Friday 27 February 2015

Glass Monkey Becomes Brass Monkey - Ice Dam!

Sam Waller of "Glass Monkey", he's a window washer who relies on his bike for work -- despite the weather being as cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.
Window washer's business travels on two wheels (Roanoke, VA): Sam Waller started his own business cleaning windows more than a year ago in Roanoke - This month's winter weather kept a lot of business owners from opening up, but for some, there's no such thing as a snow day, especially if you work for yourself. Sam Waller is one of those people. "This is more than just my work,” he said. “It's my meditation."

What you see isn't necessarily what you get from this window washer. He says there's so much more.
"I believe anyone can just pick up a squeegee and do what I do, but I bring a sense of personality or relations to the customer or client." Waller is the owner and only employee of Glass Monkey Window Cleaning. "I'm all over town,” he said. “I'm on Williamson and Towers and all over downtown and I live near Grandin so I got a lot of business over there, so I bike it all and wash businesses all day."

Waller has about 100 customer in Roanoke, but he doesn’t drive a car or truck to get to them. He hauls his 5-gallon buckets, poles, blades and squeegees in a not-so-conventional way. "This is an 82 Schwinn World Taurus and it's actually a little bit of a rarity."

Not only does Waller use a bike as a means of transportation, but he also wears a bow-tie as a part of his uniform. "You just never know who you are going to meet or what you're going to do and I feel like if you're always a little overdressed you're never under dressed."

Waller says he got rid of his car nearly ten years ago because he loves cycling so much. "It was great,” he said when talking about his old car. “It was fun, but it was nothing compared to the fun of riding a bike." Not to mention it's easy on the environment.

Waller’s a one-man show, making a living with every window he cleans and proving that sometimes all it takes is some cleaner, a squeegee and a little elbow grease to make your dream a reality. "I think it's like a can of worms that you can’t put the lid back on even if you wanted to,” said Waller. “I can’t see myself working for someone else ever again."

Workers clear snow from a roof in Boston.
Minnesotans head east to fix Boston's extreme ice dams: The record snowfall that's buried parts of the East Coast has created a very Minnesota problem for homeowners: ice dams. But that misfortune has turned into a blessing for Minnesota companies that melt ice off of roofs, and have found scarce work at home during this mild winter.

Jesse Lofgren, with Monticello-based Absolutely Clean Window Washing, said he's spent the last two days working on a Boston nursing home that he estimates has thousands of square feet of ice dams built up on the roof. "In Minnesota we typically see fairly long icicles, but this is an extreme situation," Lofgren said. "The icicles on most houses up here go from the roof completely to the ground."

Boston officially hit 101 inches of snow this week — just six inches short of the all-time record set two decades ago. People in Boston are getting desperate, Lofgren said. "Everybody thinks it's acceptable to use blunt-force objects on the ice dams, such as hammers, screwdrivers, chisels," Lofgren said. "We've actually had a few beaten with sledgehammers and axes — it's what people do up here."

A cascade of ice adheres to the side of a brick building in downtown Boston on Feb. 20. Ice dams are a growing concern for homeowners in snowbound New England.
Gil Dos Santos owns a mid-century ranch house in Boston. He said icicles slowly crept from the eaves of his home's roof to the center of the house. Then the leaks started. "You see everybody with these massive icicles," Dos Santos said. "A lot of my neighbors have it; it's just a matter of if it's already started leaking or not."

The Minnesota company that cleared his roof charged $500 an hour, and it took five hours to clear the ice dams off his house. That's comparable to some premium Minnesota services, but there are reports of charges as much as $600 an hour. The Canadian native had never heard of ice dams before, and now everyone is talking about them. "We're looking up diagrams of how they form, and reading up on 'This Old House' about how to get rid of them," Dos Santos said. "You see a lot of people putting salt into nylons and throwing those up on the roof to try to create channels for the ice melt to run off."

The situation has created a lot of demand for the expertise Minnesota companies have developed over the years. Dozens of Minnesotans are clearing roofs in the city. One owner of a Minnesota-based company declined to comment publicly because he's already swamped with work in Boston. He said he's gotten more than 800 requests for work in Boston, although his crews can only clear about 25 roofs a day.

John Theis, owner of Grand Gutters Inc. in Plymouth, set out to Boston this week with eight employees. Theis' crews use steamers to clear two or three houses a day each. He's found that each roof is taking longer to clear than typical Minnesota roofs, partly because of the weather and partly because of a lack of knowledge about ice dams.

"I think Minnesotans are aware of ice dams, so we're kind of looking for them a little bit," Theis said. "Here it's just all of a sudden water is coming into everybody's houses and they don't know why."

It's been a slow winter for clearing ice dams in Minnesota, which has been good for homeowners but bad for business. Theis said his crews are hoping to get five or six days of work in Boston. He's keeping one eye on the weather report, with weather conditions in nearby states like New Hampshire looking good for ice dams.

"We've just been hanging around the last couple months, doing what we can to get by this winter, so everybody's pretty excited to be working," Theis said. "They're willing to do just about anything, as far as go anywhere. Make some money. Help people out." The influx of Minnesotans has maybe even replaced the East Coast's famous brusqueness with a sort of gratitude. "Every time a new company comes out here, it's like, 'Hey, more Minnesota guys turned up!'" Theis said. "The way the media is treating us out here, it's like we're almost Santa Claus."

Thursday 26 February 2015

UK Window Cleaner Of The Year 2015 Winners

Jack Mcavoy shown winning employee of the year, but went on to win the federation of window cleaners employee of the year award.
Window Cleaner of the Year 2015 Winners! We are delighted to announce the overall winner from each category - selected on the number of votes they received. Huge congratulations to the following worthy winners of the FWC “Window Cleaner of the Year 2015 competition”. 

