When we think of servicing building exteriors, some tasks that may come to mind are dumping trash cans, picking up garbage and cigarette butts, and sweeping the sidewalk within 10 feet of a building’s entrance. However, that’s not enough to thoroughly upkeep the entirety of a building’s exterior; today’s customers have much broader exterior cleaning needs that can include:
- Specialized pet or recreation areas
- Balconies, patios, and decks
- Swimming pools or other outdoor water areas
- Parking garages and lots
- Streets and sidewalks
- Fire pit and barbecue areas
- The actual building façade.
This is just a small sample of the wide variety of servicing needs required in the modern market. Customer service expectations can range from routine policing and cleaning to periodic maintenance and restoration.
When bidding on a job, it is vital to understand your costs. Normally, minimum hourly rates will fall between US$10 to $15 per hour, but can exceed $75 per hour. This hourly rate depends on the type of work, if vehicles or equipment are needed, the labor market in your area, and of course, the local minimum wage. This means that costs can vary greatly. For jobs requiring multiple-person teams, multiple the hourly rate by the number of individuals to achieve hourly labor costs.
You also need to factor overhead, supplies, equipment, and (if applicable) vehicle costs. These are very business specific, but some general rules apply. When equipment or vehicles are required to complete the task, the cost can double or triple. For smaller jobs, you can estimate supply and overhead costs by tripling your labor costs or only doubling these expenses if the job is more competitive. However, this rule does not apply when bidding on larger jobs; for these you need to know your exact costs. If you don’t know your exact total costs, you should not bid on large jobs.
There are different methods you can use to help determine pricing and how you plan to bill a customer. Here are some examples:
Determine fees based on hourly rates. One method of tackling pricing is to first develop a billable hourly rate. This rate represents how much it costs for one hour of work and covers labor costs, desired profit, and overhead. Once you develop your billable hourly rate, the rest of the pricing process is intuitive. Simply multiply your rate by the number of hours worked to equal the total labor costs, then add your supply and equipment costs. Mark up supply and equipment costs by at least 15–20 percent more than what they cost you to purchase or rent.
Determine a set fee for a specific amount of work. Another approach to pricing is to charge an agreed upon service cost for each service call that lasts up to a specific amount of time. This fee should equal your total cost plus a percentage of profit that you determine. You must also add an additional fee for each additional time block that the work requires. Here is an example: Each service call will cost $125 and will include all travel time and 30 minutes of a cleaner’s work; each additional hour (for one cleaner) will cost $110 and each additional cleaner will cost $90 per hour.
Determine a set fee based on project size. The last effective way to decide billing costs is to base the decision on a square-foot rate. Develop an amount to charge for a set square-foot area—using the same cost-plus-profit strategy previous discussed—and then multiply this by the total square footage of the property or area you plan to service.
While production rates mainly depend on the skill of the technician, the task or tasks being performed, the degree of soiling present, and the desired level of cleanliness, keep in mind there may be other site- or staff-specific variables that can impact production rates. The most accurate production rates should be based on your previous performance on jobs, but there are some average industry times that may apply to exterior building surfaces (see sidebar).
Keep in mind, any time you send an employee outside of a building to clean, expect it to take at least 15 to 20 minutes for travel and setup time. If you send an employee to different buildings, count on it taking at least 20–30 minutes of travel and setup time at each building.
Sample Production Rates
- Spot sweeping flat dry surfaces (sidewalks, paths, and walkways): 2,500 to 4,500 square feet per hour
- Sweeping a dry flat surface with a 12-inch corn broom: 2,200–2,800 square feet per hour
- Sweeping a dry flat surface with an 18- to 24-inch push broom: 5,000–7,000 square feet per hour
- Spot cleaning entry glass doors and flat surfaces with a microfiber cloth and spray cleaner: 20 seconds per side
- Cleaning ground-level glass with strip washer, squeegee, and bucket: 400–650 square feet of glass per hour.
Due to the diverse and sometimes infrequent need for specific services related to the cleaning and maintenance of outdoor areas, jobs that fall in these categories are often contracted out to firms that specialize in the given service. In this case, you should mark up the cost of the work 10 to 50 percent (or more, if necessary) to cover the cost, time, and risks involved with securing and managing the services of an independent specialty contractor.
There are a number of reliable sources for average production rate information; one of the most common in the janitorial industry is ISSA’s 612 Cleaning Times, which provides information on how the varying the size of brooms, mops, and equipment can impact production, costs, and pricing. Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI) offers a janitorial bidding and estimating book, and there are other industry books on the market, such as “Pressure Washer’s Guidebook,” and various landscaping pricing and service guides available from Nilsson Books.