To pressure wash or not to pressure wash

Knowing how much pressure to use is key to successfully doing powerwashing a deck, house or roof.

To pressure wash or not to pressure wash is not the question. It’s whether to do it yourself or not to do it yourself. After interviewing several facilities about renting and/or buying a pressure washer, also known as a power washer, and then speaking with some pros, here are some points to consider before doing your deck or home yourself:

DIY (Do It Yourself): Renting a power washer in this section of Connecticut runs about $79 a day, or $55 for four hours. Buying a home power washer runs anywhere between $100 to $350 and up. Professional power washing units cost in the thousands. While some do it yourselfers feel that buying a home pressure washer pays for itself after a couple of uses, others believe that this is a job for the pros.

DDIY (Don’t Do It Yourself): Kevin Barrett, founder of All Clean, LLC (, says that it’s important to know what you’re doing when using pressure washers on your house. Whether it’s the deck, the roof, or the house, “people can do some serious damage if they don’t know what they’re doing,” Barrett says. Whether it’s etching the wood, scratching the wood, or ruining a synthetic coating, there are problems about which do-it-yourselfers need to be aware.

DIY: For starters, use a prespray, which often consists of bleach and water or a cleaning solution. It’s an important step, so if using a chemical or solution that needs to be added to water, make sure that you measure accurately. Also make sure that the solution is compatible with the machine. Prescrub mold and mildew areas, then rinse with pressured water. Knowing how much pressure to use is key to successfully doing this job yourself. Too much pressure and you can etch the wood of your deck, take the paint right off, or at the very least etch it too deeply and unevenly. Too little pressure and the results are less than effective.
Pressure is measured in psi, or pounds per square inch. Machines vary. According to Popular Mechanics, a typical home-owned electric pressure-washer measured by the psi times the rate of flow (gallons per minute) can produce about 2,400 cleaning units. The electric home version does not deliver as much pressure as a gas home model, “which can get up to 6,210 cleaning units. The professionals use machines that can get up to almost 16,000 cleaning units.

DDIY: Alfred W. Ivan, of Derby, Conn.-based Alfred W. Ivan Painting and Power Wash (, said that homeowners may not only score the wood of their deck or home, but if they don’t use the right size tip on the hose, someone could actually get hurt. “There’s so much power in these machines that people could accidentally hurt themselves or someone else.” He refers to the various tips that come with a power washer that are often color coded. It is really important to understand how much pressure results from using each of these tips. If the tip is not attached securely and pops out, it can do some very serious damage to the user and/or anyone nearby. It is important to make sure that you point that tip in the right direction. Make sure no one else is in line of the stream and pay attention to the direction of the wind. You will also want to be careful about using pressured water near windows and doors.

DIY: Working slowly and being mindful of dangers that are possible is important in remaining safe. Electric power washers can also be dangerous if you don’t pay attention to electrical outlets. Count on getting wet, and once you’re wet and working near electrical wires and/or electrical outlets, the possibility of getting an electrical shock presents itself. Also, if you have plants, trees, or shrubs near the area where you are power washing, you will need to protect them. First clean from the bottom up and rinse from the top down.

DDIY: If you need to stand on a ladder in order to do the power washing and if you are afraid of heights or feel uncomfortable on a ladder, then let the professionals who have experience, confidence, and who can do it faster do the job. No one should attempt to do this on a ladder without someone else steadying the ladder or standing nearby.

DIY: The pressure washer is a very handy tool. If you take the time to read all of the instructions and use proper precaution, a deck can be cleaned annually to avoid build-up of mold and dirt.

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