AHT Interiors is back with more tips for refreshing the exterior areas of your home. We kicked off this series with info on painting your home’s exterior brick; today we’re sharing important tips for a timely and effective spring pressure washing session!

Time to Clean?

Throughout the year, and especially during a harsh winter season, your home and property are exposed to elements that take a toll on their appearance. These include dirt, wind, sun and pollutants as well as rodents and bugs, causing damage and/or discoloration to your driveway, deck and home siding.

So what can you do to help reverse the effects of time and the elements on your home’s exterior? We suggest a good exterior washing! Washing your home not only boosts your curb appeal, it can also be done to prime exterior surfaces for repainting. You must use caution, however, to prevent harm to your siding or paint.

Today’s article focuses primarily on pressure-washing. We highly recommend you do some research and even contact a professional before you decide to pressure wash; they can give great advice and can also help you understand the different types of external washing, including pressure, power and soft washing.

Safety First

Pressure washing takes some skill – there’s more to it than simply hooking up the washer to your water hose! Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Pressure-washing can be physically demanding, requiring hours of reaching high and low. If your home is a two-story dwelling, you might want to consider hiring a pro if you aren’t up for standing high on scaffolding.
  • You shouldn’t use a pressure washer on ‘rock-dash’ or ‘bottle-dash’ stucco or fiber cement siding, as all of these could be damaged in the process.
  • Spraying too aggressively can harm any siding or paint; wood can literally be etched by a jet that is too strong. For a project with minimal buildup, especially if your home’s surface is wood, choose an electric model with about 2000 pounds per square inch (PSI).
  • Always read the safety instructions for your machine; make sure all attachments are secure before using the trigger to prevent them from becoming projectiles!
  • Use only approved chemicals for your machine and the type of surface you are cleaning. What’s good for concrete is most likely not good for wood. Unapproved detergents might be environmentally unfriendly and could also damage your machine.
  • Protective gear is important; pros recommend safety goggles, nonslip work boots, and earplugs (especially if you are using one of the louder, gas-powered machines.)
  • Finally, avoid potential health risks to you and your family by making sure your exterior paint does not contain lead! You absolutely do not want to break up and spread pieces of this dangerous paint; if there’s a possibility your home has it, you can buy a test kit or hire a professional to know for sure.

Equipment and Other Prep

Here are a few things to keep in mind while preparing for your project:

  • Pressure-washing: As we mentioned above, projects with minimal buildup can be handled with an electric power washer with a PSI of around 2000. But if you have set-in stains or mold, you might want to choose a more powerful gas-fueled washer with a PSI of 2500-3000. If you are renting a machine, the rental agent should be able to recommend the appropriate pressure washer for your job.
  • Soft-washing: When doing your research, you may find that the pros recommend soft-washing, a less-harsh method, for your particular project. Read this article to learn the difference between the types of exterior washing as well as the pros and cons of each.
  • Ask the rental agent to demonstrate how to attach and detach the various nozzles and extensions as well.
  • When you pick up your pressure washer, be sure to get a hose, detergent and drop cloths – and don’t forget that safety equipment.
  • Damaged or chipped siding or brick should not be pressure washed before being repaired, so be sure to make note of those areas of your home so that you can avoid them.
  • Make sure all doors and windows are closed.
  • Turn off the power to your external electrical outlets and cover them with tape and plastic.
  • Trim back any shrubs or plants that might get in your way. If you’re worried that your detergent will harm your plants, cover them with drop cloths.

A Few Pressure-Washing Tips

Read the user manual – every machine is different and provides various nozzles, attachments and extenders for an array of heights and angles. Pay close attention to the instructions, looking for the following:

  • The correct attachments for vertical vs horizontal surfaces
  • Appropriate nozzles (pressure) for different types of surfaces
  • The manufacturer’s recommended steps. Typically, it is recommended that you first apply detergent with a low-pressure nozzle, allow it to sit for a few minutes, and then work the pressure washer from top to bottom in small sections. But your machine’s manufacturer might have alternate recommendations.
  • Read instructions for using a lance extension rather than a ladder, as the strong machine kickback could actually knock you off.
  • For horizontal surfaces, the machine manufacturer will explain the use of a rotary surface cleaner attachment for even cleaning.
  • Keep in mind the areas of your home that you’ll need to avoid when pressure washing; these include any areas in disrepair as well as windows and vents.
  • Once you’ve determined your machine settings, test the high-pressure spray in an inconspicuous spot before moving on to the rest of the house.

Are you wondering how often should you give your home’s exterior a deep clean? According to pros, you shouldn’t need to power wash your house more than once or twice a year. Keep an eye on the northern exposure of your home because it’s more prone to a buildup of moss and lichens – this is because it receives less direct sunlight than the other sides of your home.

Finally, consider hiring a professional exterior washing company if you aren’t entirely comfortable with doing this project yourself. In addition to having all of the necessary equipment (and typically higher-end equipment at that), a professional will be aware of situations where a “soft-wash” is more appropriate than a high-pressure power wash for your needs.

Look for more home exterior articles coming in the next several weeks, and please let us know if there are any topics you’d like us to cover and share!