workers could accidentally bump the glass while working and cause it to crack or shatter. Someone inside the building could fall into the glass and damage glass windows. Or a freak mishap with a bird crashing into the glass could cause damage to the glass.

  • Minor damage that spreads
    The final factor to consider when talking about how damage occurs comes down to laziness and poor commercial glass maintenance. When cracks, ships, or other issues are noted, it is important to address them right away. Small cracks will quickly grow and chips can create weak areas that will only worsen the longer they are ignored.

When to Repair Glass Versus Replace Commercial Glass

If your glass windows or a glass door for commercial buildings has suffered minor damages, the question that has to be answered is how are you going to deal with it. Obviously, the damage needs to be dealt with, but is it better to repair damaged windows or just outright replace them? This can be difficult to determine at times but generally, the following considerations can help building owners decide what the right course of action is:

When to Repair
It generally is ok to simply repair commercial glass if the minor damages impact small or non-essential parts of the window structure. Leaking caulking and seals, a stubborn window that is hard to open, air and water infiltration, small scratches in tint and glaze coatings, and similar issues can all generally be repaired with relative ease. This does not mean you can put off commercial glass maintenance and repair indefinitely. Caulk and sealant issues can allow for water intrusion and can affect the stability of the window. Scratches and issues with window coatings can make the panes more susceptible to further damage. And it is a major health and safety risk to have anyone in a high-rise office with windows that are meant to be opened that cannot be opened easily. In case of minor damages and issues such as these, the cost of repairing the windows may turn out to be lower than replacing them outright.

When to Replace
On the flip side of the repair or replace debate is a situation where the window or glass in a commercial high-rise has been so damaged or compromised to such an extent that it is too dangerous to leave it in place. Major damage can include large cracks and chips in the glass, deep scratches in the coatings or window surface, windows and glass panes that appear loose, and of course, major breakage or signs of imminent failure of the glass. Keeping up with necessary high-rise window replacement work is vital to preserving the structural integrity of the glass. Any sort of major glass damage or window failure needs to be immediately reported, people need to avoid the area, and professionals need to be called in to remove the damaged glass and replace it as soon as possible. The risks of severe injury far outweigh the costs involved with overall building façade maintenance.

Considerations in Making Commercial Glass Work

When your building requires commercial window maintenance and glass repairs it is important to carefully consider several important aspects of this high-rise and high-risk task. It is no easy feat to get to windows 100 stories in the air and it is an even greater challenge to work on glass windows or replace huge glass panes at those altitudes.

Right from the start, there is an obvious concern over the safety of the workers doing the repairs. They are working at high altitudes, off the ground, moving around cranes and lifts and other pieces of equipment, and working with huge panes of glass. Getting everything up to the right level is a challenge in and of itself. Then they have to repair or replace the window and move new glass panes into place and follow detailed and precise protocols. All the while, they are dealing with high winds, low temperatures, and other hazards. Working with a skilled and professional high-rise glass repair team is vital, not just to ensure a successful repair job, but also to ensure the safety of everyone in the general vicinity.

On the flip side of things is the fact that ignoring the damage to a window or glass door for a commercial building can end up costing a business a great deal financially. A recent report highlighted by Buildings.com estimates that 39% of commercial heating energy use and 28% of commercial cooling energy use are impacted by windows in the building. The same study showed that more than 34% of all commercial space energy consumption waste is attributable to windows. Fortunately, improvements in window design have made it easier to maximize the protection and performance of window and glazing systems. New types of glass and improved window designs can also help guard against issues with heat transfer through the windows. This is why keeping up with commercial glass window washing, routine inspections, and testing, and regular maintenance and upkeep is important for building owners. 

Types of Commercial Glass

With new advances and improved technology, glass can be made in more ways than ever before, a critical consideration for high-rise glass installation. Regular glass like what is used in homes and normal office buildings is not the same as what is found on skyscrapers and commercial buildings. Some of the common commercial glass specifications available include:

  • Heat gain and loss control
  • Visual treatments
  • Shading and sun control    
  • Thermal comfort and regulation
  • Condensation control
  • Ultraviolet control
  • Acoustic noise suppression
  • Color effects
  • Commercial waterproofing
  • Energy requirements
  • And more

Common types of glass used in various kinds of commercial buildings include:

  • Gas-filled
  • Single pane
  • Double pane
  • Tinted
  • Tempered
  • Crack-resistant
  • Impact-resistant 
  • Reflective
  • Bulletproof

Window glass in skyscrapers and high-rises is designed with commercial window maintenance in mind and is usually made of shatter and break-proof glass that is designed to be less damaging if the glass falls from great heights due to window failure. Likewise, considering other features such as insulation properties, reflectiveness, color, and commercial glass tinting, and more should also carefully be accounted for. Commercial waterproofing and sealants are also worth taking note of. Matching the performance characteristics of the building and its location, as well as where in the building itself the glass is located, are also important considerations to keep in mind for commercial glass repairs and maintenance.

Tips to Improve Commercial Glass Maintenance

Keeping up with necessary commercial glass maintenance and the repair of glass structures in high-rise buildings are never-ending. According to a veteran window cleaner interviewed in the New York Times, “a standard 50-floor skyscraper would take 30 to 40 days to clean in its entirety. The Empire State Building, by contrast, with its 102 floors, takes six men about four months to clean — and once they’re done, the window cleaners have to start all over again.” With this level of frequency, glass cleaning, repair, and maintenance need to be as routine as any other interior cleaning and inspection schedule. The following tips can help building managers stay on top of commercial glass maintenance and ensure overall window cleaning safety:

Regularly wash and inspect glass for signs of damage. 