COMPANY OF THE YEAR AWARD 2015: Progress Cleaning Services Ltd – Southampton EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR AWARD 2015: Jack Mcavoy – Employee with: Nationwide Window Cleaning Ltd - Yorkshire 

The Winners will be officially announced at the Cleaning Show Excel in London on Wednesday 11th March and their Award & prizes presented by FWC Executive Scott Smith. Once again we thank the Executive member judges for their time and effort. More essentially to our members for participating in this competition with such enthusiasm….well done! 

Runners up in numerical order will be given a 2015 finalist certificate: “Company of the Year 2015” finalists: 

J.V. Price Ltd – Hertfordshire 
D.W.S Services –Essex 
Complete Cleaning Services (SW) Ltd - Exeter

“Employee of the Year 2015” finalists:
James Driver: employee of T.R. Cleaning Ltd
Joe Smyth- employee of Impact Support Solutions Ltd
Philip Wyer employee of Crystal Clear Ltd

1st Place – Jack McAvoy (South Eastern Region), won an iPad Air for employee of the year.
WINDOW CLEANER OF THE YEAR AWARD 2015: Congratulations to Jack Mcavoy, our Employee of the Year, for being shortlisted for the Window Cleaner of the Year Awards 2015.
Federation of Window Cleaners executives had lengthy and intensive discussions to whittle the list down to these four whom demonstrate exemplary achievements.

The Federation of Window Cleaners received over 100 proposed nominees – all with superb quality entries giving the executive team a tough time arriving at this list…… the names set out below are the cream of the professional crop. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Executive member judges for their time and effort and also take our hats off to all the entrants for their enthusiastic entries submitted for the Window Cleaner of the Year Award 2015. Jack Mcavoy, the outright winner will be at the Cleaning Show Excel in London where prizes will be awarded.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Award For Officers Who Saved Dangling Window Washer

David Schmandt, former employee of North Coast Window Cleaning.
Deputies save window washer dangling from roof, become Officers of the Year (Albany, N.Y.)  – The quick thinking and heroic acts of two Albany County deputies has landed them with the title of New York State Officers of the Year. The incident happened in September 2014 when sheriff deputies Brian Lawler and Mark Duda saw a man dangling from the roof of the judicial center.

Duda said it was a pedestrian that alerted him to the man hanging only by his fingertips and a maintenance worker clinging to the man’s t-shirt. The man, David Schmandt, was an employee of North Coast Window Cleaning and had come unhooked from his harness while climbing over the edge. The maintenance worker, Joseph Palella, said the officers came just in time. “He was holding on by his fingertips, literally, and another ten seconds it would have been over,” Palella said. “Luckily it worked out for the best.”

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said their quick thinking very well could have saved the young man’s life and was proud the New York Sheriff’s Association recognized his officers. “I think anybody would have done it,” Duda said. “Just acting to the situation and just helping somebody out.”

While Duda said Schmandt is safe today thanks to the actions of everyone involved, including Palella, everyone can agree it easily could have gone south. “He was physically shaken,” Duda said. “He was a nervous wreck.” “I’m just glad he is OK,” Palella said. “Just glad it worked out.” Schmandt lives in Rochester and was not available for comment on this story. However, his coworkers said he is doing fine but no longer working for the window washing company.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Entrepreneur Window Cleaner Goes Social

"When I first started this business it was simply a means to provide for my family. I chose window cleaning because it paid well and was flexible enough for my wife and I to continue in out volunteer work.
Entrepreneur uses Instagram for positive business stories: Entrepreneur Chadwick Washington says it is a popular misconception that nothing good comes from social media. He said he wants to use Instagram, as well as Twitter and Facebook, to spread positive messages and inspirational stories from small business owners.

"These random pop culture references aren't doing anything to make you a better person," Washington said. "I know that is a way to get more followers, but that is not what I want. … My real currency is stories. Social media is a wonderful tool, but unfortunately, a majority of what it is used for doesn't make us better people. It's not uplifting, it's not educational, and that's sad."

Washington is a native of Lexington who moved to China for four years and worked as an English teacher. He said his original plan was to relocate overseas permanently, but his plans changed once he met his future wife during a visit home. In 2013, he found himself married with stepchildren and said he needed to find a new way to produce an income. He decided to open his own window washing service, but he was still feeling unsure of himself and was looking for inspiration.

Washington came up with the idea of the Instagram account called Small Business Stories after looking for similar resources to help him keep a positive outlook about owning his own business.

"I went on Instagram to find some motivating accounts that were business related, but I couldn't find any," Washington said. "I found business accounts, but they would have quotes from all these famous leaders, like Ghandi or Muhammad Ali, which is great, but how do I translate that to my life? What I was trying to find was an account that had stories from small business people talking about their challenges, triumphs and everything in between. Since I couldn't find that, I said, 'Why don't I just create it?'"

Chadwick Washington (right) uses social media, primarily Instagram, to help tell inspirational tales about small business owners in Lexington. Here Washington interviews All About Education owner Toby Prince.
Washington said his mother told him about Lexington Mayor Newell Clark, and his mission to promote Lexington as a progressive and forward-thinking community. Clark is also an avid user of social media. Washington said he had a meeting with Clark, who encouraged him to spend time highlighting the small businesses in Lexington throughout March.

"I had a flash of inspiration and got in touch with the mayor just to gauge his interest," Washington said. "I was able to sit down with him and talk about how I could focus on Lexington. He invited me to profile local small businesses and even had a few suggestions of businesses that he thought I would like."

Clark said he was happy to support a hometown champion who wants to use social media to feature business owners in the city.

"I've talked about social media and how we can leverage it to get our message out," Clark said. "He (Washington) was already down the road on what he was doing, but he got really excited about featuring his hometown. … He was so impressed with what has happened with uptown since he has gotten back. … More than anything else, I think it is folks working together that is making it successful.

