Community Cleaning For Maximum Curb Appeal

Community Cleaning For Maximum Curb Appeal

By Eric Engel, Published November 2021

Photos Courtesy of Mallard Systems

Landscaping can be a defining feature of a community association. It is one of the first things that people notice when entering a community and establishes the all-important “first impression” for residents and guests. It makes sense that landscaping is typically the most expensive line item in an association’s budget.

     The cleanliness of a community, both common areas and individual homes, is also a community-defining feature. Many communities understand this and have annual, semiannual, and quarterly cleaning projects included in their budgets. Other communities may delay cleaning until areas become an eyesore and require cleaning treatments that are more aggressive and more expensive.

Before & After

     Once you see dirt, mildew, and algae on a surface, you can’t unsee it. Unfortunately, these contaminants get worse with time. Algae will continue to grow and spread and can become a breeding ground for molds and lichens. For instance, you may notice one day that a community wall has some green algae present. Removing green algae and dirt from a brick wall is a fairly easy process if it is addressed early on. If neglected the algae can turn into lichens—formed by the symbiotic partnership of a fungus and an alga. These items are much harder to remove and take more time. As is the case with all service industries, the longer a service takes to complete, the higher the cost. 

Maintenance Cleaning within a Community

     The most frequent cleaning that takes place within a community includes cleaning common area sidewalks, walkways, walls, and entrances. There are also pool decks that need to be kept clean, clubhouses and community building exteriors that can have algae and bug debris build up, and roofs with dark-black streaking due to algae growth. The best way to maximize your community’s curb appeal is to do a thorough initial cleaning of all areas and then implement (and budget for) an ongoing maintenance cleaning program. 

Before & After

Types of Maintenance Cleaning

     The exterior cleaning services that are typically included in a proactive maintenance cleaning plan are as follows:

  1. Roof gutter cleaning and debris removal
    If your property is located under a canopy of trees, there no doubt will be leaves and other tree debris present on your roof and in your gutters. Tree debris and leaves left in the roof valleys and gutters impede the water flow off the roof and can lead to water intrusion. The frequency of the gutter cleaning and roof debris removal should be twice per year. Schedule the service after the leaves drop.
  2. Sidewalk and walkway cleaning
    This is just as much about safety as it is aesthetics. Walkways that have a green or black algae buildup can be very slippery and lead to potential slip-and-fall incidents. The cleaning methodology should include both pressure washing to remove dirt and debris and a treatment with an algaecide to kill the algae and keep the surface cleaner for a longer period of time. The frequency of the sidewalk and walkway cleaning should be one to two times per year. Keep a close eye on wet areas that do not get much sunlight.
  3. Exterior Building Cleaning
    Cleaning the exterior of a home starts at the roof line and goes to the ground. This cleaning removes algae, environmental dirt, bug debris, and other contaminants from the exterior surface. This cleaning is typically done with pressure washers (kept two to three feet away from the surface to reduce the pressure placed on the surface) and an exterior cleaning solution, preferably with a one to two percent bleach-based cleaning solution. Regular cleaning can also extend the lifetime of the paint. Full exterior cleaning should be completed one time per year. Window cleaning can also be performed as part of an exterior clean.
  4. Low pressure roof cleaning to remove algae 
    Regardless of the type of roofing system you have (shingle, concrete tile, clay, metal, etc.), your roof likely will start to show algae growth within one to three years. Roofs that get direct sunlight may have slower algae growth. Roof sections that stay wet and are in the shade will exhibit algae staining much sooner. These algae start to show up as black streaks and then grow to cover the entire roof. In addition to the unpleasing aesthetics, the algae on shingle roofs feed on the limestone in the shingles and can lead to premature aging. On tile roofs the algae can start to erode the color of the tile over time.

There have been many solutions and techniques that have been tried for roof cleaning over the years. The best process remains a low-pressure application (also referred to as a softwash) of a bleach/chlorine-based cleaning solution that also has surfactants and algacides included. The key with this technique is to have a very tightly controlled process so that the algae can be removed, and the plants and landscaping can be protected to minimize stress on the plants. A highly experienced roof cleaning company should be chosen for this work. The roof cleaning company should be able to define its process with confidence and also have a plant guarantee in place should any plants be damaged as a result of the cleaning. Roofs should be thoroughly cleaned and then re-cleaned every two years.

Pricing for Cleaning Services

     A thorough review of a property is required to determine the price of the different cleaning services. As was noted earlier, ultimately it comes down to the time needed to safely and properly clean an area. The labor cost is a function of how long is required to deliver the service. The price of the project is then based on the overall cost, with labor being the highest cost.

Before & After

     The three most definitive factors that determine how long a cleaning project will take are as follows: the level of accumulation on the surface, the complexity of the cleaning, and the surface area being cleaned. This demonstrates why periodic maintenance cleaning costs less than cleaning a surface with a very high dirt and algae level. Additionally, when cleaning occurs in a timely period, lower strengths of chemical cleaning solutions can be used. This puts less stress on your property’s plants.

     The deliverable should always be a professionally executed cleaning service that minimizes the impact on the residents, is completed on time by courteous technicians, and fully removes all contaminants.

Preparing for Cleaning Services

     For large, community-wide cleaning projects, extensive communication with property management and residents and adhering to the schedule are critical success factors. For roof and exterior cleaning projects, residents will need to move personal items, furniture, plants, etc. off patios and balconies and away from the cleaning area. A project plan should be developed in advance of the project start that includes a schedule of what buildings will be cleaned each day. The goal is to minimize the impact on the residents and allow them to move their items back in a timely manner.

     The project plan and schedule should also address high-risk areas in need of special care and additional time. Items like delicate landscaping, stained wood, certain paint types, uncoated metals, and the complexity of the buildings and roofs all need to be taken into consideration. These conditions will slow the cleaning process down and must be accounted for.

Before & After

Maintenance Cleaning for Maximum Curb Appeal

     Baked lasagna is a great family dinner. Think about how the pan cleans up if it is cleaned right after dinner as opposed to tossing it in the sink and cleaning it the next day or the next week. If you wait to clean the pan, it will take more time, more elbow grease, more detergent, and more cost. Such is the case with community cleaning. 

Eric Engel

Business Development Manager, Mallard Systems

     Eric Engel is the business development manager for Mallard Systems. Since 1992, Mallard Systems has cleaned and sanitized over 70,000 roofs. The company has pioneered the use of soft chemical cleaning and sanitizing as a safe and effective alternative to damaging high pressure washing other companies use. Over 40 percent of Mallard’s business comes from repeat clients or referrals. Mallard Systems never misrepresents their services, doesn’t accept poor results, and never fails to perform at the highest standard. For more information, call (877) 382-5620 or visit