Regular commercial glass window washing is good for general window care and maintenance. The more often the glass gets cleaned the more opportunities there are to do inspections and catch minor issues and concerns before they become major problems.

Schedule a qualified inspection at least biannually or seasonally, depending on climate.

Surface level inspections by window washers and maintenance crews are good but a professional inspection needs to be done regularly as well. Water and air intrusion tests, safety checks, and code enforcement inspections are vital maintenance services as well.

Address any cracks as soon as possible.

Small cracks and chips can quickly become a big issue. Weakened glass is more prone to further breakage and can pose a major safety concern for those in and around the building. Small cracks can be repaired but major cracks require commercial glass replacement.

Ensure scratches are closely monitored.
While they are not as serious and urgent as a crack or chip, scratches on the window surface also need to be noted and monitored. In places of high winds or extremely low temperatures, scratches can open up the glass to further damage and eventual breakage.

Know the types of glass used in your buildings.

Every type of glass has slightly different parameters for what it can and cannot tolerate and support. Knowing what glass is used in the various areas of a high-rise building makes it easier to do maintenance checks and to ensure repairs and upgrades are done correctly.

Know when to repair versus replace panes. 

A quick repair job may get a damaged window stable when dealing with minor issues like commercial glass tinting damage or minor scratches. Other times an immediate replacement is needed to protect the integrity of the building and those in the area.

Test glass for signs of air and water penetration.

Along with visual inspections for signs of wear and tear or damage, professional inspections need to include air and water intrusion tests. These can help easily pinpoint issues with commercial windows and glass door for commercial buildings.

Ensure your team and service provider is using the right type of sealants. 

While maintenance and cleaning of windows are critical for high-rises, it is equally important to ensure the correct materials and products are used. Improper weather-proofing materials and harmful cleaning products can weaken and damage the glass rather than protect it.

Maintain scaffolding and platform equipment for commercial window maintenance.

With extreme high-rises and larger buildings, the need to be in the air on the face of the building is near-constant. Maintaining scaffolding and equipment means inspections and maintenance work can be done more quickly and issues can be addressed more effectively.

Realize the need to maintain the full exterior to keep the glass in the best shape.

Commercial window maintenance also involved elements of the building’s exterior beyond the glass itself. Maintaining the actual physical structure the windows are set in and all related support structures can also help ensure windows and glass panes remain intact.

The Benefits of Proper Glass Maintenance

Proper glass maintenance and commercial glass replacement can bring with it a wide range of benefits, the most obvious being a safe working environment. We have also already touched on how commercial glass maintenance and repair can help conserve energy and create a more structurally sound environment. However, there are other benefits worth considering for hi-rise exterior maintenance and upkeep.

Protects the Glass
Dirt, dust, smog, and debris will naturally accumulate on windows over time. Cleaning glass windows help ensure sufficient light passes through them so the interior space can benefit from natural lighting. This can help maintain higher comfort levels for those inside and will also ensure the living and working conditions of the inhabitants of the building don’t suffer.

Health Benefits
Sunlight is important for physical as well as mental health. Vitamin D comes from the sun, which promotes optimal physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Studies have shown that working in dark, isolated spaces negatively impact worker motivation and performance. By keeping commercial building’s windows clean and letting in natural light, this is avoided.

Prolong Building Longevity
A tall building experiences more impact from wind and debris than lower buildings. The size of the building itself can also stress windows over time due to the pressure and weight the glass experiences. This exposure will weaken glass panes over time and cause cracking and breaking if not maintained. That’s why abandoned buildings lose their windows. 

Reflect Light Not Absorb
The more grime that builds on the surface of a commercial building, the worse it becomes for everyone. Not only does the building become an ugly eyesore in the neighborhood, but it can also affect the surrounding buildings that rely on light reflecting off that building to keep them out of its shadow. Glass will reflect light, dirt, and grime will absorb light.

Considering these and many other benefits of commercial glass repair and upkeep, it becomes all the more apparent why building management teams must stay on top of high-rise window replacement, and high-rise window cleaning and general upkeep.

Lower Building Total Cost of Ownership With a Complete Building Exterior Maintenance Program From the Right Partner.

The features of commercial glass, as well as what basic type of glass used, can vary greatly depending on several factors unique to each building. A skilled and experienced high-rise glass repair team will be able to match your unique commercial window needs to the best maintenance and repair services available.

 Areas that are prone to high winds or high rain need glass with greater resistance to impact damage as well as specialized coatings to help keep things water and airtight. As you get higher above ground, it becomes more critical to use specialized commercial glass to ensure safe and effective building operations. Choosing the right quality glass and glass treatments can greatly reduce energy expenses and lighting costs and help building management better manage expenses with better commercial glass replacement and repair options.

Questions and concerns about what kind of glass to use, what additional treatments or products should be utilized, how often inspections and repair work should be performed, and whether upgrades should be done regularly or only when windows are damaged or need replacing are just some of the issues building manager teams need to consider. It can be confusing to make sense of it all and to make the right choices every single time commercial glass repairs or maintenance are needed. Working with a team of professionals, who have experience dealing with high-rise commercial buildings and commercial glass services can provide reliable guidance when it is needed the most. Request a consultation with Valcourt Group to et a commercial glass maintenance and upkeep plan, implemented by a certified high-rise glass repair team today.

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