"You will hear me talk about Lexington, but you will also hear me talk about Davidson County and the Triad. We are a big Triad neighbours, and we are really honing down on that by saying, 'Let's support each other, and let's promote each other.' Chadwick's story is about featuring how we are working together to transform this community, and I was glad to support him."

Washington said he is not selling anything and is not trying to become rich; he just wants to provide a platform where small business owners can join in the conversation, tell their stories and be inspired by other local entrepreneurs.

"In the middle of it all is storytelling," Washington said. "I'm not paying for advertising or trying to make money. I have all these ideas, but at the center of it is am I telling a good story?. … When I wake up in the morning, I want to read something uplifting. All I'm doing is trying to get their story, not a business bio. I want to know where their passion comes from."

This is my motivation. Until May of 2014 I had been content to roam the world as a traveling educator. Taiwan, China, Thailand, Hong Kong, The Philippines, Guyana, Trinidad .... I was free and lost at the same time. It wasn't until I met my wife and my stepdaughter that I realized I had a reason to stay in one place, that if I just put down roots I might have something to offer my community. For the first time in my life I have not just one but TWO people that depend on me, so I decided to start my own window cleaning business. That is my motivation, that is what drives me to keep fighting even though I know I'm behind the curve in almost every way. I spent almost a decade of my life bouncing from one place to the next. You learn a lot by traveling, what I didn't know is how much you can grow if you can just decide to settle down. I can't fail because it's not just about me anymore."

Monday 23 February 2015

Customer Tip - Glass Jars Next To Windows Start Fires

Aftermath: The bedroom was ravaged by the blaze which killed beloved family pet Chili (Picture: London Fire Brigade). The low winter sunlight coming through the window is believed to have been focused by the glass jar and strengthened, sparking a blaze which devastated the family home and completely destroyed the roof of the house. Four fire engines and 21 firefighters attended the blaze.
Sun rays shining on Nutella jar spark fire destroying family home and killing dog: A dog was killed and a family home wrecked after a huge fire was started by sun rays shining through a Nutella jar. Beloved family pet Chili, a nine-year-old Jack Russell, died from smoke inhalation while trapped inside the house in Twickenham, south west London, as the fire raged.

Firefighters believe it was caused by low winter sunlight being refracted through the glass chocolate spread container, which was being used to hold loom bands. Electrical supervisor Declan Murphy, 41, told Get West London: "We're all heartbroken at Chili's death and we've been told it will be up to a year before the house is ready for us to move back into. "I want to ensure other people are aware of the dangers and know to keep glass items away from windows and out of direct sunlight so they don't have to go through anything like this."

Mr Murphy had been out of the house at the time, celebrating the anniversary of his engagement with his wife and two children. The jar had been sitting on the windowsill of his daughter's bedroom. The fire on Sunday, February 15, destroyed the first-floor bedroom and also damaged the roof of the house. Charlie Pugsley, from the London Fire Brigade's fire investigation unit, said: "It sounds far fetched that a jar containing a few rubber bands caused a severe house fire but that’s exactly what happened. "It’s worth spending five minutes checking that your window ledges are clear of any glass or crystal that might lead to potentially life changing blaze."

That incident prompted a warning from the London Fire Brigade, which revealed it had been called to 125 fires caused by the sun's rays over the last five years.

Warning after Nutella jar sparks devastating blaze: The fire came just days before sunlight refracted off a mirror table at the Mayfair home of lingerie tycoon Michelle Mone, setting alight a bean bag, on Thursday (February 19). That incident prompted a warning from the London Fire Brigade, which revealed it had been called to 125 fires caused by the sun's rays over the last five years - including five this winter alone. Charlie Pugsley, from the brigade's fire investigation unit, said: "These sort of fires are not as rare as you would think. I've seen everything from sparkly door knobs to crystal balls starting fires. "Crystal and glass ornaments and items such as mirror tables should be kept out of direct sunlight. We wouldn’t advise that people put fires out themselves but it is good to see that Ms Mone is not injured. "This shows these fires are not an urban myth. "Also make sure that you have a working smoke alarm on every level of your home."

Friday 20 February 2015

Outdoor Workers Brave Bitter Cold

For Cale Senterfitt, it's business as usual.
Outdoor workers brave bitter cold (Charleston County, SC) - For Cale Senterfitt, it's business as usual. Despite record-breaking low temperatures across the low country Thursday, the owner of Charlestowne Window Cleaning Services spent most of the afternoon outdoors. "It comes with the territory," he said.  "I've been doing it 12 years now."

Senterfitt, who's company specializes in window cleaning, pressure washing and deck cleaning, joins the likes of construction crews and utility workers, unable to escape the season's arctic blast. He says worked has slowed during the winter months, especially January and February. "Hopefully you can just squeeze as many jobs in toward the end of the year as you can," Senterfitt said. "If you're fortunate enough, you'll have steady work."

Insulated gloves, and warm water were among a few of the must-haves for the Florida native.  He says he'll often add additives to his cleaning solution, to prevent freezing on contact. "It could freeze up pretty instantly.  It's actually pretty amazing." 

While Senterfitt braves the cold as part of his job, for one group of Charleston volunteers, their decision is by choice. Known as "The Frost Team," as many as 25 volunteers from the Charleston Parks Conservancy meet several times a week, planting, pruning, and beautifying city parks. "We deal specifically with the frost damage that occurs to plants during this cold, frosty season," added volunteer Kathleen Gunning.

The season's see-saw effect of warm and cold temperatures forced Frost Team volunteers to re-visit areas they'd already maintained. Thursday's temperatures proved too much for the group, but volunteers said their work will continue next Tuesday and Thursday. "You just layer up and persevere."

