Working, Clean and Green

The maintenance challenges of property management are multiple and further complicated by today’s economics.  Few budgets currently have a line item for ‘window replacement’, so managers need to make the most of the tools they have.

As a first step, windows should open, close and lock with minimal physical effort.  Poorly performing windows will also aggravate residents a lot more than they will bother their property managers.  A cloudy or dirty window, however, can be just as annoying as one that doesn’t open or close properly. Unlike a leaking roof, windows are not generally an emergency repair which is why these simple requests often remain near the bottom of a property manager’s To-Do list.  All building products age and need to be repaired, restored or replaced, but even something as seemingly minor as too much paint will restrict proper window function. A good habit for managers to develop at turnover time is window checks and repairs.

Complications that occur because of weather, a particular property’s siting or pollution affect the integrity of organic housing materials.  Windows without regularly scheduled maintenance also can develop problems. Whether a property manager is in a locale like Southern California where it only rains a few months of the year, or in a northern climate requiring storm windows, urban properties can also need extra care. Grime and pollution from multiple sources affect not only the exterior of the window but filter into apartment interiors too.  

Because of load-bearing concerns, high-rise residential properties have more stringent building code requirements for window quality, but that doesn’t protect these buildings from developing glass problems if proper maintenance is neglected. In many urban locations managers schedule more frequent window-cleaning because of concern about the greater exposure to vehicle exhaust, grit and industrial pollution. 

Although windows are mainly glass, they are complete mechanical systems.  Screen washing, track cleaning, frame and window sill cleaning should all be included in any maintenance order. 

Removing residue without toxic chemicals can be challenging, but there are many environmentally sound products available today.  Here is an inexpensive window cleaning formula that will eliminate the grime buildup problem when used regularly:

Combine 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent, and 2 cups of water in a spray bottle. Shake to blend and then spray on your windows allowing to set for a minute or two.

For those who prefer a commercial cleaner, try Seventh Generation’s Glass & Surface Cleaner.  Seventh Generation’s advertising stresses that its non-toxic product will not harm “those little ones who might press their faces or hands against the glass”.  Also a good green product will not emit any harsh fumes and should be safe to use on glass, mirrors, stainless steel and most other surfaces. If it is not, read the label again as it may not be as green as you thought!

Caring for windows properly means removing grime before it can pit or affect the integrity of the window glass.  Glass is hard and one of the most stable architectural materials, but it can disintegrate over time if exposed to the wrong chemicals and humidity. Many people mistakenly believe that all older windows should be replaced, but glass manufactured during and after the 19th century has an extensive life.  In fact, the Brooklyn Planning Department advises residents that wooden windows can be very energy efficient if properly maintained or restored and suggests that replacement should be a last resort.

Windows are meant to last as long (or longer) than the original structure and will with proper maintenance. Before making the decision to replace windows, it is wise to contact a professional window restorer.  Replacing the glass in an older, good quality wooden window with a double or triple thermal pane actually makes that window highly energy efficient. Restoration also saves the embedded energy that would have been necessary to replace the entire window assembly.

Even if prospective residents do not consciously react to window status, clean windows are a critical part of curb appeal. Grimy, clouded window panes can undermine an apartment building’s first, second and third impression. Certainly keeping a building as clean as possible not only impresses prospective tenants but pleases the existing ones.  Well-maintained walkways, hallways and grounds all speak volumes about the quality of management, but there is nothing like sparkling windows to broadcast, ”This is a really great building”.


  1. Georgia
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    We are not allowed to clean the outside portion of our windows. Clean interior but dirty exterior makes for poor views and a perception of shoddy housekeeping. We pay an approved window cleaning service to clean the exterior but that can be budget stretching in NYC.

  2. Posted April 20, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Even though they are not structurally important, windows do play an important role in the look and feel of a room. And they can have an affect on whether or not you are able to lease.

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