It’s a question every route/residential window cleaning company owner asks himself.  The temptation is difficult to resist. There is a lot of glass that needs cleaning four stories and up in every major city.  The glamour and prestige of high-rise work can separate your company from the “Bucket Bobs” and “Chucks in a Truck.”  (Don’t be insulted, a lot of highly talented, well-run window cleaning companies are one-man operations.  This article is not aimed at you). Window cleaning companies often get calls from building managers asking them to quote their tall edifices.  

If an owner decides to get into high-rise cleaning, he needs to hire two employees with at least five years on the job. It would be a good idea for the company to join the IWCA (International Window Cleaners Association). At their annual convention, they have numerous seminars. Stephan Bright’s safety training course is invaluable. Some states require certification. The IWCA has a certification program that Mr. Bright also directs.

Employees must be self-motivated.  It is difficult to micro-manage since they hang off the sides of buildings.  They should be able to impart knowledge and experience to route and residential employees interested in doing high-rise.  You can’t simply stick new guys on buildings. They have to be supervised by experienced personnel.

High-rise employees will need to know how to operate lifts.  In some buildings, it is the only way to access the windows.  Sunbelt offers an excellent course at the IWCA convention on how to operate them safely.

Equipment for doing these types of buildings is expensive.  Each man will require around $3,000.00 worth.  Aluminum beams, counterweights, bosun chairs, ropes, D rings, and a safety harness will need to be issued to each man.  Cones and caution tape will be necessary to prevent foot traffic from wandering into the work area.  Suction cups and rope protectors are also useful accessories.

The next issue that needs to be addressed is insurance.  It’s not the kind you can get from a company that advertises on television with emus and lizards.  High-rise work is considered high risk, and your agent will probably have to scour the country to find an insurer willing to cover you.  It will be a major expense.  And often, Workers Comp companies will send a safety auditor to your doorstep demanding to inspect your equipment and review your safety program. (Another reason to take the IWCA Safety Training Seminar).  You will not be allowed onto the customer’s property until you provide a Certificate of Insurance.  Generally you will need $1,000,000.00 WC, $1,000000.00 Liability. And $500,000.00 in Auto to satisfy their requirements.

Obtaining customers will vary in difficulty from city to city.  Competition can range from fierce to nonexistent.  It may not be a good idea to get into this end of the window cleaning business when there are already too many firms doing this kind of work.  You will need to market to building managers, property management firms, and janitorial companies.  A professionally designed website is a must.

Bidding on these jobs can be tricky.  You can’t just count windows like you do when pricing storefronts or houses.  You have to determine the number of man-hours to estimate the cost of doing a building.  Don’t forget to go to the roof to see what type of equipment you will need to do the job.  Sometimes buildings have a hidden courtyard in the middle that you can’t see from the street.  Look out for time-consuming obstructions, such as lights, overhangs, signs, or decorative brickwork.


When I sat down to write this article, I first noticed how much information I would have to leave out.  By no means is it complete.  It is meant to give people in our business an idea of what is required to enter the high-rise part of window cleaning.  Nor is it meant to discourage anyone.  But if a company isn’t prepared, a catastrophe will likely occur.  If done right, high-rise work is safer than driving your car.  Only the owner can determine if this line of work is a good fit.