Why should you clean a building’s facade?

By Published On: April 11th, 2022
Facade cleaned by PMAC granite and brick

Why clean the façade of a building?

The façade of a building refers to the front part of a building visible to the public. This includes all entrances, elevations, windows, footpaths and outdoor  furniture. It is important to keep a façade clean and well maintained to ensure it remains attractive to potential customers, employees, business partners and homeowners.

There are other important reasons to ensure the upkeep of a building’s façade. A clean building will have a positive impact on the environment and can influence neighbouring properties to follow suit.

Regular maintenance of a building’s Façade will prolong it’s life

Regular maintenance of a building’s façade also serves as a proactive measure in prolonging the life of a building. Removing dirt and grime may reveal vulnerabilities in the façade which can be treated before they cause further damage that can be very expensive to remedy.

Nipping growth in the bud

Early growth can be nipped in the bud before invasive root growth takes hold causing structural damage to a building.

Growth causing damage to chimney

Growth causing damage to chimney

Façade Maintenance Programmes

Façade cleaning should play part of a regular maintenance programme and early investigation process to assess for repairs or maintenance works.

Various Materials which make up a façade

Facades are made up of various materials and each surface needs to be treated with specific cleaning solutions. Inappropriate cleaning methods can cause serious damage to a building’s façade.

Precast concrete render

Architectural precast concrete cladding is a popular choice for modern buildings, thanks to its durability and versatility of finish. It claims to be non-porous and mould resistant, can withstand rain penetration and windblown debris.  It doesn’t require painting, however, due to our damp Irish climate it does get stained over time. South facing elevations will deteriorate quicker as spores are getting baked on the surface. Trees and greenery in the area will hasten the façade’s deterioration. The good news is, concrete render can be returned to new with correct cleaning and sealing.

Precast concrete render, although extremely durable, is very thin and will not withstand any pressure. Never clean concrete render panels with a pressure washer. To rejuvenate your façade, we recommend treating it with an appropriate biocide followed by a gentle high temperature steam clean. Once cleaned, seal with an appropriate seal.

Mineral deposits on glazing

We have come across several incidents where debris from precast concrete has blown onto the glazing causing an unsightly build-up of mineral deposits. The façade may never have been sealed or just wore off over time. South facing glazed elevations are more severely affected. Mineral deposits are burnt into the glass and render them opaque. This is difficult to remove without causing damage and should only be carried out by a trained expert, like PMAC.

Natural stone facades: To seal or not to seal

A stone render is by nature more porous. Although extremely durable it is more susceptible to rain and wind-blown debris. Given our damp climate we generally don’t advice sealing. Severe weather conditions can cause the seal to wear away quite rapidly and our experience tells us it is not worth the investment.

Very soft limestones do weather quickly on higher elevations, sealing these should be considered. It is important to have good runoff details that allow the façade to weather equally.

Anti-graffiti Coatings

We do advise applying an anti-graffiti coating to stone that is susceptible to getting hit with graffiti. This allows any tagging to be removed easily without the use of harsh chemicals or other damaging solutions.

Gently does it: Excess pressure can cause irreparable damage

We strongly advise against applying any water pressure to stone. This opens the pores allowing dirt and grime to penetrate the stone. A porous surface also facilitates the ingress of water, causing dampness and structural damage during the freeze thaw cycle.

Colour intensify your stone façade

Black limestone sealed with a colour enhancing seal

Black limestone sealed with a colour enhancing seal

Where stone has been bleached or damaged by the incorrect use of chemicals it is possible to rejuvenate the colour by applying a colour enhancing seal. It works incredibly well on black limestone that has been etched putting the black back into black.

Brick Facades

We have spoken at length about the restoration and maintenance of brick facades, read more. Brick facades generally follow the same cleaning guide as for stone. Again, it is important to avoid any pressure whilst cleaning as this will deteriorate the natural patina of the bricks, open the pores and rapidly deteriorate the façade. Pressure washing can also dislodge the mortar in the joints.

Steam cleaning brick façade

Steam cleaning brick façade

Minimal use of water is always advised when cleaning facades

Another golden rule when cleaning facades is to never saturate masonry with water. Less is more. Saturated stone can take months to dry out and cause efflorescence (This is the salts in the stone drawn out to the surface causing a white chalky film). Over saturation of the stone can also cause draw out the iron in the stone resulting in brown staining.

Aluminium and glazed facades

Aluminium and glass often play part of a building’s façade and require regular maintenance. Never use any harsh chemicals or abrasives on these surfaces. This will cause discolouration and damage the surface. Oxidised aluminium frames can be coated once cleaned to rejuvenate the surface.

Access and Health and Safety: when cleaning and maintaining facades

Access is always paramount to your façade cleaning endeavours and can often be as costly as the work itself. It goes without saying that all works should be undertaken by a contractor who is qualified to work at heights and holds all Safety Credentials to do so. A full safety audit should be carried out to determine the safest equipment required to gain access to the façades and mitigate any potential risk. Where chemicals are being used the work area must be fully protected to prevent any over spray. Works may have to be carried out during the night to minimize risk and disruption to passers-by.

Façade cleaning Eir Building at height

Façade cleaning Eir Building at height

What to do when a hoist cannot access the façade?

Qualified Abseilers are used to carry out cleaning and repairs to areas that can’t be reached by hoists.

Always use an experienced and qualified specialist contractor

Always ensure you employ a knowledgeable and experienced contractor when it comes to cleaning and maintaining your façade. Specialist cleaning contractors will be equipped with the correct techniques and equipment required to carry out work on a particular surface. They will also be well trained on how to behave when working at heights.

Regular maintenance will prolong the life of your building

A building’s façade requires regular care. A façade maintenance programme is a strategic approach allowing Building Managers to keep their buildings in top notch condition. Correct regular maintenance of a façade not only represents your Company’s core values but will also prolong the life of your building and identify problems before they occur.

Read more about Façade Cleaning

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