Palimpsest.

If you were a scribe in the Middle Ages you’d have known this word well. But you should probably know it if you maintain commercial buildings too.

You see, a scribe would often reuse the same vellum for new documents by scraping the old text off. But traces would remain. Over time some of these would hold many traces of old documents that built up.

Your building is the same way, especially if it’s older. All that painting and repainting, all those caulking and sealing jobs. every tar drip off the roof, every paint spray from a careless workman cleaning brushes in the back alley…they build up over the years.

If you want to clean away old building coatings or traces of overrun or splash on the outside of your building, here are a few steps to go through.

Identify

Sometimes you can identify the substance by sight. But often you might need to check elsewhere. See maintenance records on your building or nearby buildings (if it’s an overrun problem) to identify the paint, tar, caulk, silicone or other substance you need to clean away.

You may need to call a professional to assess first if you can’t come to a firm understanding on your own.

In addition, you need to know the surface you’re cleaning too. This will affect the types of products and applications you can use. For example, you might be able to use some products and methods on brick that you couldn’t use on EIFS without breaking the outer envelope.

Finally, you’ll need to identify any problem areas like crumbling brick, bad seals between inside and outside and other issues that need addressing first.

Experiment

Once you’ve nailed down the substance and surface and dealt with any problem areas, it’s not time to hit the whole wall willy-nilly. Test a small area, preferably in a spot that doesn’t get as many eyes. If the removal process goes badly it won’t affect too much.

Use the mildest possible product and work up as needed, not the opposite. It’s a lot harder to put back the surface of your brick than it is to just not use a sandblaster on it.

Prevent

Depending on the surface and the application, there may be coatings you can apply to stop yourself from having to do this again. Graffiti-resistant coatings or waterproof coatings come to mind.

If you care about your reputation, your building’s appearance is one of the biggest things that goes into it. Don’t let the painted-over detritus of years gone by drag down your current image. Use these steps as a guideline for your next cleaning project. And if you need a hand, contact JK Industries and we’ll set you on the right path.