A good power washing can work wonders on the outside of a home, peeling off layers of dirt and grime. It’s also a great tool when sprucing up walkways, patios and decks. Here’s what you need to know before hiring the job out or attempting to do it yourself.
Hiring a professional pressure washer is probably best if you intend to clean your entire home, especially if you have a two- or three-story home. If you’re planning to power wash a smaller area, renting a machine may be a better option.
First, do your research and get quotes from companies that carry liability insurance. Hired pressure washers may charge as much as $800 to clean an entire 2,000-square-foot house. Smaller jobs, such as a driveway, would likely be in the $100 to $200 range.
The decision to rent or buy a pressure washer is a matter of frequency. How often do you anticipate needing it? Rentals run about $60 per day. Buying a machine is a much bigger investment with prices starting at about $350.
A power washer’s strength is measured two ways: pounds per square inch (strength of outflow) and gallons per minute (volume of water). Both are important. A quality machine also should have three to five interchangeable tips for different spraying patterns and concentration. Twenty-five to fifty feet of high-pressure hose should be plenty. A good machine will also have a separate tank for detergents to be drawn into the spray.
If you’re washing concrete or a deck, sweep away loose dirt and debris. If washing the sides of your house, remove outdoor furniture, barbecue grills and any other portable items. Cover outdoor lighting fixtures on the house with plastic bags. Cut back shrubs that have grown up against the side of the house. Turn electricity off at breaker box.
A power washer packs a potent punch and is dangerous if mishandled. Never point the wand at another person. If spraying a patio or deck, wear protective boots or work shoes. The power of the spray can tear through light shoes and cut open skin. Never spray at windows or close to outdoor electrical outlets. Don’t spray upward under lap siding. Do not pressure wash your roof. The power of the spray may damage shingles, and the wet, slanted surface poses a hazard. Finally, never spray air conditioning condenser coils, which are delicate and will be destroyed by a pressure washer.
Follow the instruction manual carefully. If washing a vertical surface such as the side of your home, soap from the bottom going up. Also, don’t soap the side of a house in full sun, especially on a hot day, or the soap will dry quickly on the siding. Try to do the work in some amount of shade. Use a higher-pressure tip to power rinse. It is important to use the right nozzle tips for the intended surface. The tips with the lowest degree of measurement will have the most powerful, concentrated spray. Use those for concrete surfaces, but never on a wood surface or house siding, which can be damaged.