No two ways about it–appearance counts, and chances are when you decided to buy into your building, part of your decision was based on whether the building appealed to your eye. Now you and your fellow board members find that the passage of time, crumbling features, eroded detail work, urban grime, and some unsightly (if creative) graffiti have helped you make up your minds to get some work done on the old place. Or perhaps you’ve just been inspected, and the authorities kindly insist that you make some improvements, post haste. Or maybe spring has sprung, housecleaning is in the air, and your building just needs some sprucing up.
The Good, the Bad, and the Dirty
While everybody who passes by may not realize that your building’s pigeon gray exterior should actually be dove white, you and your neighbors probably don’t care much for living in a crud-coated domicile. What do you do? How do you find a reliable contractor to attend to something this important? "Word of mouth has got to be the most valuable way," says Wayne Bellet, president of Bellet Construction Co., Inc. in Manhattan, whose family has been in the business for generations. People who know buildings know people who know how to clean buildings. You can research your options by reading trade papers and magazines, going to trade shows, and asking around. Compile a list of likely candidates for the job, and interview each contractor on your list.
Once you’ve narrowed the field to a final few, the hopefuls will submit their bids for your job. While it may be tempting to go with the company or contractor that offers you the most attractive price or shortest time frame, it’s important to remember that there’s more to this than just how long the project will take and how much it will cost.
Bellet advises boards to make sure their contractor is fully licensed and accredited, of course, but also to find out what jobs he or she has done, what buildings he or she has worked on, and what industry organization boards he or she serves on or is affiliated with. Bellet puts it bluntly: "Most contractors do lousy work; there are very few of us that are good at it. If your [façade]-cleaning person says it’s his third job, show him the door. Don’t be a guinea pig."