When your worst fears come true...
There's been some bad mojo floating around the last few weeks and it's caused a few close calls among myself and my colleagues. Every window washer has that tiny bit of fear in their head that we have to silence in order to do what we do. But what happens when we completely ignore that little voice and get too confident? The results can be devastating, and even deadly. This is the subject of my latest blog entry, because it seems like a few people (myself included) are maybe getting a little to cocky and taking un necessary risks.
The Window Viper handles a lot of roof cleaning jobs and we pressure wash many metal roofs without incident. However, last week I was on a pretty steep and slippery one on which I had to get creative with the ladder. It was brought up to the roof and set up with the feet locked and secured to the roof with a safety lanyard.
While reaching for the peak of the roof I was standing on the second rung from the top when the pressure washer hose got snagged on the gutters. I gave her on good tug and the force was enough to dislodge the feet of the step ladder from the snow guards and it slipped down about one meter before the safely line bought it. This jarred me pretty good and I had to wear a wrist brace for about 24 hours afterwards. Without the safety line it could have been way worse. For the rest of this job I increased the tension on the safety strap to make sure that the ladder would not budge and that is how it will be done from now on forward.
A couple days later I got a text from my friend Dennis at Perfectly Clear Windows. He was working on an initial interior window wash in Nanaimo and had his 24 footer setup to reach some high windows in the great room. The hard wood floors were still covered with paper for protection and taped around the edges. Something we've all seen a million times and had no issues. I believe that this time, he must have had the ladder leant out on a pretty low angle because his ladder feet slid with the paper below them and his ladder came down with him on top with enough force to break the window trim and shatter the window below. His head missed the broken glass by only a couple of feet.
Think he was scared?
It's time to slow down and take extra precautions. Be careful out here everyone. We love to work faster and make more money but when your body is your paycheque, it's your most valuable tool.
… you can say that again!
The 2014 spring cleaning season has hit and it has hit hard! Trying to keep up with the steady stream of calls and estimates is almost as demanding as washing 500 windows a day -without a break. (yes that's how we roll!)
Ok, now that you know how tough we all think we are and if you're still reading this, then let's get to the meat and potatoes of window washing season. ..
The year began with a bang in March with the completion of an 18 storey high rise in Nanaimo. The weather was nasty for most of the week, we were cold and the rain fell hard. Even with rain gear, the Nanaimo Harbour managed to unleash it's wrath upon us. Maybe it was just too early of a start, or bad luck for stealing the biggest window cleaning contract right out from under the noses of our Nanaimo competitors. May the best team win :)
Soon after we had a call from Knappett Projects in Victoria. They needed the new Salt Spring Island Public Library's windows cleaned inside and out. This was a great moment for us since we'd just expanded out services to the small island community. If you look close at the picture you can see the aluminum sun shades on the top windows and a parking lot below. Safety was a MAJOR concern, as was preservation of property. These are some pretty pricey building materials and there's no way it's getting damaged on our watch.
In May The Window Viper set up a booth in the Cowichan Home Expo. This was our second expo and as you'd expect, the response was very positive. (aside from the odd ophidiophobiac)
We met a lot of other exhibitors and made a lot of good connections. We even had the pleasure of meeting some fellow window cleaners from Island Clean in Nanaimo who had a booth almost directly behind us. It was nice to swap stories and act as comrades and not competitors. But after all was said and done, it was time to get back on the street and make sure that they remain in that same position as at the Expo - behind us. :P
Moss removal & Roof Cleaning
Excuse the rant but I am so frustrated by this new trend I keep seeing regarding moss and roof cleaning. There's a house down my street that had quite a lot of bulbous moss growing all over the roof. The owner had someone come and throw piles of what looked like lime or something all along the peaks of the rooftops. Apparently to kill the moss. Almost a year has passed and the roof is still covered with moss, only the moss is now dead and a brownish red colour. And it won't be long before new moss uses this dead moss as a medium for re growth. I don't want to know how much they paid for this but it bothers me that people are actually selling this bogus service to people.
