For many contractors, trying to blend service with customer-centricity can be tough. You want to provide best-in-class construction elements, but you also want to "wow" the customer with your in-depth knowledge and strategic advice.
When it comes to aesthetic constructions — like exterior cornices — customers often think that their shiny new decorative moldings will stay pristine and beautiful no matter the weather, age, or damage. Giving your customers tips on how to maintain these cornices will both save you from having to deal with their frustration should the piece get damaged and it will help position you as an expert — which can do wonders for your business via word-of-mouth.
Today, we're going to go over the tips you should give to your customers that will help ensure that their exterior cornices stay in mint condition.
Understanding Exterior Cornice Materials
Exterior cornices come in a variety of materials. In the past, most cornices were made out of wood and sheet metal. While these cornices certainly looked stunning, they are also extremely susceptible to wear-and-tear. Because of this, you don't see many modern cornices utilizing the wood and sheet metal combination.
Today, most cornices will be made out of either polyurethane or fiberglass (or FRP). For customers, maintaining FRP cornices is much simpler than polyurethane. Since polyurethane is both a higher cost material that's more difficult to paint and more susceptible to heat damage, it's often a secondary choice for the customer. But, if your customer does choose a polyurethane material, you should make them aware that they might have to have the piece repaired every so often, as the sun may make the cornice sag and paint adhesion can quickly become an issue.
For the purposes of this post, we're going to focus primarily on FRP cornices. Not only are FRP cornices one of the most popular choices for modern cornices, but they require a little less work on both your end and the customer's end.
Tip #1: Regular Cleaning
Since exterior cornices often exist up high, many clients feel that they don't require cleaning. However, a regular cleaning schedule is critical towards maintaining the aesthetic and functional properties of a client's exterior cornice. To clean the cornice, clients can use a soft sponge, towel, or cleaning rag along with a mild cleaning spray or soap product.
It's important to note that clients should avoid using products with any of the following ingredients — as they can damage the cornice.
any cleaner containing chlorinated hydrocarbons
any cleaner containing aromatic hydrocarbons
any cleaner that is abrasive
We have found that the best cleaning solution for exterior cornices is a 10% solution of trisodium phosphate in warm water or a half-and-half warm water to soap mixture. This will ensure that the cornice is clean, but it will also help prevent any possible damage from accruing.
Tip #2: Combatting Deep Stains
While FRP has to be cleaned far less often than other traditional exterior cornice materials, it can still be impacted by stains. If this happens, the customer may have to use a more aggressive cleaning product to penetrate the stains. Generally, this will be a common household cleaner (that doesn't contain any of the materials listed in tip #1).
Here's how they should attempt to clean it.
Spray the household cleaner on the stained area and let it sit for 5 - 10 minutes.
Using a sponge or towel, scrub the area with moderate force.
After scrubbing, wipe away the remaining cleaning product and inspect the material for further stains.
Repeat this process again if stains still remain.
If the stains remain after the second round of scrubbing, you may need to repaint the material. This can happen if the client hasn't maintained the cornice in some time.
Tip #3: Hiring a Repair Service
If the cornice is scratched or gouged, the customer may need to hire a repair service. Typically, scratched FRP can be repaired via a combination of sanding and fiberglass putty. But, if the gouge is deep, a contractor may need to fill the hole in with a mixture (in various stages). It's critical that you inform the customer that they should contact a repair person immediately if the damage is severe. Since holes and gouges can fill with water, ignoring minor damage can lead to major damage.
For most people, a solid regular cleaning schedule will be more than enough to maintain their exterior cornice for many years. Talking to your customers about the proper cleaning methods can ensure that they remain satisfied with their solution. Of course, giving the customer additional tips also helps build your reputation and authority — which can lead to improved sales down-the-road.