Image matters: Making your commercial properties look their best

Concrete stairs before restoration ...

Concrete stairs before restoration …

and after.

and after.

by Dan Rafter

Kai Milota, director of sales with Plymouth, Minn.-based Twin City Outdoor Services, says his company has a simple goal: It wants to save the owners of commercial buildings money.

And the company does this through its surface-restoration division. It’s less expensive for Twin City Outdoor Services to restore cracked and crumbling concrete than it is for another company to replace this same damaged material.

In today’s economy, building owners and managers are looking for ways to cut their expenses. That’s why it’s important for them to consider restoring the cracked concrete in their parking lots and patios rather than replacing it.

According to Twin City Outdoor Services, the company’s surface-restoration services can save businesses 40 percent when compared to concrete replacement. Businesses and building owners can save 70 percent by paying Twin City Outdoor Services to restore block-and-brick surfaces instead of shelling out the dollars to hire another company to replace them.

“At the end of the day, restoring concrete instead of replacing it saves money and is less intensive,” Milota said. “In a retail environment, if you replace concrete, if you’re ripping out materials, you might have to shut your doors for some time. With restoration that doesn’t have to happen. It’s less disruptive on business and customer traffic.”

Rich Byrne, the owner and vice president of Twin City Outdoor Services, says that his company originally focused on commercial snow-removal services, a facet of the business that was active during the Twin Cities’ particularly harsh winter.

The company still provides snow-removal services, and is still adding new customers. But its surface-restoration business has also become a big one, largely because many of the driveways, parking areas and concrete columns that developers have installed outside buildings are getting older.

This means that many of these structures are in rough shape, Byrne said. Companies and building owners then face an important question: Should they completely replace concrete or brick-and-block surfaces? Or should they go with the less expensive restoration of these surfaces?

“A lot of these surfaces are dramatically deteriorating,” Byrne said. “The weather, the sun, road salt, it can all degrade these surfaces. We saw the big building boom here in both corporate and retail spaces 10 to 20 years ago. All of those facilities are starting to show their age now. The businesses are now realizing that they have to spend money to maintain their reputations and their curb appeal. Building owners want to keep their tenants happy. They need to do something. And often, restoration makes the most financial sense.”

Businesses and property owners don’t have the option of ignoring their cracked or fading outdoor surfaces. As Milota says, exterior spaces can make a huge first impression on clients or customers.

What will potential clients think if they pull up to a business only to find a parking lot dotted with potholes or concrete steps that are missing big chunks?

“Curb appeal matters,” Milota said. “Business owners need to refresh the look of their facilities. For the same amount of dollars that business and property owners will pay to replace a panel of concrete here and there, they can have their entire outdoor surfaces restored. We can make them look like all-new concrete.”

Byrne says that he expects business at Twin City Outdoor Services to continue to boom in the coming years.

Part of this is the change in construction materials that developers and construction companies have used across the Midwest, Byrne said. Starting about 15 years ago, companies began using fancier stone materials that would look more appealing in office and retail environments.

Today, though, these fancier materials are starting to show wear-and-tear. These materials are regularly sprayed with road salt in the Midwest and in Minnesota. They regularly face harsh weather that swings violently from high temperatures to low.

The resulting damage to these materials — which hold up better in more temperate climates — has opened up increased business opportunities to surface-restoration companies, Byrne said. Byrne said that his company can usually restore even these more exotic materials at about 40 percent of the cost of a normal tear-and-replace job.

At the same time, Twin City Outdoor Services is being called upon more frequently to restore vertical surfaces, such as decorative concrete pillars, outside walls and facades, Byrne said.

Business and property owners look at these projects and immediately worry that they’ll have to spend $50,000 or more to replace them. But, as Byrne says, Twin City Outdoor Services, can tell owners that, no, they might only have to pay $17,000 to restore these surfaces instead of replacing them.

“Every dollar that these companies are spending together is being scrutinized,” Byrne said. “We are in a nice spot. We have the ability to say, ‘Of the three bids you received to redo your front entrance, we are the people who are only going to replace half of it and on the other half do our restoration fixes.’ We are always going to be the lowest bid. It’s a bang-for-your-buck thing.”

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