Arctic blast sets record low temperatures in Charleston: Friday morning is one for the record books, as temperatures in Charleston plunged into the teens. Temperatures Friday morning dropped to 18 degrees at the Charleston International Airport, beating out the previous record low of 22 degrees set back in 1968. As if the temperature wasn't low enough, the wind chill is making it feel even more frigid. A wind chill advisory is in effect for the Lowcountry until 10 a.m., with the temperature feeling more like 10 to 15 degrees throughout the early morning. The forecast high of 39 degrees for Friday afternoon should also set a “Record Cold High” for the date. The current record is 44 degrees.

Freak snow storms in the south have ravaged an area where most inhabitants only own a light jacket. Desperate and scared, most have gone to posting videos online as a cry for help. Won't you help?

Thursday 19 February 2015

Toxic Home Syndrome

A new report has suggested that by shutting those doors and windows, you're actually increasing the risk that your home itself could be poisoning you. Window cleaners work inside homes on a daily basis - the indoor air may contain over 900 chemicals, particles and biological materials with potential health effects.
Could your house be poisoning you? One expert suggests that millions of us are risking our health in an effort to stay warm: You might think of your home as a safe haven, where you shut the doors and windows against the worst the world can throw at you, and finally feel secure. However, a new report has suggested that by shutting those doors and windows, you're actually increasing the risk that your home itself could be poisoning you.

Experts have been alive to this risk for a number of years, but the Daily Mail is warning that we could be at particular risk at this time of year, as we keep doors and windows closed against the cold air, trapping pollutants in the property. This has been made even worse by our enthusiasm for insulating our properties more effectively, which reduces ventilation still further.

The report drew heavily on the work of Peter Howarth, Professor of Allergy and Respiratory medicine at Southampton University, who has coined the term 'Toxic Home Syndrome". His website, claims that 15.3 million homes in the UK suffer from this, which is putting the occupants at risk from the pollutants in the air.

Potential impact: The website makes for pretty alarming reading, because these pollutants can be caused by any number of things most of us do at home. These include taking showers, which condense around the bathroom, and cause mould to develop. Likewise, drying washing around the home releases organic compounds, cooking on a gas hob releases gases, using a wood-burning stove can release pollutants when smoke is able to drift back into the property. Even walking around in shoes brings pollutants and germs in from outside, which can be harboured by carpets and allowed to breed.

Each of these pollutants has a potential impact. Mould, for example, can exacerbate allergies and breathing problems, while the organic compounds can increase the risk of cancer, the gases from the hob can cause respiratory problems, smoke can cause lung damage, and carpet-related pollution can increase breathing problems and allergies. It all sounds terribly frightening. However, there's really no need to panic.

Are you at risk? If you have mould in your home, then there's every chance that it is not suitably ventilated, and either you should install better ventilation systems or keep windows open more - regardless of the weather.

Ventilate - Use Eco friendly products
Even if there are no physical signs that you could have a problem, it's worth considering whether you or anyone else in your family is suffering from the symptoms associated with pollutants. Most commonly these include skin irritation, dry eyes, a congested nose, allergic reactions such as eczema or asthma, headaches, poor concentration and lethargy. If so, it's worth addressing ventilation at home.

But before we all start to panic, it's worth bearing in mind that every home has some pollutants in it. A study by Waverton Analytics at the end of last year found that 91% of homes exceeded the recommended maximum levels of indoor pollutants.

It's hardly surprising, given that at some point someone has walked on your carpets in shoes, there have been clothes drying, and someone presumably decorated it and cleaned it too - both of which pump plenty of chemicals into the air. Given that 91% of the population of the UK isn't keeling over from the effects of Toxic Home Syndrome, it means we should keep the risks in perspective.

This research should encourage us to think more carefully about how well ventilated our home is - especially if you have been suffering from any of these symptoms - it shouldn't, however, give us any reason to worry. There's every chance that opening the window when you have a shower, and making sure each room is aired regularly, should keep the healthy air circulating nicely.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

UK Media Argue Over Window Cleaners Receipts

Tax dodge: Leonardo DiCaprio's character Jordan Belfort prepares to go to extreme measures in a scene from film The Wolf of Wall Street, which is based on Belfort's life story. Governmental tax was always initiated as a temporary measure. Just how many cherries should you give before they chop the tree down?
How did Labour spend a week about HSBC arguing over window cleaners? (By James Hutchinson). Whenever a politician declares that we 'should' do something, they'll be held to that standard; the slightest deviation will be met with cries of hypocrite. So moralising MPs need to watch out - or it's the political equivalent of the traffic warden parked on double-yellow lines.

When Ed Balls said that everyone "should" ask for receipts, it wasn't just the nonsense of what he was saying which was frustrating, although that was a problem. It's obviously not my responsibility to make sure someone else is paying tax. It was also inevitable he'd fail by his own standards. Unless he has a storage locker of receipts, obsessively alphabetised, Balls was going to have erred at least once. And The Daily Mail duly dug up his window cleaner - who Balls hadn't asked a receipt from in years, apparently.

Labour inevitably cry foul at this sort of journalism, suggesting it's one-sided campaigning from a right wing press which distorts what was originally said. They may be right - Balls was talking about cash and he pays his window cleaner by cheque, thereby creating a paper trail, making tax avoidance harder and riskier. But the fact that I've had to write those words - an actual sentence typed by my own fingers for a respected political website about a senior politician's £12 a month window cleaning bill - shows just how much Labour have been sucked into the long grass.

There are many people who think Labour's election strategy is off-piste: if anything puts the case for the prosecution it’s that Labour has made front page headlines about double glazing and some bloke in West Yorkshire who cleans them. It was self-generated - it was Balls who started the narrative.

Have you ever asked your window cleaner for a receipt? Me neither. Nor, it appears, has the shadow chancellor Ed Balls, at least not in the past 17 years, according to the man who has cleaned his windows for almost two decades. Reporters tracked down Balls’s window cleaner after the shadow chancellor urged people at the weekend to keep a record of cash payments handed to tradespeople.