When you call The Window Viper to take care of your moss problem you know that it's going to be done right. There are many services out there selling you "quick solutions" but in all reality, there is no effective shortcut.
Before applying any moss killer, the moss must be removed safely and gently.
The first thing we do is physically remove the moss by hand and put it in re-usable garbage bags.
We also clean the gutters as part of the process since the moss naturally gathers there.
Next we sweep and blow off any remaining moss particles from the roof and your decks and patios. If necessary, we will rake it from your lawn as well. Once the roof is free of any visible moss we apply a biodegradable moss killer. What this does is simply adhere to the roof shingles and raises the PH levels to a point that it cannot sustain vegetation and it kills any tiny bits of moss that may promote regrowth.
What you are left with is a beautiful roof free of moss on the day of service - and a guarantee that moss will not grow back for at least a few of years, depending on your location of course. When you go with the green there's just no comparison.
Thy ground hog hath spoken! And it's not clear that the warmth of spring will be coming any time soon, but this winter has turned out to be one of the driest I can remember. I feel like I'm back in Calgary!
I'm already staring to consider making my spring calls due to the amount of early bookings that are already piling up.
I've been working very hard over the last couple months on some new marketing strategies, website upgrades, tweaking the logo, putting decals on the vehicle, and lots more. I joined the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce and am proudly taking care of the new visitor centre next to the forestry museum. I'm also now affiliated with the Society of Professional Ropes Access Technicians, and am about to get my certification. We sealed the deal to do a huge high rise clean, twice year on a Nanaimo Harbour high rise know as 'The Pacifica'. So much has been going on that i feel very confident going into the busy spring season this year. I have a feeling that you might see me with a helper in my passenger seat a lot sooner than I anticipated. You will definitely be seeing me and my set up again at the Cowichan Home Show this May, and I will post more info about that a little later. As anticipated, GST is now being added to all invoices since the company no longer is views as a 'small supplier'. All of this news is good, and should definitely set us up for an even better year next year. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, there's a lot of work coming and The Window Viper will continue to uphold its values of grassroots community commerce, the highest eco standards on the market, five star customer service, and 100% satisfaction guarantee. Thank you to all of the Window Viper client base for your customer loyalty, and if you're a potential new client, thank you for taking the time to visit our blog.
I'll see you on the ladder!
Winter has arrived and with it the beauty of the holiday season surrounds us all. I have had the pleasure of decorating numerous homes this year with The Window Viper's professional xmas light installation service. It's a great add on because we can't do any gutter cleaning or roof de-mossing etc when everything is frozen solid. It is still possible to do some window cleaning, but hanging christmas lights helps to keep me busy when I would otherwise be busy waiting for the rain to return.
I'm always very satisfied when I get to see the home all illuminated for the first time and hear the joy in the clients voice when they call to tell me how great it looks. Since I'm there during daylight hours I rarely get to experience the full glimmer that the darkness adds to the lights. The photo above clearly shows the magic.
One other thing that I love about the new homes being built is that they all pretty much have a christmas light plug socket under the soffits that can be switched on and off from somewhere inside the home. This way I can connect all the lights to one circuit and even allow for the string to end near a shrub and run lights right out into the yard. All of this at the control of one switch inside your home eliminates the hassle of setting timers and going outside to unplug at the end of the night.
I hope you enjoy this holiday season, and if you are considering an xmas display, then look no further. The Window Viper can provide you with professional service that is safe, insured, and guaranteed.
Happy Holidays! - Chris Jackson (owner / operator)
So far we have had a gorgeous autumn season here in the Cowichan Valley! The 2013 Home Expo was a huge success. Window Viper gave away a free gutter cleaning and offered 25% off of our eco friendly window cleaning to all. I look forward to doing something similar in the spring of 2014. Congratulations to Carolyn Wolter for winning the free gutter cleaning!
