In Central Florida, spring and fall are the best seasons for exterior home maintenance. With the extreme heat behind us and hurricane season to end soon, this is the ideal time to pay attention to outdoor projects. Pressure washing your home’s exterior, patio, deck, fence, driveway or walkways may be on your list. If so, the big question is probably whether you should you hire a professional service for the job, or do it yourself.
As covered in our November 2018 blog post – “Why You (or a Pro) Should Pressure Wash Your House” – pressure washing (also known as power washing) is the only way to effectively clean siding, concrete and wood surfaces. Ignoring built-up grime, mildew, road dust (if you live on an unpaved street) and bird droppings not only creates a dingy appearance, but can actually damage your home and pose a health hazard.
What is pressure washing?
Pressure washing is the use of high-pressure water spray to remove loose paint, mold, grime, dust, mud, chewing gum and dirt from surfaces and objects such as buildings, vehicles and concrete surfaces.
Pressure washer pumps have two connection points for low and high pressure. The low-pressure connection is threaded to accept a standard garden hose. The high-pressure connection accepts a pressure washer hose that connects to a hand-held pressure washer wand.
Cleaning power is measured by psi (pounds per square inch) and gpm (gallons per minute) ratings. The psi rating helps you determine how powerful the water stream will be. The gpm measures the volume of water delivered through the pressure washer. This number will help you determine how fast the pressure washer will clean, and how effectively it will rinse away debris. Gas-powered models typically put out 2,000 to 2,800 psi of pressure, compared with 1,300 to 1,700 psi for electric models.
Preparing to do it yourself?
As we noted in our earlier blog post, pressure washing is one of those jobs that inexperienced, yet physically sturdy people often think they can take on themselves and save money. Yet just because you may be able to handle the equipment, it can be hazardous if you aren’t familiar with how to operate a pressure washer. Dangers include using too much pressure or the wrong nozzle – which can damage surfaces (such as siding, mortar and wood), break windows and even cause injury.
Improper use can also blast paint off. Unless this is your intention, you’ll be repainting long before you planned. When it comes to safe, successful pressure washing, brain is as important as brawn.
If you decide to buy, Popular Mechanics offers a helpful guide on selecting the right pressure washer for the type of job(s) you want to use it for, as well as choosing between a gas or electric model. Gas is recommended for heavy-duty jobs, while electric models suffice for chores like cleaning patio furniture, small deck areas and vehicle tires.
If you decide to rent, talk to the rental associate at the home improvement center, describe your house and get a recommendation on the type of pressure washer and accessories you’ll need. Being upfront about your experience level will result in the detailed, helpful advice and instructions that will allow you to do the best job in the safest way.
- Pre-treat mildewed areas. Mix a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water and spray in a pump-up sprayer. Avoid contact with skin and eyes; follow warnings on product label. Allow to remain on for 10-20 minutes, then rinse using a garden hose. Or buy a brand-name mildewcide product, available at home improvement centers. Again, follow use instructions and warnings on the label.
- Cover nearby plants with a plastic drop cloth.
- To add detergent to the flow, hook the siphon tube to the pump with the filter end in the detergent container.
- Apply the detergent at low pressure. Work from the bottom up and allow the solution to stand for several minutes.
- Do not spray upward, under the flashing and siding laps. Also, make sure that you don’t get too close to the gutters.
- Do not spray directly at doors, windows and vents.
Improper use of a pressure washer puts you at risk for serious personal injury. Water at such a high pressure is powerful enough to tear off skin and even cause blindness. Never goof around with the equipment to spray a friend or use it to “rinse” your hands or feet.
Bob Vila offers the following precautions.
Wear proper protection – Wear safety glasses. High water pressure can fling dirt and debris in every direction, including your face. To prevent the washer from slipping out of your hands, you should also wear gloves that provide a solid grip. Wear protective shoes (never flip-flops). Almost all gas-powered pressure washers are loud enough to require ear protection.
Take note of your surroundings – Any electricity sources are a serious risk. Before you start pressure washing, close or cover outdoor outlets. Similarly, cover vents. Take stock of any overhead power lines. If you are using an extension wand, you should be very careful to avoid them.
Never use a ladder – This common mistake can lead to injuries and fatalities. If you find it necessary to access a high area (as in the case of a two-story home), use scaffolding. Recoil from the washer is strong enough to pull you off a ladder, or pull a ladder over, even with someone holding the base. If you can’t rent scaffolding, hire a professional pressure washing service.
Clean up the space – Any tripping hazards should be cleared prior to cleaning. This includes toys, lawn furniture and/or vehicles.
Check for lead and asbestos – Both of these materials can be found in homes built prior to the 1970s. Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used in paint. It can cause a range of health problems, such as damage to the brain and other vital organs, like the kidneys, nerves and blood. Exposure to asbestos can cause lung disease and lung cancer. Pressure washing can dislodge lead and asbestos, allowing them to be inhaled. If you are concerned that either may have been used in your home, contact a professional before power washing. Removing either substance is NOT a DIY job. The Paint Manager is certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for lead paint removal.
When you should hire a pro?
As you’ve gathered, pressure washing properly and safely requires the right equipment, knowledge and physical capability. Be aware of your limitations. You may be at the point in life when physical tasks you could once perform easily are now more difficult. Don’t risk injury – or worse – by attempting to prove something to yourself or others.
Also, consider the time factor. Preparing the area to be cleaned, setting up the equipment, doing the work, taking the equipment apart, cleaning it and storing it can take the better part of a day, at least. Add additional time if you’re renting the equipment.
Regardless of your ability level or schedule, Angie’s List recommends leaving most pressure washing jobs to the pros.
“They have the right equipment for hard-to-reach areas and the experience to do so without falling. They also know how to clean specific areas, such as the roof, without causing damage.”
If you’ve already decided to call a pressure washing professional, The Paint Manager is ready! Our team has years of experience in power washing homes of all sizes, construction materials and ages – as well as concrete surfaces, wood decks and fences. We use professional-grade equipment and follow OSHA guidelines. Contact us for a free estimate!