Aiming to make political capital over the furore surrounding HSBC’s Swiss banking activities, and pledging that Labour would crack down on systemic abuse of the tax system, Balls claimed that, as shadow chancellor, he was “extremely careful” about these things himself. The ploy backfired, although, as Balls pays for his window cleaner’s services by cheque, he does not appear to be guilty of aiding and abetting tax evasion.

His opposite number in the government, George Osborne, has also found himself exposed in the growing row over tax dodging in the wake of the explosive HSBC revelations. Embarrassing footage from 2003 has been unearthed, showing Osborne, then a lowly MP, recommending the use of what he called “pretty clever financial products” to help reduce care costs, although he did admit that he “probably shouldn’t be advocating this on television”.

HSBC and those who used the services of its Swiss private banking arm will no doubt welcome the diversion of political point-scoring involving window cleaners and the like but the fallout from the scandal shows little sign of abating.

What was Ed Balls thinking? Was he thinking at all? Between Chancellor and Shadow Chancellor, we have two men who have made a complete mess of handling the tax-avoidance issue. At some political debacles you want to weep, and at others you have to laugh, but with Ed Balls And His Odd Job Receipts the emotional reaction is different. At this fiasco, you cannot bear to look. You want to leave the room, because this is like one of those Ali G interviews which delicate souls like myself find too excruciating to endure. It is the comedy of gross embarrassment without the comedy. With any self-inflicted disaster on this scale, the temptation is to recycle a shtick of yore. In this case, it must be resisted. Equally futile is asking what Balls can possibly have been thinking. He cannot have been thinking at all. His diktat about the duty, for tax purposes, to demand and keep receipts and personal details from window cleaners.

It took the Daily Mail a day to unearth one John Durning of Pontefract, who has cleaned the windows of the Balls-Cooper West Yorkshire home each month since the year Osborne told “Bill” how to avoid tax. The Mail learned that not once in those dozen years has a receipt been requested from John the Window Cleaner, who may become this election’s Joe the Plumber. Meanwhile the Daily Telegraph raided its MPs’ expenses database to discover that the Balls-Coopers have reclaimed £2,640 for unreceipted odd jobs. It would overegg the double standards pudding to mention that Balls seems as lax in giving documentary evidence as in demanding it. When he drove into another car last year, he famously departed the scene without leaving a note on the windscreen. Careless prangers are under a strict legal obligation to leave their name and address. The hirers of odd job people are under none at all.

How much for cash? - Blogger of the Year Peter Rhodes on tax-dodging: So Labour is going to get a grip on tax dodging. Good luck with that. The snag is that, while there will always be a small percentage of millionaire families (take the Milibands of Primrose Hill, for example) who use clever, and entirely legal, strategies to keep their tax liabilities to a minimum the biggest form of tax dodging is the sort used a million times a day by small businesses. “Knock a few quid off for cash?” asks the customer, and the plumber / window cleaner / electrician gladly agrees. Now, the tradesman may be using cash payments to dodge VAT and income tax. On the other hand, he may simply prefer cash because it saves him the bother of taking yet another cheque to the bank. So over to you, Messrs Miliband and Balls. How do you sort the wheat from the chaff, the bona-fide from the fiddlers? The Balls answer, revealed this week, is for customers to demand a receipt for all work done. So that's higher prices for the customers, more paperwork for the traders, battalions of tax inspectors to monitor every bank account and crawl over every scribbled receipt, and, presumably, some penalty on customers who don't keep their receipts. Is that what the two Eds want? If so, do let us know so we can all get the house rewired or painted before May 7, General Election day.

Most British workers and savers 'avoid tax', not just the super-rich: The tax dodges you can feel good about - and the ones you can't. What is the difference between tax planning, avoidance and evasion? It’s not just a financial issue - it’s a moral one, too. Tax planning is a sensible part of looking after your finances, and some schemes are set up because the Government wants consumers to reduce their tax bills.

But when you start making deliberate or contrived attempts to lower your tax bill, that’s when you start getting onto dodgy ground. As shown by last week’s fracas around the deed of variation taken out on the will of Ed Miliband’s father, it’s all about interpreting what the law intended from a tax break. Put simply, evasion is stone-cold illegal — and could land you in prison. This is deliberately hiding income, earnings or investments from the Revenue in order to reduce your tax bill.

Avoidance is not illegal, but means bending the rules of the system to gain an advantage that Parliament never intended. It is within the letter — but not the spirit — of the law. It often involves artificial transactions that serve little or no purpose, other than to cut your tax. However, that doesn’t mean that it won’t land you in trouble. HM Revenue and Customs takes an interest in schemes it thinks are suspect and can pursue them in court. If it’s ruled they could be classed as avoidance, you will have to pay this money back. The problem is making the distinction for yourself. And it largely depends on your own code of ethics.

Here, we try to get to grips with the rights and wrongs of tax planning. Cash in hand to cut odd-job bills, from window cleaning to a bit of gardening or trimming a hedge once a month, paying cash in hand is good for you as it saves on the bill because your odd-job man is not charging VAT. And it’s good for your odd-job man because it can allow some of their earnings to slip by under the counter. For low-income workers struggling to make a living, avoiding VAT and some income tax can mean the difference between paying fuel bills and being broke. It has been suggested by the Conservatives and Labour that these under-the-counter payments should be clamped down on, but it’s no concern of yours. Your odd-job man’s tax affairs are his own — it’s their job to pay due tax and not your responsibility.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Window Cleaning Firm Highlights Politicians Hypocisy

No receipt: John Durning has never been asked for a receipt from Ed Balls despite cleaning the windows at his Castleford home once a month. Ed Balls insisted that he hadn't paid for anything in cash without getting a receipt for two decades. But almost half the Labour cabinet claimed thousands of pounds without submitting a receipt.
'I've cleaned Ed Balls's windows for 17 years but he's never asked me to give him a receipt': Shadow Chancellor is accused of hypocrisy:  Ed Balls was accused of ‘total hypocrisy’ last night after his window cleaner revealed he has never asked for a receipt in 17 years.

