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Cleaning and Maintaining Building Exteriors

When we think of servicing building exteriors, we normally think of dumping trash cans, picking up garbage and cigarette butts and sweeping the sidewalk within 10 ft. of the entrance. Today’s customers have much broader exterior cleaning needs that can include: roof top gardens and parks, interior atriums, landscaping, patios, pet areas, balconies, decks. athletic fields, pools and spas as well as parking garages & lots, streets, sidewalks, walking paths, gazebos, fire pit and barbecue areas, beaches, ponds, lakes, windows, and the actual building façade. Service expectations can range from daily/routine policing and cleaning, to periodic maintenance and restoration.


The price or cost of these services is generally based on how much time it takes to do the work (time and materials which is based on a billable hourly rate, that includes labor costs, profit and overhead, multiplied times the number of hours equals the total labor cost, plus supply and equipment costs. Another approach is to charge an agreed upon service fee or cost for each service call, up to a specific amount of time (each 15-minute period or first hour), and then so much additional cost for each following time segment and lastly, the cost can be based on a square foot rate.


Hourly rates will vary depending on the tasks required and the labor market for your area. Normally hourly rates will range from a minimum of $10.00 to $15.00 per hour to as much as $75.00 an hour or more. If equipment or vehicles are required, the cost can double or triple, again depending on the area and what is actually being done and the equipment required. If you know your profit and overhead costs, use your numbers, if not, a ballpark approach is to double (more competitive) or triple (less competitive) the hour rate paid to the employee and this should cover your costs and be a safe approach when bidding on smaller jobs. When bidding on larger jobs, you need to know your exact costs and if you don’t, you shouldn’t be bidding on the job. On some jobs, a multi-person crew is needed, in which case the billable hourly rate for each worker assigned to the job would be added to the calculation, plus supply and equipment costs, which should be marked up by at least 15-20% over what they cost you to purchase or rent.

Production Rates:

Production rates depend on the skill of the technician, the task(s) being performed, the condition or degree of soiling present and the desired level of cleanliness. Keep in mind there may be other variables that can impact production rates. The most accurate production rates are based on your previous performance that has been validated by actual real-world time and task analysis of a small area that can then be applied to a larger area.

Several examples of average industry times that may apply to the cleaning of exterior building surfaces are listed below:

  • Policing/light/spot sweeping flat dry surfaces with a lobby dust pan, small cart, bag or box:(sidewalks, paths and walkways): 2500 to 4500 sq. ft. per hour.
  • Sweep dry flat surface with a corn broom (12 inch) 2200 – 2800 sq. ft. per hr.
  • Sweep dry flat surface with a 18 – 24-inch push broom 5000 – 7000 sq. ft. per hr.
  • Spot clean entry glass doors and flat surfaces with a microfiber cloth and spray cleaner: 20 seconds per side.
  • Clean glass with strip washer, squeegee and bucket (ground level) 400 – 650 sq. ft. of glass per hr.

Some other useful numbers to keep in mind:

  • Any time you send an employee outside a building to clean, count on it taking at least 15 – 20 minutes of travel and set up time.
  • If you send an employee to different buildings, count on it taking at least 20 – 30 minutes of travel and set up time at each building.


Due to the diverse nature of the work and sometime infrequent need for services related to the cleaning and maintenance of outdoor areas, this work is often contracted out to firms that specialize in the needed service. In which case the work is marked up at least 10% and sometimes as much as 50% or more to cover the cost, time, and risks involved in securing and managing the services of an independent specialty contractor.

Resources for Pricing and Production Rates:

There are a number of reliable sources for average production rate information, one of the most common in the janitorial industry is: The Official ISSA 612 Cleaning Times and Tasks. This inexpensive publication (and software) provides the information needed to calculate how varying the size of brooms, mops and equipment can impact production, costs and pricing. It also provides suggested times for sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, carpet cleaning and hard floor care.

Building Service Contractors Association (BSCAI), offers a janitorial bidding and estimating book:

Fire Restoration Pricing:

2016 Bluebook for Residential & Light Commercial Cost Guide for Cleaning, Construction and Repairs.

2017 National Renovation & insurance Repair Estimator, by Craftsman Books.:

Construction industry Pricing:

RS Means Bidding, Estimating and construction pricing guides:

Pressure Washing Pricing:

The Pressure Washers Guide Book,

Landscaping Pricing:

Nilsson Associates,

Online: Use your favorite search engine to find other sources for pricing and production rate information on any service you may need or be asked to provide. Just keep in mind that what you find may or may not have any basis in fact.

That’s it for this month, Best of luck and happy safe bidding.