As one job ends, another is always beginning. While most crews overlap or clearly see the work that went before them, there is a silent set of workers who take care of the grey area between the end of demolition and commencement of construction.
When a building has been brought down, its remains divided up and shipped off to the dump or to be salvaged, and the demo crew packed up and home for the day, these meticulous inbetweeners arrive. They do their work alone, in the twilight hours between night and day. Their mission, to restore the ravaged site to an unblemished state, ready for reinvention.
To find out more about this often unrecognised fulcrum between the worlds of demolition and construction, we tracked down one of these secretive cleaning enthusiasts. Nathan Schokker is the director of Talio, a company that specialises in the subtle art of taking care of things without being noticed. The business offers customised solutions, from cleaning to concierge services, all tailored towards making your work flow smoothly without you really noticing they’ve been there. It’s the kind of work that rarely gets you accolades because if you’re getting noticed, you’re not doing it right. But Nathan says all their satisfaction comes from the work itself.
“I always enjoy it because it’s right at the end of the process. It’s the details. The last 5%. And we get to turn a space from something that didn’t look like much to one in which people can see the beginnings of something new.”
While they do their work alone, Nathan says there’s often a lot of pressure. The time frames of the demo and construction projects collide and any delays that have come before accumulate into a tightening of time.
“Sometimes it just takes one little thing to go wrong to completely throw off everyone. And so that can mean schedules get pushed around a bit too much and then you get job conflicts.”
Nathan says communication is key to getting through these complications. Solid, timely communication with and from everyone involved. While the physical side of his job is demanding, it doesn’t come close to the work that goes into managing expectations with his clients, the building’s tenants, and his employees. While frustrating, this challenge is also rewarding.
“I genuinely enjoy dealing with other people and doing that problem-solving side of it. Being able to really nail your small part in a huge project that everyone is over the moon with it. That’s always a big thing.”
Since most of their services are unseen, people often don’t think to show their appreciation for what these humble workers do. While his crew are all focussed on the satisfaction they take from their work, Nathan is also aware he needs to share out recognition when it comes.
“When we get a client that goes out of their way to give us a bit of positive feedback I’ll always make sure I pass it along to everyone involved. And when I do that, the smiles you see on everyone’s faces speaks volumes. It shows they’re not just in it to pay the bills. What they really enjoy is doing work that makes other people happy.”
Apart from job satisfaction, there’s a lot of money to be found in this cleaning gig. It’s just all in 5 and 10 cent pieces. According to Nathan those are the most common things they come across on the job. As far as the more uncommon finds, they are rare but also more exciting.
“We have found some pretty cool stuff. Antique apothecary scales and the old vial bottles. On one of the jobs we worked on, someone found an old gun when they were ripping up the flooring. From the early 1900’s. It was an old revolver. Couldn’t do anything with it because it had corroded. But obviously someone had stashed it under there.”
They had the police come out and look at the strange old revolver, just in case there were any old cases it might have been connected with. While its secretive location and the absence of any defining marks was suspicious, the police concluded whatever it may have gotten up to in its earlier life, it was so far beyond recognition there was little they could do about it.
Next to small change and strange guns, the most common things they discover are ancient computers and old machines. To Nathan, these finds are somewhat sad.
“They’re completely useless by the time we get to them. God knows why they keep them.”
If you’re guilty of harbouring any of these old machines, keep in mind, the earlier you move them on the better. A computer from 10 years ago is unlikely to make you much cash. But if you sell them to a tech recycling company at the time you upgrade, you can get a bit of money back while also helping the environment. For old machines, you can list them free on the Machines4U marketplace, making money while letting them go on being useful. If they’re not working, you can still sell them for parts on the site.
Along with these useful tidbits, there’s one little thing we’d love you to keep in mind: every time you come into a freshly cleaned building or construction site, spare a thought for the dedicated folk who got it that way. You may not ever see them, but they work hard to make your life that little bit easier.