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Window Washing 101
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Minnesota Community Living May/June 2010

Window Washing 101

By New Exteriors by SMA Production Department

Windows. They’re always somewhere on an association’s to-do list, and they’re usually a big to-do. Homeowners complain about old, drafty windows, and installing new ones is the logistical equivalent of a root canal. However, there’s one straightforward thing you can do to prolong the life of your windows, improve the health of your residents and bring a smile to both visitors and homeowners: Have your windows professionally washed. Cleaning windows removes damaging grit, lets in natural light and makes a building sparkle to passers by (and potential buyers).

Where to Start
Most window washing companies provide free estimates and a pretty accurate idea of how long the job will take. Ask them to visit the property and submit a written estimate. They’ll likely break it down according to window size — sliding glass doors are bigger than normal panes so they’re going to cost a bit more. Because HOA units tend to be the same from one to the next in the same compound, you can probably get an estimate on one then multiply by the number of units.

As far as completion time, take your personal window washing time and divide by about 50…these crews are fast. Seriously though, companies can get the time down to a science with a little leeway depending on the ladder setups, surrounding obstacles and building structure. On the average, one side of a normal sized pane should take about 90 seconds from dry to dry…including going up and down the ladder. Really.

References are important because you don’t want your windows scratched, and you can learn about most companies through rate sites like Angie’s List and Service Magic.

From company to company, the cost doesn’t drastically vary, but the ones that perform research, upgrade equipment and focus on keeping talented employees are going to cost a little more. As with everything else in your HOA, you get what you pay for.

As a starting point, one side of a standard (3’ x 4’) pane of glass will run about $3.00. Inside/Outside combined is around $5 with sliding doors and large picture windows one or two dollars more. Excessive laddering, rappelling and difficult terrain like steep slopes may be extra but they’ll be shown in the bid. Screens are sometimes included, sometimes around fifty cents each.

A common HOA practice is to pay for the exterior out the association’s account and let each resident decide on their respective interiors. Most window washing companies will offer incentive pricing for the HOA portion as well as each resident’s interior if there are enough.

Important Aspects

  • Not that you need to be told this, but make sure the company is properly insured. Watching commission-based washers moving up and down forty-foot ladders is both fascinating and horrific. They’re agile and well-trained, but gravity is indiscriminate.
  • Ask about other services they perform. Window washers have trucks, ladders and labor which they put to good use. High light bulbs, chandelier cleaning, holiday lights, pressure washing and snow removal can usually be found in their brochure.
  • Windows can absolutely be washed in the winter. They add a little methanol to the cleaning solution to make their own version of non-freezing windshield wash. Voila — clean windows in January.
  • The proper treatment of tempered glass is crucial. "Tempered” means the glass has been "baked” in high heat for added endurance. Joe Ruegsegger from the Squeegee Squad tells how this can lead to window scratching. "If the factory has a quality issue and does not properly maintain its glass washer, when the glass enters the furnace it can become fused with glass debris that should not be there. When a pro or anyone washes the glass, those pieces of debris can become dislodged and drag across the glass causing fine scratches.” Sliding doors, large windows, bathroom windows and any glass close to the floor is tempered. "Most window washers are not aware of the issue and may not know how to take proper care when cleaning tempered glass,” explains Joe. There’s more information on avoiding scratched glass at
  • New windows are sealed with silicone adhesive. It’s going to be on the edge of the glass and your window installation company will not be doing the cleaning. At New Exteriors by SMA, we focus on window installations. We know where our expertise lies, so we leave the washing to the pros. Either have the installer sub the cleaning to a pro or save money and call the washer yourself.

You’ve already got enough to manage — like roofing, landscaping and the complaints about Mrs. Smith’s curry cooking infiltrating the common area. Comparatively, getting the windows washed is pretty straightforward. Joe summed it up by saying, "[Make sure the company] takes steps to communicate expectations, facilitates good communication and follows through to make sure everyone has had their expectations met.” Some references, multiple bids and a written description of the work from the window washers will bring a smile to your current residents and the future tenants and residents driving by.

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