Power washing is too much pressure!
I have a really hard time aiming a leaf blower in the right direction. My last attempt sent leaves blowing backwards up against our window screens. And, yep, the windows were wide open. While the dogs on the inside got a kick out of snuffing up & identifying all the lovely leaf particles plastered on the screens (“Yo, Dusty, Rikki the spaniel left her calling card on our lawn-woo hoo!” ) I aimed the blower toward the sky and yelped for help.
So when I recently entertained the idea of renting a power washer to scrub the exterior of our home, my husband replied (and with kindness), “are you nuts?” Hmmm, no, not nuts but we both know I am dyslexic (right is left, back is forward, off is on and up is down…) so being armed with a power washer kicking out water at 2500 PSI (pounds per square inch) would definitely be a little too much pressure for my cross-wired noggin.
But since I’ve already researched quite a bit about power washing, I shall pass some good tidbits on to you–the DIY’er who is without directional challenges and a possesses a phlethora of common sense.
Why power wash your home? Well, why exfoliate your face? According to power washing experts, grit on the exterior of your home can “grind away like sandpaper in the wind & rain”. Ouch. So whether your goal is to rid your house of cobwebs, bird doo, mold & mildew to give it a face lift and make sparkling ready for sale or just performing regular maintenance, power washing sounds like a must-do.
Planning on doing it yourself? Some important tips:
1.You can use a power washer on houses made of stone, granite, bricks, steel, aluminum and vinyl…but be especially careful if using on wood-sided homes. Be sure your wood is wood and a hard wood at that. Cedar can be too soft, and fiber board would surely look like swiss cheese after a few well aimed water shots. If your house is sided with horizontal slats, don’t spray the water under the slats–you’ll end up lifting them right up (and maybe off!). If your house is hard wood and painted, be very very careful to move the hose along the house; don’t hold the spray gun at one point for extended periods–this is how contractors REMOVE paint from homes for repainting! Have lead paint? Call in a professional for safe removal.
2. Use a power washer that sprays between 1800-2500 PSI (again, pounds per square inch). You can go a little lower than 1800, but lower than 1200 won’t do the trick and higher than 2500 has potential to blast holes in your house. To give you an idea of the pressure behind these pounds, your average garden hose flows at 60 PSI.
3. You’ll experience some recoil from the water pressure so you’ll need your feet planted firmly on the terra. Don’t ever stand on a ladder using the power washer. I’m serious.
4. Power washers filled with clear water (and not mixed with chemical cleaners) will still do a good job of cleaning your house. You certainly would not want to drench your lawn & shrubs around the house with any chemical cleaner coming out of the power washer. Even using just clear water, you may want to put some plastic cloths over any tender plants near your foundation…(but you know here in Texas not to be planting right up to your foundation, don’t you?). Another “Don’t”: never put bleach in the power washer–it can damage parts of the washer.
5. In Austin, you have to use a cold water power washer. Because we live on Aquifer recharge zones (natural underground water resources: see Edwardsaquifer.org) hot water power washers are reportedly illegal–the hot water releases too much dirt into the sewer systems. Using a hot water power washer in Austin is reportedly a fineable offense at the tune of $10,000 fine to the contractor (if you hired someone to do it) and another $10,000 fine to you–the hiree or homeowner. Hint: if you are dead set on using hot water in your power washer in Austin, you can ONLY use hot water with a filtration system (that removes the dirt before the drainage heads for the sewers). You’d have to be really compulsive though as filtratrion systems cost about $4,000. And you’d have to be really hard hearted to let hot water pour down on your plants & shrubs. So hot water in Austin is only for the compulsive and cold hearted and deep pocketed.
6. Never point the power washing wand (it’s not Darth Vader time) at a person or animal. Again, I’m deadly serious. (Notice how I switch from puns to severity? It’s not intended to make your head spin, and I sincerely hope you can keep up…)
7. DO NOT operate the power washer close to overhead power lines–stay at least 10 feet away, and have a buddy with you to ensure you are clear of power lines at all times. I lost a high school buddy who tried working alone after school–he died instantly when his machinery touched a low power line.
8. Prepare first:
- Cover all electrical outlets & avoid outdoor lighting fixtures–water in the fixtures could cause a short circuit and you could blast holes in glass fixtures. Use plastic bags over your light fixtures and seal good with duct tape.
- Take off all shutters (and watch out for spiders and wasps when removing).
- Seal any tiny holes in the exterior of your home.
- Notice any black spots on your exterior? Test it first with some bleach. If the black spot fades, then you have mold(a blasted fungus that I am becoming all too familiar with–in my nose, not my house). In the case of correctly identified mold, you’ll have to get out goggles, repirator mask, rubber gloves, bleach/water, wear funky clothes or put a plastic garbage bag over your clothing, and grab a scrub brush. If your test reveals that the black spot does NOT fade, then you just have dirt which can be removed with the power washer.
- Practice BEFORE you attempt to wash the house–use the driveway (without cars & kids) as a practice ground. Start with lowest pressure until you get the handle…
9. Ready to wash? (I so admire you!). Make sure you pick a good day (not a windy day). Back away 3-4 feet and use a downward spray (a 15-25 degree nozzle reportedly is best). Start power washing from the bottom and work your way up. And, no, this is not a misprint. I admit my cross-wired brain had to question this method for a minute. When you wash from bottom up you eliminate all the dirty streaks that would come streaming down your house siding. When you’re ready to rinse, THEN you wash from the top down. If you have used any detergent in your washer (make sure it’s biodegradable and kind to people, plants & pets) you need to rinse within 10 minutes.
10. Oh, and never spray at your windows or you’ll soon be like little house on the prairie (with quaint little calico fabric pieces waving in the breeze in place of your former glass windows).
Whew! Think you can handle the pressure?
Best of luck to you with your power washing project. Please be safe and use your head. If you rent the washer, make sure you get a complete demonstration before taking it home. Me? I’m destined to call in the professionals. And if you have any hesitation at all–please consult a professional. Thanks for reading. Patti P.
© Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Reatly, 2008-2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Realty with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Entry filed under: Fix It, Smart Sellers. Tags: Aquifer recharge zone, Austin, cleaning home for sale, curb appeal, directionly challenged, Edwards Aquifer, home exterior, home maintenance, organic, power wash, power wash advice, pressure wash.