Back to Blog
scratched glass & how it happens
We have been washing windows for 17 years and have seen a lot of scratched glass through the years. Glass is a very hard service, 5.5-7 on the Mohs Scale. Take a penny or a butter knife against your glass and you will see it will not scratch it, very few materials are able to. It actually takes a perfect storm for you to make one scratch in the glass, let alone several. So why do we see so many scratches on windows?
Homes built between 2012-2017 tend to have the most scratches on their glass. During that time, window manufacturers were having a difficult time keeping up with the demand, so they were cutting corners during the cooling and cleaning process. This process is necessary to ensure the glass cured properly, and that all fabrication debris was removed from the glass. When it is not, it leaves fine dust particles of glass on the surface. Glass is one of the things that can scratch glass! As Contractors would pay people to clean the windows after construction, they started noticing multiple scratches on the glass. Pushing the fabrication debris, basically fiberglass, across the glass was causing it to scratch. Contractors started putting clauses in their building contracts that they are not liable for repairs or replacement of glass due to scratches that cannot be seen from more than 6 feet away. Since it only takes a little haze or a little dust to keep light from shining through a scratch, most of them went unnoticed until the homeowner cleaned their windows, or hired someone to clean their windows. Unfortunately, the window cleaners were then getting the blame for the scratched windows. Ultimately, builders and window cleaners were getting sued for what turned out to be Billions of Dollars in insurance claims, but most won their cases in court as the glass was deemed to be defective from the Manufacturers.
These days, Manufacturers tend to be more prudent with their procedures so we are seeing less and less scratched glass. Why are we still seeing it at all? While getting rid of the fabrication debris on the glass was a big help, most scratched glass still comes from Post-Construction window cleaning. Builders install new windows and then refuse to cover them up during construction. This allows all types of debris to get on the glass. While paint and dirt are not hard enough to scratch the glass, stucco, cement, sand, and even some sawdust can actually be hard enough to cause some scratching. Unfortunately, to save money, most Builders continue to hire Day Laborers to take care of the window cleaning, and yes, they still have that scratch clause in place. They hand them a tiny steel blade and their only instruction is to get everything off the glass. Drive by a construction site and you will see them out there scraping with small blades, back and forth, just digging that hard debris into the glass....makes me cringe every time! They aren't using the proper tools or the safest techniques for removing the debris off the glass, but they can get it done for about 25% the cost of hiring a professional. This is one reason we continue to see scratching on some newer windows as well.
Fortunately, it only takes a little haze, dust, or dirt on your windows and you won't see those nasty scratches, though now your windows will be a bit dirty. Scratches are usually difficult to see, and often can only be seen at certain angles, and in the right lighting. You could go months without noticing a scratch, and then suddenly you look out and wonder how the heck that got there! Truth is, it was probably there for a while, but most of us look out our most of windows from at least 6 feet away, so you aren't close enough to see it, and even when you are close, you need to be at the right angle and have light passing through it at that moment.
Unfortunately, that means window washers are unable to see them to point them out to their customers prior to cleaning the glass. There was no way for a window washer to protect themselves from getting the blame for something that they did not do. Clearly, if a penny or a butter knife cannot scratch the glass, then a rubber squeegee cannot as well. Even with a scraper in hand, there needs to be an element harder than the glass on the glass, and incorrectly removed, in order to cause any damage. A scraper itself cannot even scratch the glass unless you turn it on the glass 90 degrees and apply quite a bit of pressure, which would have to be an intentional action. It takes a perfect storm, and a routine window cleaning generally does not have the components needed to scratch glass, but still some people find it hard to believe that they have missed it all this time. When the windows get a little dirty again, most people the realize how easy it is to miss, even knowing it is there now. Most Window Cleaning Companies have implemented a Hold Harmless clause in their Terms of Service to protect themselves from these claims. It's an agreement between the customer and the company that says that the company will use all measures necessary to clean the glass safely, and that the customer acknowledges that clean windows expose every imperfection that was already in the glass, and agrees to not pursue litigation if scratches are found, as the company is unable to prove to the customer that the scratches were there prior, due to the windows being dirty. This clause protects small businesses from becoming victim to false or even possibly fraudulent claims. The Scratched Glass crisis of the last decade changed how builders and window cleaning companies have to do business.
How can you avoid scratched glass? First, ask your builder if they hire a window cleaning company for the windows. If not, ask if they can work something out to help you pay to bring in a professional. When cleaning your own windows, keep those wedding rings away from the glass. Most of them are made with precious metals and diamonds that are hard enough to scratch the glass. When pressure washing, don't aim towards the windows. Sand from pavers on the deck or lanai gets pushed up and acts as a projectile, hitting your glass and basically sandblasting it. This can cause large scratches and even pitting in your glass. These scratches usually look like comets on your glass. When doing remodeling, make sure you are cutting away from the glass. Some sawdust is actually able to scratch the glass as well. Ask painters to cover your windows when they paint. Many don't think they need to, and attempt to just scrape the paint off with a small blade when they are done. Most don't carry the proper tools or have learned the proper techniques to scrape your windows safely. Do NOT pressure wash your windows! Not only can this break the seals on double-paned windows, the pressure will actually drive any sand or grit into the glass, pushing it across, and causing multiple scratches (sometimes pretty deep). Stay away from cheap squeegees! Big Box Stores now carry some squeegees made by Professional Window Cleaning Supply companies. Unfortunately, in order to price them to sell to homeowners, these reputable companies have to take some shortcuts. The rubber used is very thin, and the metal channel is very sharp and pointy. Most homeowners think you need to add a lot of pressure when they squeegee the window, and may not come in at the right angle, so they push the sharp metal edges right past or through the rubber, and into the glass. There is nothing wrong with cleaning your own windows, just spend the extra money to make sure you get Professional Tools to do it safely.
If you do end up with scratched windows, there are Glass Restoration companies that can take care of some scratches. Sometimes, it's more cost effective to replace the glass. There are also some do-it-yourself hacks that may work on mild scratches. One of the most popular is to use toothpaste (not gel), as a light abrasive to buff it out. All in all, windows are a very expensive part of your home, and a huge part of the aesthetic. If you are not sure about cleaning or restoring them yourself, it is always best to leave it to the professionals.
Professional Window Cleaning is one of the oldest Home Service Professions in the world, and until the fairly recent invention of the Water-Fed Pole, traditional window cleaning has not changed much through the years. The tools are pretty standard and are considered very safe to use on all types of glass. A reputable company will use professional tools and techniques that will clean your glass safely and efficiently, even during post-construction. No Streaking uses the highest quality tools and solutions for our window cleanings. Our solutions are bio-friendly and are even safe to use on film. No Streaking is proud to have been the Preferred Window Cleaning to some of the largest and most reputable custom builders in the area due to our reputation for cleaning post-construction glass safely. Below are just a few of the post-construction jobs we have done through the years. Though we no longer run a dedicated crew for large post-construction, we still offer the service to some custom builders and individuals needing this specialized service.
0 CommentsRead More
Leave a Reply.