Keeping it Clean Your Guide to Exterior Maintenance & Upkeep

Living in a dense urban area like Chicagoland can be something of a dirty job. And the task of cleaning off months (or years) of accumulated grime and dirt from the exterior of a building takes much more than a scrub-brush and a bottle of Windex; it requires professional help. This is not just a labor-intensive job, it also calls for extensive knowledge of building materials, cleaning products, and cleaning methods.

Removing the Dirt

For residents of condos, townhomes and co-ops, knowing when, how and why—or why not —to have the exterior of their building cleaned could be a matter of dollars and cents, but it also should be about what makes common sense. Most associations would find it unnecessary to clean their building’s entire exterior each month, but some might want it done semi-annually, while others could allow the façade to darken for years before tending to it. It all really depends upon a community’s perceptions, needs, and budget.

“The most common types of stain and grime found on Chicagoland area buildings would be associated with the building's environment,” says Jeff Foy, director of sales and marketing for ACS Powerwash in Northfield. “Soot, construction debris, bird droppings, road salt, mold and moss all contribute to a building looking dirty or unkempt.”

“Air pollution, mold, car exhaust and moisture all are contributing factors to grime and dirt on Chicago buildings,” adds Mike Landry, a sales representative at Dakota Evans Restoration, Inc. in Palatine. “It depends on the actual surface. The grime or dirt that we see in newer buildings is usually associated with moisture infiltration because the building material being used in the last ten years or so isn't strong or well-manufactured as they were years ago. But we also see a lot of carbon buildup in natural materials like limestone— and that's from mostly general pollution.”

Aside from looking terrible, some long-term problems may be associated with letting dirt and grime accumulate on your building. That dirt can create a sealing barrier that won’t allow the building exterior to “breathe,” and thus, cause problems such as water retention. Also, calcium and sulfates left on a building facade create acidic conditions and salts which can penetrate and cause deterioration to the masonry and underlying materials.

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