FAQ for Metal
Q: Why should I consider a metal maintenance program for the building I manage?
A: All architectural metal oxidizes. Oxidizes is a fancy way of saying it rusts, pits, or rots. In other words, if the metal is left alone, it will deteriorate in appearance. There are four most common architectural metals: bronze, stainless steel, aluminum, and copper. The precise way these metals deteriorate, and the extent to which this deterioration can be reversed or halted altogether, varies greatly. This disparity in the manner and degree of deterioration has profound economic implications.
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Q: “Why should I have a maintenance contract, running one or more years, with regular service provided for specified items on a relatively fixed schedule?”
A: The common response is, “I’ll do it when I need it, when I see that it looks bad.”
The first, and most obvious reason why this is flawed thinking, is that the tenants do not want the building to ever look bad. Waiting until the building looks poor prior to doing something risks alienating customers and potential customers. It is also true that waiting until something looks bad might end up costing far more than periodic regular maintenance. This is especially true for anodized aluminum and mirror finished bronze.
“I bid single items when they need it; this way I guaranty the lowest price for each item.”
Contrary to what most people think, it is more expensive to pick and choose items on a regular basis than to bundle them in a contract. Time is money. Time ALWAYS has a cost. Consider the time a property manager must spend when bidding single items. They will spend an hour looking around at items, another twenty minutes making phone calls to vendors, and an hour reviewing proposals, issuing a PO, and scheduling the job. Also keep in mind that the vendor (Stuart Dean) must cover his costs of writing proposals, looking at items, creating schedules, etc. Going through this routine for every single item can get very expensive and quite wasteful if the items are refinished annually, or even semi-annually.
It is also wasteful, and ultimately more expensive, to not take advantage of certain efficiencies that may be realized by “bundling” the refinishing of several items at once.
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Q: Do all architectural metal items need to be included in a maintenance program?
A: No. Some people might argue this point. Every metal appointment must be refinished sooner or later, they argue, so it should be included in a contract.
The argument that all items will have to be refinished eventually is true, but other factors need consideration. The fact is that even metal refinishers do not know precisely when every item needs to be refinished. It is also the case that some items, because of their location, probably do not require the attention of professional metal refinishers, or at least as part of a regular program. Let’s examine each case.
Let’s first take the case of the items that need to be refinished at some point, but precisely when it is hard to determine. The classic example of such an item is bronze chandelier located inside a building lobby. The item will never be touched and is subject to zero variation in temperature (except for the metal located near the bulbs.) Consequently, the synthetic lacquer finish should last a long time. Furthermore, when the lacquer does begin to deteriorate, it will do so very gradually. The rate of deterioration of the finish on an item, such as an interior chandelier, can vary from two to six years. For this reason, it’s probably wise to not include this item on a standard contract.
There are other items that usually never require the attention of a metal refinisher. The classic item in this category is the interior side of an anodized aluminum window frame in the tenant areas. Here again, the item is subject to no environmental degradation. It is sometimes the case that after years and years of neglect, a dirty film will build up. Ironically, this dirty film is usually the residue of dirty window washing fluid. In such cases, a metal refinishing company can usually clean these frames more thoroughly and economically than some other service provider. It is nevertheless true that interior aluminum frames on upper floors need not be part of a regular maintenance program.
These two examples, together with the exercise of some common sense, can guide the property manager in assessing whether certain other items require ongoing maintenance. If there is still some confusion, you can call a Stuart Dean representative for more insight.
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Q: Why is it common for the property manager to get bid prices for the same item or items that are very dissimilar?
A: This can be the result of several factors:
1.) One or both of the salesmen who bid the work do not know how to bid accurately (they have little idea how quickly their respective workers can execute the job.)
2.) Both salesmen can bid accurately, but one is bidding to do the work in a slipshod manner, the other to do the job thoroughly.
3.) Both men are bidding to do the job thoroughly (or poorly), but the workers of the company with the lower bid are more diligent and efficient, and their sales rep knows it. Consequently, he can bid more aggressively.
4.) Some combination of the above.
This headache-inducing situation does not often arise in most other bid situations in the building service industry. This is because the range of possible outcomes for janitorial service, window washing, and landscaping is so much narrower. These services generally do not require the combination of bullish physical stamina, careful preparation, and keen attention to detail that are the requirements of quality metal refinishing.
What does all this imply? It implies that deducting the value in a metal refinisher is almost never as easy as looking at the price. In fact, pricing is often worthless as an indicator of value; it could easily be the case that the most expensive bid is representative of nothing other than sloth, not quality.
Now, market forces being what they are, the provider of lousy quality at high prices should not be around too long. Unfortunately, this only removes that least competent player. The property manager is still left with the dilemma of trying to deduce whether the typical low bid represents high-quality service delivered very rapidly, low-quality service delivered rapidly, or really low-quality work delivered at some average rate. It is usually, though not always, the latter.
There is no easy answer to the low-price/high efficiency-low-price/low-quality conundrum. The only way to help answer this question lies in getting an assessment of the quality of the various bidding firms from your fellow property managers regarding the reputation of firms in our field. We are confident in our reputation, and it should be clear from the above that the reputation of a metal refinisher will greatly assist prospective buyers in making good value assessments of our service and the service of our competitors. Without such an assessment, a property manager could make a very poor decision.
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Contact Stuart Dean
Restoring and maintaining architectural assets avoids costly removal and replacement. Restore and maintain what you have. Contact a Stuart Dean representative at (800) 322-3180 for an assessment.