The Shadow Chancellor (pictured) provoked controversy at the weekend when he lectured families on their duty to collect receipts and personal details from window cleaners, gardeners, house cleaners and handymen, no matter how small the job done. Mr Balls said he always followed the practice – and had done ‘since I have been involved in politics’. 

But inquiries in Castleford, West Yorkshire, where he and his MP wife Yvette Cooper have a family home, have shown that he has never asked his window cleaning firm for a receipt despite employing them for nearly two decades. Pontefract Window Cleaning Services last night confirmed it had never been asked for a receipt by Mr Balls. The firm cleans the windows at the three-storey Balls family home once a month, charging £12 each time.

Christine Durning, 66, who handles the family firm’s paperwork, refused to criticise Mr Balls for his comments and said she ‘didn’t want to get involved in any controversy’. But she added: ‘I’m not doing anything wrong here, I’m just telling you the facts and I don’t give him a receipt and he doesn’t ask for a receipt.’

Mrs Durning said the well-established family firm had never been asked for a receipt by any of its customers. Instead they simply take cash or cheque or write their customers a note to inform them money is due. Her son John, 34, who cleans the MPs’ windows, said: ‘It only takes me about ten minutes to do, it’s no problem. After each clean I drop a note through the door which states, “Your windows have been cleaned”.

Under the old expenses system, MPs could designate either a London home or a constituency property as their second home. They could then change the designation of their second home – nicknamed ‘flipping’ – and increase the amount they could claim for mortgage interest payments. Together they claimed a total of £24,400 on their second-home allowance. A Tory MP said it was wrong for them to claim the London property as their second home when they spent most of their time there.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves (pictured) has been speaking to the World at One about what people are apparently now calling “receipt gate”. She said that wealthy individuals avoiding tax was the biggest problem, not window cleaners avoiding tax. Politics Home has the quotes in full:

Both Ed Balls and Ed Miliband have been clear that we want to tackle tax avoidance, and tax evasion. But where is the real problem here? The real big problem is with some hedge funds, there are some very wealthy individuals and companies who are not paying their fair share of tax in this country. I think all of us, at some point; have paid for work without getting a receipt. If you are paying for a window cleaner or something like that, you know it’s not always that easy to get a receipt.

The real issue here is about cracking down on tax avoidance and ensuring that we close that tax gap. The tax gap under this government between what should have been collected and what is collected is £34bn. That is not through window cleaners and hedge trimmers, that is through some very wealthy companies and individuals getting out of paying their fair share of tax, and the result of that is the rest of us end up paying more taxes, and that’s not right.

Monday 16 February 2015

From Rags To Riches

Here is a microfiber thread shot through a microscope. The star-shaped structure is the polyester core. The polyamide wedges are attached between the polyester spokes. The wedges pick-up dirt, movement of the two fibers traps the dirt between the spokes and the wedges. Additionally, the polyester spokes wick moisture.
From rags to riches with towels - Absorb profits with proper towel techniques: A specific task such as selecting the type of towel for a detailing job can mean the difference between a job well done and a job gone wrong. “Just like other skill trades, detailing requires the perfect tool for every task,” explains Byron Gartland, president of Beautiful Rags. “The primary tool in this case tends to be a premium body towel.”

Although purchasing towels in general is normally a lower expense in the detailing business compared to other equipment and technologies, there are high quality and low quality towels. And regardless of overall affordability, detailers must know the difference and be willing to pay a little more for better value and efficiency. “Always buy the best quality,” suggests Juliette Silver, CEO of “If you want cheap towels they will need to be replaced often and will not get the job done properly and professionally.” Gartland continues that lower quality towels, such as thinner towels, can break down and leave a mess all over a vehicle, and, “Torn towels tend to get caught on things like wiper blades and antennas,” he adds.

In addition to leaving unwanted and bothersome remnants of the tattered towel all over a vehicle, using poor quality towels may also result in damage. “If you use a poor quality towel you may damage the vehicle’s finish by producing fine scratches and swirl marks,” explains Silver, noting that when spending a significant amount of money on detailing, customers expect their vehicles to be as pristine as possible.

Microfiber has two chemically-related properties which compliment each other. Polyester is "oleophilic", meaning it has an affinity for oil and polyamide is hydrophilic, meaning it has affinity for water. Microfiber's chemical attraction for oil and water works in partnership with its mechanical ability to trap and hold dirt such that grime is removed leaving a clean, streak-free surface. Microfiber's third key trait is that, when woven, it has 40 times greater surface area than other materials. Due to the large area and the capillary action of the fine threads; microfiber cloth has significantly greater absorption. In fact, it can absorb about seven times its weight in fluids, far more than cotton. 
Essentially the two main types of towels used today are terry, mainly made of cotton, and microfiber. There are numerous sizes, shapes, weights, fabrics, colors, textures and thicknesses of towels, and choosing the “best,” most efficient options may vary depending on the unique needs of the detailer as well as the job at hand, requiring a little bit of trial and error.

A closer look at terry towels: Terry towels have been a popular choice in the car washing and detailing industry for many years as they are great for drying, and when of high quality, terry towels are considerably versatile and durable. As previously mentioned, terry towels are typically made from cotton. “Cotton towels have been the gold standard for over 100 years and there’s no substitute if drying is your goal,” states Gartland.