With fall almost halfway gone and the nights getting longer, we all begin to feel the doldrums of winter setting in. The leaves are piling up in our yards and roofs and it's hard to get motivated. Did you know that Seasonal Affect Disorder (S.A.D.) impacts close to ten percent of north americans? Particularly the elderly.. But there are proven ways to fight the winter depression with mood lights that emit full spectrum light waves and taking vitamin D supplements. It has also been proven by researchers that keeping your windows clean in the winter can also improve the amount of natural light in your home by 5%. Every little bit counts!
As I look out my office window I see that the busy gutter cleaning season is very close indeed, and I will be spending a lot of hours in my rain gear over the next several weeks collecting the fallen leaves that are clogging up the gutter outlets. This is the time to hunker down and work the remainder of the year into 2014. If you haven't already done so, you should call and book your gutter cleaning as early as possible and avoid the rush of last minute calls, and inevitably - the wait list.
Risk vs Reward is never an option
In all my years as a professional window cleaner I am proud to say that my only accident happened last year when my step ladder slipped out from under me and I ended up with some bruises (mostly on my pride). How it happened was a simple mistake..
The job was an interior window wash and the floors were hard wood. Right at the main entrance was a set of high windows and a rug on the floor. The home owner assured me that the rug had a rubber non slip shield beneath in, so up I went. This next part is kind of funny because as I was up there working I was chatting to the client about how "I'm not afraid of heights, I am afraid of fa-". And at that exact word, the ladder slipped out with the rug and down I went. Sprawled out in a puddle of water mixed with irony I realized my mistake. I didn't personally check under the rug. There WAS a rubber mat under it but for some reason it had been folded under and rendered useless. Thankfully for me I was ok, and there was no damage to the home, and a valuable lesson learned.
Ladders are relatively safe when set up properly, on level feet and a nice easy angle. There are however times when a perfect setup isn't in the cards and you have to improvise. Then there's times where it's just not possible or safe to use a ladder and other tools must be used. I have no desire to put my body in a risky situation just to get a piece of glass cleaned.
That's why my ladders have adjustable feet to set up on awkward ground and even on stairways. Still there's no reward that is worth the risk of a sketchy ladder setup.
Besides personal injury risks, there's also the risk of property damage. The last thing I want to do is break a window, scratch some paint, or gouge a wooden deck. As a business owner this all comes down to me in the end and it's greatly important to maintain a keen awareness of all that's around me at all times.
Some myths out there regarding safety need to be debunked. Such as rooftops. Albeit some rooftops are just dangerous and should never be walked on. For the most part, your common asphalt tile shingle roofs are safer to walk on than grass. The grits in each shingle hold onto whatever is on them and are never EVER slippery unless frosty. If there's ever a chance of frost on a roof I'll either work from the ladder if possible or completely re-book the service. Again, no reward is worth the risk in this line of work.
So what's this 'go green' nonsense anyway...?Pure Water Fed Extension Pole
It's ALL green at The Window Viper. It's a grassroots company based in the very green Cowichan Valley of course. I drive a green truck, my uniform is green. All my tools and equipment are green. So what's it all for? What does it represent?
The fundamental aspect under it all is that The Window Viper set the example not only in service, but in maintaining a very high eco standard. I'm not doing this because it's fashionable, or to attract a certain clientele. I do it because it's the RIGHT thing to do, period.
For example - Moss Removal is a common add on which can be very tedious and time consuming but must be done to prevent your roof from any moisture damage. There's no shortcuts. You can't just go slap some TIDE on the roof and kill the moss. You still have dead moss on the roof that must be removed by hand. So, why bother with the detergent in the first place? Roofs run into gutters, which run into your perimeter drains which run into our watershed. The typical house needs 2-3 boxes of detergent to cover the roof. After one good rain all that stuff goes straight into our drinking water - gag!
