10 Rules For Graffiti Abatement

Dan Flynn

PWN Founder
10 rules for Graffiti abatement

Graffiti has been around for thousands of years, however, the incidence of
graffiti has grown exponentially within the last decade. Once thought to be
a "big city problem," graffiti is now found defacing walls in the smallest

What exactly is graffiti? Is it an "art form" or a "method of expression"
for today's youth? What it all comes down to is the fact that graffiti is
the unauthorized use of private property. If a person does not have
permission to mark on a surface, then it is vandalism. And that is true
whether the defacement is done by a local hood, or by Leonardo DiVinci.

Fortunately, with the increase in graffiti, the science of effective and
efficient cleaning chemicals, equipment and techniques has also increased.
We are no longer limited to the "whitewash over it" or "sandblast it away"
techniques of 15 years ago. Today there are chemicals, water blasters, air
blasters, lasers, and either permanent or sacrificial anti-graffiti
coatings which have all made much easier the job of removing graffiti from
almost any substrate with little to no damage.

But with the wide selection of products and techniques available today,
what works and on what surfaces? This is the million dollar question, and I
find my answer in a old cliché: K.I.S.S. "Keep it simple, stupid" And to
do this, you have to follow 10 rules.

1) To be effective, graffiti abatement must be done well! It must be quick
and professional. It must be thorough and complete. This means no blotches
or marks can be left when the job is completed. This may seem like an
obvious rule, but by leaving marks, you are simply encouraging the "tagger"
to strike again. Graffiti is meant to be seen. It's a vandal's bulletin
board to communicate their mark. A quick & professional response by a
property manager stops these efforts to communicate. Keep the bulletin
board clean.

2) If possible, use paint on surfaces that are painted. This is easier if
the property manager records the color codes for all paint used. Those
codes give the graffiti-removal professional a good starting point for
painting over graffiti when needed. Always keep in mind that the age and
location of the painted wall is quite important to the matching of the
color. If you choose to use paint, DO NOT leave paint blotches. If
possible, bring fresh painted areas to breaks in the wall, expansion joints
columns etc. Prep the wall prior to painting by removing dirt, mildew and
any other foreign material that may prevent the paint from bonding.

3) Remove graffiti from surfaces that are not painted with either a "squirt
and wipe" chemical or an anti-graffiti coating.

The "squirt and wipe" chemicals are usually designed for specific
substances and specific
surfaces. They are commonly used on glass, plexi-glass and other smooth

Anti-graffiti coatings on the market come in two major categories;
permanent & sacrificial.
Sacrificial coatings are usually paraffin based and require hot water for
removal. They are
easily applied with little training and take about 15 minutes to dry
(depending on your
climate.) Their costs start out at $ 16.00 per gallon and go up to $ 30.00
per gallon.
While easy to apply, they must be reapplied after each cleaning.

Permanent coatings usually require training and/or certification as well as
the use of a
"special" cleaning agent supplied by the manufacturer for their warrantees
to be valid.
They cost anywhere from $ 50.00 - 130.00 per gallon and can take up to 7
days to cure.
These coatings do not need to be reapplied when cleaned.

I have found more uses for the sacrificial coatings, due to cost, than
permanent coatings. The
main thing to remember when it comes to coatings is cost per square foot
for surfaces you are
dealing with. If you are above your actual surface cost per square foot it
won't make
economical sense to use it

Other unpainted surfaces such as brick, block, stone, stucco may require
equipment to
remove graffiti properly and completely. The cost of purchasing or renting
this equipment, as
well as the training required to use them properly, make this prohibitive
for the average
building manager or owner.

4) NEVER do any graffiti abatement when people can see you. Be
non-aggressive. Pick "off times" during the day evening or night to do your
work. By doing this you are removing the personal aspect of the vandalism.
Think about it, these vandals have nothing better to do with their time but
scribble on walls. If they see a person removing graffiti it gives them
incentive to do it again knowing that someone is getting mad. If you give
them nothing but a blank wall as a response to their vandalism you remove
the fuel from their fire.

5) Good lighting is essential. Keep your buildings well lit.

6) Block off "cow paths." Repair or build fences to stop short cuts through
your property.

7) Plant indigenous plants along walls that are target areas. Indigenous
plants will require less care. Try to pick plants that are non-cuddly and
not comfortable to brush up against.

8) Keep your property clean. Don't let boxes, pallets or trash accumulate
around your property.

9) Keep access to rooftops limited to authorized personnel. Walk your
building and try to gain access to the roof. If you can get up there, you
know these kids can too.

10) NEVER confront a vandal. These kids can be quite dangerous, you don't
know what they are on or what they may have in their pockets. ( Remember #4
non-aggressive )

Over all, there are many well-qualified contractors listed in the yellow
pages under building exterior cleaning or graffiti removal. Using a
professional is often the safest, most cost effective method of dealing
with graffiti problems. Contractors should provide proof of general
liability insurance & workers compensation as well as written list of five
references from graffiti removal jobs. (Tip: ask to be added as
additionally insured, this will prove that their insurance is paid up and
current while they are doing the job.) You should get a written bid that
includes contractors liability to stay within all federal, state & local
water quality guidelines.

Whether you hire a professional or choose to tackle the problem yourself,
graffiti abatement is an important part of property management. It keeps
your buildings clean, improves neighborhood safety and ultimately provides
a better community for everyone.

By: Walt Graner

Dan Flynn
Timberland Power Wash
Houston, Texas.

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