Carwash Landscaping – The Importance of Curb Appeal
By Meline Beach
First impressions are based on several factors that can make or break your business. Appearances matter. Carwashes are no exception. Commercial landscaping is important in making first impressions and building customer loyalty. While a few factors come into play in maintaining a customer base, such as quality equipment, efficient service and price, the condition and visual appearance of your property are what can draw or deter potential customers from pulling in or driving by. Commercial curb appeal is worth the investment
“Curb appeal is something we pay attention to,” says Gerry Vautour, who owns 14 Rubber Duck Car Wash locations throughout Atlantic Canada. “This includes painting, landscaping, signage and branding.”
First impressions start with signage.
Consider brightly lit, well-designed, visible, legible and strategically placed signage to attract your customers’ attention from a distance.
Having acquired his carwash locations over the years, Vautour always starts with updating signage to the Rubber Duck Car Wash brand.
“While each site is different, with some requiring more TLC than others, fresh signage with clear instructions and contact information for anyone needing help is imperative to creating a good first impression,” says Vautour, who works with the same signage company for all of his locations – a company he trusts to maintain the Rubber Duck brand and logo. “Customers see the Rubber Duck sign and know they’re going to get a good experience.”
Over time, signage may fade or become dirty. When cleaning it is no longer enough, consider replacing it with modern elements such as colourful LED lights and an eye-catching message board to notify customers of sales, promotions and other announcements.
Add a splash of colour.
Manicured lawns, shrubs and accent flower planters can create a warm and welcoming invitation. Curbs, islands and background areas are often overlooked. These spaces have curb appeal potential and can help create visual interest in an otherwise paved platform. Flowering planters and colourful shrubbery can help draw attention to your business across the seasons and can also be decorated to highlight various themed holidays throughout the year.
“I enjoy collaborating with landscaping companies local to my carwash to help bring a vision to life,” says Vautour. “Often this involves incorporating river rock and shrubbery in the design and layout of our business to create a simple and clean look that gives the impression of whoever owns this place, really cares.”
A fresh coat of paint, clean windows, and bright lines on an evenly paved (void of cracks and potholes) lot can also create great impressions. Strategically-placed garbage receptacles will also deter litter and welcome stray garbage.
Form and function can also be flattering.
Between modern equipment and functional design features, Steve Hebb, owner and operator of Kilworth Car Wash made a significant investment in his carwash curb appeal with the installation of a green roof.
“We opened our carwash in June 2022 and the green roof was installed right away so that it looked good for opening day,” says Hebb. “Our vision was and still is to be environmentally friendly as possible, and a vegetated roof was the perfect addition to our facility.”
Hebb also installed a water recycling system to cut down on the amount of freshwater used, as an environmentally-responsible effort, and from a cost perspective, without compromising the quality of the wash.
Vegetated roofs offer functional and ecological benefits. On the functional side, they detain 50 per cent of the rainwater that falls on it with the other 50 per cent dispersing as water vapour. That retention significantly reduces the amount of water that needs to be handled by stormwater sewers and ditches. Vegetated roofs also offer a cooling effect during the summer as the roof’s plants greatly reduce heat transfer through the roof of the building.
From an ecological perspective, vegetated roofs provide an area for pollinator species (primarily insects) to feed, breed, and overwinter. As a result, it also provides a food source for songbirds harvesting insects. This creates a small local ecosystem.
According to Kees Govers, technical sales manager at LiveRoof Ontario Inc., the company that installed the vegetated roof at Kilworth Car Wash, sedums (succulent green foliage) and alliums (ornamental flowering onions, shallots and garlic) are the most common forms of perennial greenery on vegetated roofs. Govers, who has completed over 75 installations in 2022, notes that a green roof can last 40 to 50 years whereas a traditional Thermoplastic Polyolefin roof made of inexpensive rubber roofing material that’s most often used on commercial buildings, lasts only 12 to 14 years.
“With little maintenance required, there’s an economic advantage to vegetated roofs and an environmental benefit as well by reducing traditional roofing material from landfills,” says Govers. “There might also be some government grants and eco-roof incentive programs available to help offset installation costs.”
In terms of cost, an extensive or semi-intensive green roof can cost anywhere from $25-45/sq ft installed, depending on growing medium depth and plant choices. Any investment in your carwash’s curb appeal creates an opportunity to rise above the competition. Leverage the experience and expertise of reputable designers, contractors and installers (ask for references) with appropriate permits to ensure your investment is built to last.
“The project is unique in its vision of how green a carwash can be,” says Hubb. “Service centres are not traditionally thought of as buildings that contribute to improving the local environment. This project’s vegetated roof shows that it can have a positive effect on the local ecology and local stormwater run-off. And, of course, the resulting building opens people’s eyes to the possibilities of vegetated roofs for aesthetics alone. The sloping green roofs are an eye-catcher for both the neighbours and anyone driving by.”
Whether you’re building brand new or renovating an acquired carwash, little enhancements to your property can result in big returns.
Meline Beach is a Toronto-based communications practitioner and frequent contributor to Convenience & Carwash Canada. In addition to freelance writing, Meline provides communications and public relations support to businesses across Canada. She can be reached at www.mlbcomms.ca.