However, Gartland adds that cotton towels can pose a significant disadvantage to detailers. “The obvious drawback to cotton is lint,” he decrees. “In its raw form cotton is a linty plant, so anytime you use a cotton towel there will be some degree of lint even if it’s minor.” Although no terry cloth is completely lint-free, various types of terry towels are reasonably free of lint, and some detailers will also use a “sheared” terry towel to help safeguard from larger lint amounts.

Understanding microfiber: Originally intended to be used for swimsuits and other sports apparel, microfiber was developed by the Japanese in the mid 1970s. However, the material became too uncomfortable and heavy, causing the use for swimsuits to be impractical.

Microfiber refers to synthetic fibers finer than one or 1.3 denier or decitex/thread. By comparison, microfiber is 1/100th the diameter of a human hair and 1/20th the diameter of a strand of silk. The most common types of microfibers are made from polyesters, polyamides or a conjugation of polyester, polyamide, and polypropylene (Prolen).
Yet because of its absorbency, researchers from Germany discovered that microfiber could effectively be utilized as a sufficient cleaning cloth, ultimately leading microfiber technology to find its way into the carwashing and detailing industry. With significant advantages like being lint-free, versatile and generally better for drying windows, microfiber has begun to swiftly surpass terry towels in popularity.

Although a popular and efficient choice, microfiber can easily lose quality and/or become useless if not properly maintained. One critical maintenance tip when it comes to microfiber towels is to wash separately, and in a full load, from other materials — especially cotton/terry towels. The microfiber will absorb the lint from the other materials and therefore become ineffective. It is crucial that detailers properly wash microfiber towels and closely follow the directions provided on the tag. “Care and training are absolutely essential to microfiber success,” notes Gartland.

Proper towel management: Following the correct washing procedures is not just an important factor for microfiber towels, but for terry towels as well. “[You] should never use dirty or soiled terry towels,” warns Silver. “They will definitely scratch or damage the paint’s finish.” Additionally, proper towel maintenance is not limited to simply following the correct washing directions.  Managing how you use and maintain towels is also a key component to ensure towels last and remain of high quality.

Many industry professionals recommend instilling a colour coded system to help keep towels at optimal quality and lower chances of cross contamination and/or potential risks to a vehicle. For example, a specific coloured towel may be used solely for a particular type of chemical. Without a colour coded system, a person might unknowingly grab a towel used for a type of chemical that may cause damage when applied to a certain area of the vehicle, such as leather or paint. With a colour system in place, this person would know that precise towel is solely used when handling a certain chemical, and instead, grab the correct towel for the task at hand.

Colour coding systems can also help during employee training, especially if employees do not all speak the same language. A colour coded system can act as a universal language any employee can follow without verbally communicating. In addition to applying a colour coded system, detailers can employ a “towel management system” of folding the towel in quadrants while it is in use in order to utilize every part of the towel evenly. Then, flip the towel over and use in quadrants on the other side. This way the towel is being used as efficiently as possible. Some microfiber towels are now available with quadrants printed directly on the towels.

Advancements in technology: Care procedures, management guidelines, products and technologies are constantly being developed to help people complete tasks as effectively and productively as possible. The towel industry is no different. Like the microfiber technology adapted by the Germans for cleaning purposes and the towels manufactured with quadrants to help ensure optimal efficiency, innovations are constantly improving towels’ overall performance and quality.

“We have more choices than ever before [in the towel market],” informs Gartland. “Interest in waffle weave and nanofiber technology is on the rise…My personal recommendation is to try a little bit of everything, use what works best, then build the cost right back into your base pricing.”

Silver says her business has started producing microfiber waffle weave and comments on how this innovative technology is becoming the “latest craze” in window cleaning.
Silver says her business has started producing microfiber waffle weave and comments on how this innovative technology is becoming the “latest craze” in window cleaning. “It is soft, absorbent and very strong,” she adds. “It is extremely versatile and can be used as a window towel, body towel and detailing towel.”

There is not, and probably never will be, a single perfect towel. As mentioned earlier, the ideal towel will vary depending on the preference of the user and the task performed. “People will always like what they like and they expect to be presented with options that best suit their particular needs,” says Gartland.

As new technologies continue to emerge, Gartland urges industry professionals to enjoy the possibilities. “Have fun with it,” recommends Gartland. “If a new trend looks compelling, give it a whirl. It could change the entire way you do business, and what could be more exciting than that?”

Several industry experts have shared advice on washing microfiber towels throughout past issues of Professional Carwashing & Detailing. We have compiled a list of a few of the most important expert recommendations to keep in mind when washing microfiber towels:

  • Always make sure to wash microfiber towels separately and in a full load.
  • Never use a fabric softener or bleach.
  • Wash microfiber towels in cool or warm water (many experts suggest keeping temperatures at 105° F or less).
  • Proper drying procedures for microfiber towels have been debated; some experts recommend only air drying the towels while others believe air drying can damage the towels’ absorbency; however most experts suggest tumble drying microfiber towels on low heat, as high heat can cause the microfiber towels to melt.
  • Gartland recommends using liquid detergents over powder, since powder may become embed within the towel.
  • Above all, always follow all care directions suggested on the towel’s label.

Friday 13 February 2015

Free Window Cleaning Magazines

Are you up to date with your window cleaning knowledge?
Window Cleaning Business Owner Magazine: All issues can now be downloaded from the window cleaning resource website. Just click this link or click the picture below to take you there. Articles are written by window cleaners for window cleaners. These magazines will take your business to the next level & feature some amazing topics, resources & know-how!