Another example is siding washing. I was recently on a job in Cobble Hill and the home owner was astounded at how clean his vinyl siding was from me just using pure water and a water fed tucker pole. We got into conversation about how all these consumer cleaning products are all just worthless gimmicks that don't even do anything. They leave chemical residue on everything, cost an arm and a leg, and no matter how bio degradable it says it is - it's still a chemical. I had to strip my deck last year with a "bio degradable" deck stripper. Some got on my skin and I still have a scar from the acid burn! Scrubbing those high walls and gutters is hard work that can be done without the help of any such products. Pure water runs off your house and into the ground where nature can recycle it.
Water restrictions are another issue in the summer months and the equipment I use, when idle, can be switched off to avoid wasting our limited water resource. At the end of the day my dirty window rags are washed in a cold water ECOS high efficiency washer cycle.
There's much we can do as individuals to reduce our impact on the environment. It doesn't take much to see the simplicity in keeping up a green standard in a business like mine, but oddly enough, most companies just don't care.
Why choosing a smaller company is the better way to go.
There's no denying it, when it comes to this industry there are a lot of options as to where to spend your hard earned money. When making your choice it's easy to be seduced by brightly painted vehicles and expensive advertisements. Often times the staff employed by the big companies are under payed, under skilled, over worked, and disgruntled at earning a fraction of what the company is earning off of their hard work. How do I know this? Because I used to be one of them.
The first thing you get when you call any company is usually the owner. The owner meets you with a firm handshake and offers you a quote and you accept it. Here's where things begin to differ. The large company will put you an a waiting list for up to six weeks or longer. The small guy can fit you in next week. After you wait six weeks for your service, the brightly painted truck arrives with someone you've never met, alongside his rookie sidekick with no experience at all. They will have to rush the job because they have five or six more jobs to pile onto the day before it's over. Contrary - the little guy you met last week arrives, delivers you an excellent service, and has time to focus on the fine details while still charging you less than the other guys. At the end of the day though, it's about getting the most value out of the service you are buying. Does it make you feel better to support grassroots? Or goliath?
For myself personally, this concept transcends all elements of the marketplace where we always have the choice to shop at the big box stores, or take the extra time to go to the famers market. When you support the little guys, you're helping out a single family face to face, and that's worth more than any billboard ad or golden arches. As a one man show I feel twice as much pride in my work than I did as an employee. I always do my best work regardless but, knowing that I was giving over half of the earnings to someone who wasn't even on the job with me to help.. it was a constant knot.
I am always at a loss for words whenever it's a roasting hot sunny day and I'm washing windows and a passer by comments: "Great day to wash windows!".
Now, my normal reply to that is something along the lines of: " Its actually a great day for lots of things, like golfing, fishing, swimming.. etc" The truth that most people don't realize is that it's actually the worst time to wash windows. Not because I'd rather be working on my slice at the driving range, the fact is that hot glass is a pain in the..uh, lower back.
When the sun gets hot surface temperatures on windows can reach levels above 100 degrees fahrenheit. This results in very fast evaporation which is detrimental to the squeegee cleaning method which relies on wet lubricated glass in order to achieve a streak free finish. We as window cleaners have to deal with this in several ways because the last thing we want is to have to come back again and rub off some foggy streaks or rubber lines.
First one is obvious, we start early as possible in the day. Its cool then and the glass is too. If the sun is already high in the sky and the heat is on, then we start on the shady side of the building, and most likely when we finish that side, the earth has rotated and the angle of sunlight has shifted away from the hot side. Besides that, keeping the water in my bucket ice cold and lots of it helps to cool hot glass down before my squeegee touches it, you can't put too much water on that window on a hot day. Then there is the actual rubber that is in the squeegee. Surprisingly there are lot's of different companies making various rubber compounds for window cleaners. Some are cheap, some are not, but you get what you pay for. In my research I have found that Ettore Soren rubber is probably the most durable and reliable rubber on the market. I've used it on extremely hot windows with practically no water at all and there have been little to no streaking left behind!
The Window Viper