Keeping up appearances

26 May 2017

With summer the ideal time to clean building exteriors, Sharmin Akter, managing director of Total Solutions, offers advice on carrying out this type of work

First impressions always count, whether you are meeting a person for the first time or visiting a new location. The exterior of your building influences a visitor’s opinion of your organisation, even before they set foot inside. Summer is the ideal time to carry out exterior work to clean, restore, enhance and protect the elements of your building. The type of cleaning process that is required will depend on the substrate to be cleaned, the nature of the material to be removed and the type of structure. Cleaning should be carried out using the gentlest suitable method, to avoid damage and minimise the impact on the surface in the longer term.


Renders are commonly used on building exteriors and are subject to a range of weather conditions which, over time, can cause them to discolour and look dirty. Organic growth can also cause large areas of green growth, containing algae and moss, which lead to a poor appearance and can even cause damage. Specialist equipment and environmentally friendly chemicals are combined with cleaning methods including cold pressure washing, hot pressure washing and steam cleaning, to remove all traces of discolouration and organic growth. Graffiti is a common problem in towns and cities and specialist techniques will ensure that all traces are removed, whilst causing minimal disruption to the operation of the building.

Stone exteriors

Different types of stone exteriors will weather and degrade in different ways and require specialist types of cleaning to remove dirt and avoid damage to the surface. A detailed initial survey is important to determine the type of stone, the most appropriate cleaning technique and the best access equipment, ranging from scaffolding, access platforms and cradles to abseiling ropes. Specialist steam cleaning systems are able to deliver high temperature steam when required for the toughest jobs, but low pressure systems and gentle chemical removers can often be utilised.

Brick structures

As with stone buildings, all brick structures are different and have varied cleaning needs. Bricks vary in strength and durability, as does the cement binding them, so structures can be surprisingly fragile, requiring the cleaning methods to be tailored to each specific project. General dirt, paint and organic growth are removed using techniques including superheated water systems, soft abrasive cleaning, chemical cleaning and media blasting. The latter uses a range of abrasive substances, including aluminium oxide, plastic beads and ground walnut shell, which are propelled at the surface under high pressure to remove surface contaminants.

Listed buildings

Listed buildings and buildings of historical interest require a specialist approach to cleaning. Over many years, the exteriors can become marred by build-up of dirt from the surrounding environment and careful measures must be taken to reduce the risk of damage to the building's exterior, as normal cleaning methods can be too harsh or ineffective. All external cleaning of listed buildings requires Listed Building Consent or, in the case of unlisted buildings within a conservation area, planning permission. 

Tall buildings

High level cleaning and maintenance of very tall buildings also presents specific challenges, whether building walls, windows, roofs or gutters need to be cleaned. Specialist expertise and training is required, together with access equipment and techniques that ensure that all processes are carried out with safety as the top priority. Maintenance and repair of the building exterior are often carried out at the same time, together with installation of netting to exclude pest birds and prevent damage.

Whatever your external building cleaning and maintenance requirements, a specialist company will be able to provide expert advice and have highly skilled and experienced technicians able to carry out the work efficiently, with minimal disruption to you or your business. The changes in appearance can be significant and a clean building exterior will ensure that you always makes the best first impression on your visitors.