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Updated: September 19, 2014
Power washing can be done on almost any surface and is a great way to keep things like your driveway, siding, decks and patios looking almost brand new on a yearly basis. However, it's a common misconception that power washing yields the same result as pressure washing or vice versa. Before you consider spending between $184 and $380 on either, be sure you know the difference between the two and how they apply to common areas of the home.
When determining whether to do power or pressure washing, understand they are two very different practices. If you do the wrong one, you could end up damaging your siding, deck, patio or driveway.
Here are a couple differences:
Temperature: Power washing is hot water, which allows it to get rid of stains and particularly difficult items like dirt, grime, mold, fungus and so on.
Force of the water: Pressure washing uses the high velocity to get off dirt, dust and other items from houses, siding, decks, patio and driveways. It is especially common for masonry, because concrete, cinder block and brick tends to build up dust, dirt and grime and will need regular cleaning every year.
Pressure washers can be bought or rented and used to clean just about anything outside. They work by pressurizing water from a garden hose to 1,000 lbs. and forcing it out a spray wand. Homeowners can get an electric or gas pressure washer for occasional use and set it at 1,300 to 2,400 psi for best results. If you decide to hire a professional, these are the estimated rates you can expect to pay:
Area to Wash
Deck or Patio
Should You Use an Electric or Gas Washer?
Electric Pressure Washers Electric washers have a range of 1,300 to 1,400 psi and are best for washing cars, grills and garage floors. They can cost around $90 to $200 depending on the pressure you need. They are quiet and portable so you can quickly clean your driveways and decks. Homeowners will have to plug them in to run them, and they require a 120-140V GFCI outlet.
Gas-Powered Pressure Washers In contrast, gas washers can deliver more than 3,000 psi and are good for cleaning siding, decks and concrete. They can be rented and bought and have accessories added onto them like chemical injectors and longer spray wands. It?s estimated they cost anywhere from $300 to $800.
Unless your house is very small, an electric washer will not be able to clean your house or siding. You will have to rent or buy a gas-powered washer, which may or may not be able to handle what?s on your siding. Problems like mildew, mold, fungus and algae, for example, cannot always be treated because it?s cold water. Often you will have to hand treat the area with a chemical solution and then wash it.
If it?s just dust or dirt that needs to come off the house or siding, you should be able to wash it. It is good for removing residue when you want to paint a house or prepare it for a showing. It is effective on wood, granite, asphalt, bricks and aluminum. It will not work, and possibly harm, hardie board and vinyl. Those types of siding will need to be hand-treated with a garden hose and soap.
Concrete, paver, bricks, tiles and asphalt can be cleaned quickly with a pressure washer. The high pressure will speed up the process, as long as you use a washer that has a PSI of at least 3,000. This means you should be using a gas washer and not an electric one.
Do not use a pressure washer on a gravel driveway as it blow rocks away. These will also not be effective in removing stains, so be sure you use a power washer when trying to remove those made from oil or other car deposits.
How Much Does it Cost to Pressure Wash a Deck or Patio?
Average estimates: $250 to $500
Pressure washing is a great practice to perform on your patio or deck during the spring to get rid of all those leaves and dirt buildup. It?s a quick cleaning machine that saves on you having to get out the broom and spend hours outside. You can also get rid of all of that buildup without chemicals, which saves the environment and keeps any plants you might have on the deck or patio from getting sprayed with chemicals.
You can use an electric washer to clean your deck or patio, which means spending less money than you would on a gas washer. Plus the low PSI of 1,500 to 2,000 will avoid your deck being etched into while still getting the dirt and grime off. Also electric washers have a chamber for you to add soap detergent, so you can put in some natural, non-toxic cleaning solution if your patio or deck needs some extra ?oomph? to get clean.
In many situations power washing is the only way to get rid of the dirt and grime on your siding, decks and driveways. There are four pieces to this practice you should understand: adding a solution, heat, water flow and pressure. Also you don?t always have to add a cleaning solution, which can cut down on the chemicals you might get onto your landscape or home.
The price of power washing is less expensive than many other improvements you could make to the home. If this is an improvement you do before a sale, make sure you do it far ahead of the showings. If you choose to DIY, be sure you consult with a professional about how to properly operate the machine and know which additional tools to purchase.