Download these magazines for free

Thursday 12 February 2015

Glass Fails In The Near Future

After 20 years, another 10 to 15 percent of thermal windows will fail as they are exposed to the elements. And by the 25 year mark a growing number of cladding systems will have major thermal failures, requiring the building skin and/or its mechanical systems to be upgraded entirely.
What are the real costs facing owners of glass condos? (By Lloyd Alter) -  There is much to complain about glass condos; we have noted that they are costly to heat and cool, often uncomfortable and hard on the furniture. As John Straube has noted, "Glass and aluminium are great for cookware but not for buildings." What we haven't noted is the inevitable cost of replacement. In Canadian Facility Management and Design magazine, one of those dead tree trade publications I get sent as an architect, quantity surveyor Joe Pendlebury describes the problem of the glass wall. He claims that five percent of thermal windows may have failed even before they are delivered to the job site.

After 20 years, another 10 to 15 percent of thermal windows will fail as they are exposed to the elements. And by the 25 year mark a growing number of cladding systems will have major thermal failures, requiring the building skin and/or its mechanical systems to be upgraded entirely.

And he is talking about commercial buildings here, not just the window wall systems used on condos. Thanks to the different rates of expansion between aluminium and glass, over the years the seals break down between the framing and the glass, the argon gets out of the sealed units and moisture gets in. Pretty soon the whole system has to be replaced.

The costs of replacing entire walls of glass are prohibitive to some owners of high-rise structures. The average cost to remove and replace a cladding system from a swing stage is about $200 per square foot. As the typical floor-area-to-cladding ratio in high-rise structures is .33, this will translate into a cost of $66 per square foot over the above grade areas of a typical building.

And that doesn't include the cost of the interior finishes, where drywall might have to be busted to expose the anchoring systems, ceilings, and possible relocation of occupants while the work is being done. The owner of a 700 Square foot unit might get hit with an assessment of close to $50,000 if there isn't a big reserve fund to cover it.

Fortunately the building codes are changing and the all glass buildings are no longer the standard. However there are a whole lot of them out there now that are going to have to be fixed in the rapidly approaching future, and it is going to cost serious money.

Glass and aluminium have very different coefficients of expansion, and the sealants are exposed to sun, wind and rain for years.
Why Architects Shouldn't Build Condos out of Glass And People Shouldn't Buy Them: Glass balcony panels are raining down on the streets of Toronto from the shiny new condominiums, building envelope expert John Straube was interviewed on Ontario Morning to discuss the problem. He didn't say a whole lot about why the panels are falling, but did a great explanation of the problems that come from building condos out of glass. There is a big difference between the glass on office buildings and on condos; the former is usually curtain wall, that runs continuously on the exterior, the latter is window wall, really a modified store-front wall redesigned for condos, supported by each floor and running from slab to slab. It is a lot cheaper.

  • Glass and aluminium are great for cookware but not for buildings.
  • With floor to ceiling glass, you have nowhere to hang a picture, place your furniture or change your underwear.
  • Energy efficiency is five times lower than a conventional wood framed house.
  • The glass area is so large that it is difficult to control temperature, it's too hot or too cold.
  • If we care about the long term, we should go for a balance, no more than 30 or 40 percent glass.

Straube noted that while aluminium and glass are easy to clean and durable, the sealants and gaskets are not, and will need maintenance and replacement down the road. This is not cheap or easy, and the burden falls on the condominium association and the owners. (Glass and aluminium have very different coefficients of expansion, and the sealants are exposed to sun, wind and rain for years.)

Straube suggests that the reason architects choose to build like this is about style and not cost, but I disagree, having worked with the architect and window manufacturer for the project with the falling glass (which was from the balconies, not the windows, and from a different manufacturer) on some of the earliest all-glass projects in Toronto in the 90s. It's a lot cheaper and a lot easier for a developer to work with one trade, the window wall supplier, than to coordinate among trades when mixing precast or brick with glass.

The building code encourages it too, by regulating the R-value of wall constructions, like saying all solid walls have to have an R-Value of R20, but not regulating the overall heat loss through a wall, so a builder can put up a glass tower with an R Value of R4 and comply with the code.

If the authorities in Ontario said, for example, that a total wall area must have an average R-value of 10, then designers would have to figure out a mix of solid wall and glass, and if they wanted more glass they would need to buy better windows, and stop building radiator fin balconies.

But that would raise costs and prices and might kill the golden goose that is the Canadian condo boom, so they will just let the condo purchasers worry about it a decade from now.

Prof. Kesik, projecting 10 years into the future when he estimates their glass walls will fail prematurely.
Glass Towers May Be Sexy, But They Need To Put A Coat On: Ted Kesik doesn't mince words. When everybody else was gaga over Jeanne Gang's Aqua he described it: Take your clothes off, attach a series of highly conductive fins, like the kind they put on motorcycle engines, to the skeleton of your body, and go stand outside in January... Then tell the person who is dressed for winter they are boring, overly practical people who are squashing creative expression.

Now he is back with more architectural pornography imagery, discussing Toronto's new condos and their very thin glass walls with Dave LeBlanc of the Globe and Mail: As a building scientist, I look at buildings the way a doctor looks at a body: I say ‘Ah, it may look sexy but boy, that’s not very healthy. I don’t know if I’d want to be that thin.”

When he is not complaining about new glass buildings, he is helping to fix older ones as part of Toronto's Tower Renewal Project. The towers built in the sixties are solid and had real walls with punched windows, so that they can be retrofitted by adding an exterior insulation and finish system. He calls the old buildings "tough, rugged and robust".

The same cannot be said for our new glass towers. Dave LeBlanc quotes Kesik in the Globe And Mail - “That’s not what’s going to happen to all those wonderful buildings down at Concord Place,” snarls Prof. Kesik, projecting 10 years into the future when he estimates their glass walls will fail prematurely. “They’re going to have to evacuate.” So why do young people line up to purchase there despite the fact that energy performance is usually as bad as a 1960s or 70s building before tower renewal? It’s either the media portraying them as “sexy” or, more likely, that buyers just aren’t aware of their failings: “No industry that I know of provides so little factual information to the consumers of its product; you look at every other industry and they have to convey technological advances or they don’t get sales.”

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