Squeaky Clean Cleaning Your Building's Exterior

New York City is a beautiful place, but let’s face facts—it gets pretty dirty. All the fumes from countless trucks and cars letting off exhaust leave a layer of grim on buildings so thick that in many cases, it’s impossible to know just how a lot of buildings were intended to look.

“The dirt’s a combination of a lot of things,” says Ed Talmo of Enviro-Northeast Sales Corp. in Highland Lakes, New Jersey. “There are airports close by, so fuel particles are coming down—but traffic is probably one of the mains issues. It all makes a general mess of things.”

Cleaning building exteriors isn’t something a lot of building managers think about, primarily because it’s expensive. But keeping the outside of your building clean not only keeps your building looking good, it may very well keep your building safer.

More to Grime than Meets the Eye

The negative impact of dirt and grime on buildings goes beyond pure aesthetics, says Talmo. The sulfur, acid and carbon that builds up takes a toll on a building’s masonry. In some instances, buildings have simply been painted in an attempt to improve their appearance—but that approach often makes the building look worse, and does nothing to improve the condition of the masonry underneath.

According to Bruce Pienkny of CitySolve, a Brooklyn-based company specializing in exterior cleaning, if you’re going to paint over grime, pollution smudges, or graffiti, “The whole key is to use a precise paint-to-surface color match. If you have a tan wall or a red wall or blue wall, you want to make sure the color paint you put on the wall is a good match. Unfortunately, a lot of the time you see a tan paint on a blue wall, or black paint on a white wall. That’s called patchwork, and it makes the building look even worse.”


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  • Thank you for your time today. I have been working with DOTs, DOE, Chambers of Commerce, and Gang Task Forces trying to help educate our cities about graffiti. We are spending over 40 Billion on graffiti and related issues.1 The city of Chicago has set the standard of a 1.3 million fine for not removing graffiti in a reasonable amount of time.2 This has caused all Public Works to feel financial pressure to paint over as much graffiti as possible a day. Matching colors is close to impossible with the factors of weather, oxidation, and UV degradation to compete with. The result of painting over the graffiti is now homes, buildings, and sound walls have a new problem. The graffiti is now hidden by a quilt of colors, all varying in sizes and shapes. Everyone knows the new paint is hiding gang related symbols; the public still show signs of concern and fear in these areas. The vandalism is hidden but the new “Ghetto Quilt Effect” influences the price of properties and strain on businesses. The current paint over solution is in my opinion failing. Gangs are using our walls to advertise sales of their products. I am not alone in this theory; Timothy Kephart analyzed 450 tags and wrote his master’s thesis on this very subject.3 Graffiti has been around a while, originally used to rebuke those in power. Gangs are in essence still rebuking the government, they freely use our highways, buildings and city walls to advertise the goods they are selling. Profits are gathered and in some gang structures those serving time distribute the profit. The “Ghetto Quilt Effect” is affecting all of us in one form or another. There is up to an 80% your customers will not return if graffiti is on your building. Preventative measures need to be taken as soon as you see the first patch. Those of us at Graffiti Doctors all agree the application of anti graffiti coatings is the only way to deter graffiti. 1. The California Association of Realtors gave us information on the decrease in property value in an area that has graffiti; they estimated that the decrease in sales price was approximately 20%. With the California Real Estate as it is, that is a huge loss, given that the current median home in California is $522,590, and last year there were 601,800 detached home sales, just as bare bones figure if graffiti went unchecked, You're looking at 315 Billion is sales and if you use the 20%, you have a possible loss of 63 Billion a year!.. This is California alone.... of course the graffiti problem does not affect all homes sales, but in the higher priced areas, San Fran, Sacramento, LA, Orange County, homes cost upwards of $800,000 or more, so it is all relative. Just an interesting figure..... 2. Chicago, IL. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") announced today that Judge David H. Coar of the United States District Court in Chicago has entered a $1.3 million Consent Decree resolving an EEOC racial and sexual harassment lawsuit against Foster Wheeler Constructors, Inc. ("Foster Wheeler"). The lawsuit, which EEOC filed in 1998, arose from complaints EEOC received regarding racial and sexual harassment at a Foster Wheeler construction project in Robbins, Illinois. The harassment included racist and sexist graffiti in portable toilets at the Robbins site 3. Timothy Kephart, a Carson crime analyst, graduate student at California State University-Long Beach, and president of Crime Prevention and Graffiti Consulting, analyzed more than 450 gang graffiti photographs in the Carson area for his master’s thesis. “It became clear that gangs were using graffiti to actually communicate,” he says. 4. In this same article, James Q. Wilson, UCLA criminologist and framer of the "broken windows" theory, states that signs of disorder in society--such as graffiti, abandoned cars, broken windows, and uncollected trash--frighten law-abiding Citizens into avoiding public places. Those places are then left to criminals who furthe