Area to Wash
Deck or Patio
A good time for power washing is when you want to increase curb appeal. It?s a good way to add value without doing extreme improvements like digging up the landscape, adding a walkway and general remodels to the landscape. It?s less expensive than hiring a landscape architect to design your front lawn and achieves an almost brand new look for your home exterior.
If you decide to power wash your home exterior, it?s good to protect your doors, windows and plants from the pressure, as it could break windows and doors if you?re not careful. That?s why professionals know how to operate it properly and avoid such damages.
Power washing is not always the best option for houses and siding. Many professional services do not recommend it. This is because many types of siding are not made to handle the incredible force or heat shot at almost point-blank range. Paint can be peeled off by the heat and force, screens destroyed, windows cracked and so on.
There?s also the danger of high-pressure hot water going through doors and window seals, which will send water inside the home that can soak into furniture, flooring and walls. There also certain types of siding--hardie board and vinyl, particularly--that can be severely damaged by high-pressure water and blown off or start to grow mold afterwards.
Homeowners should speak with professionals about whether or not it is the proper approach. They can inspect their siding and see if it would hold up against such pressure and heat. They might recommend pressure washing instead, or that homeowners take a more gentle approach like a garden hose and soap.
Power washing concrete driveways can be the best way to get rid of stains and dirt, which will extend the life of the driveway. In cases where water alone doesn?t work, homeowners may have to add some cleaning solution to the washer to get those stains out. This might be the case with those made from oil.
Power washing driveways made from brick and tile might be effective as well for getting dirt and grime out from in between slats. Homeowners should be sure they?re deeply rooted in the ground though, or else the water pressure could uproot them. Driveways made of gravel should not be washed because the rocks will easily move from the application of water pressure.
Power washers can have pressures of 4,000 psi (pounds per square inch) to lesser pressures of maybe a few hundred and run by gas or electric. This means that professionals will probably use one with less pressure to clean a deck and maybe one with higher pressure to clean a patio. Professionals just need to avoid etching into the deck, which could lead to wood replacement or sanding down boards and re-staining them.
Here are some professional recommendations when it comes to washing a deck or patio:
Water pressure for soft wood (cedar or pine): about 500 psi to 600 psi and harder woods: no more that 1200-1500 psi.
Use a fan tip.
Never get closer than a foot from the deck.
Keep a consistent distance as you sweep by moving your arm back and forth.
Tips for Hiring Power or Pressure Washing Services
While you can buy high-powered power and pressure washers at local home improvement stores, companies have the knowledge and experience of working safely with these products. They know how to target a home exterior, decks, patios and driveways without hurting doors, windows or individuals. If you consider hiring a service, this is what their business should have:
Advanced Equipment: They should have state-of-the-art equipment, not the kind you can buy at your local home improvement store.
Sustainable Practices: A business must follow strict EPA regulations regarding runoff water and environmentally-safe chemicals, if needed.
Insurance: The business must carry their own insurance to pay for any damages to a home should it occur during the service.
Efficiency: They should have the experience to do the practice quickly and efficiently so that your siding, deck or driveway needs to be washed only once a year.
When getting a quote on these services, make sure they include the price of the materials like soap and general equipment used. The price should also include labor, time and size of the area they?re going to clean. Sometimes the company will bring water and pumps instead of using your water. If they do use your water, check to make sure you won?t be charged for it.
To be sure you hire the best service for your job, you should speak with at least 3 to 4 professionals in your area. In addition to having the list above, these are some of the questions to ask each of them to gauge their business:
Are you bonded?
Do you have worker?s compensation?
What are your certifications?
Can you provide references for previous power/pressure projects?
Because the water used is powerful and hot, it can be easy to ruin surfaces or get injured. That?s why you should probably hire a professional service because they will know what can or can't be cleaned using this method.
Here are some tips if you decide to proceed with a DIY approach:
Look for damage in the machine like cracked hoses, broken seals or rust on the nozzle.
Read the safety instructions!
Wear safety goggles or a face shield.
Don?t stand too close when spraying the area, at least five or six feet away to be safe.
40 degree nozzles are best for siding and decks, while a 0-degree nozzle is good for getting rid of mud and stains on driveways.