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Power Washing Mistakes to Avoid

Power washing is one of the most effective methods of cleaning the exterior of your home, vehicles, driveway, roof and deck. Power washing can be done by professionals, or you can rent the equipment yourself and tackle it on a DIY basis.

The actual process of power washing is relatively simple, but there are still plenty of mistakes to be made. Unfortunately, these mistakes are common and they cost homeowners a great deal of money each year.

Thankfully, with a bit of knowledge and common sense, you can avoid these mistakes and save yourself not only money, but headaches and worry as well. In this article, we'll review several of the most common mistakes made during the power washing process, from hiring the right contractor to DIY issues. We'll also give you simple tips on avoiding these mistakes.

Impulsive Hiring Decisions

Like any other home improvement or maintenance project, if you're going to hire a pro, you want them to be honest, reliable and capable. Unfortunately, many homeowners make the mistake of accepting the first bid they receive in an effort to get the job done as quickly as possible. While there's no guarantee that this will lead to an unsatisfactory finished service, it's always best to slow down and take your time when hiring.

Whether you call around using the phone book, get recommendations from friends or use an online home improvement site, it's always a good idea to get several different bids. Consider three as a minimum number. This ensures that you have options.

Be wary of professionals who offer you a bid which is noticeably lower than the rest. While this often sounds like the best choice, stop and ask yourself (and the contractor) exactly why their bid is so low. Do they use out-dated or poorly maintained equipment? Does the contractor hire inexperienced workers? In a worst-case scenario, these low bids are often the first step in ripping you off. Some disreputable “contractors” will offer a low bid, then demand an up-front payment as a deposit. Often, once that deposit has been made, these crooks simply disappear, never to be heard from again. Avoid this mistake by thoroughly questioning any bids which seem too good to be true.

In general, you can avoid major hiring mistakes by asking questions. Ensure that your potential hire is experienced and has a record of satisfied customers. With power washing, a job that doesn't require any special (an exception is deck washing; contractors can become specially certified in properly washing and sealing a wooden deck), experience is the most important aspect, and experience will lead to happy customers. If you need something more delicate washed, such as an historic home, a vehicle or brick work, be sure to ask if workers are experienced with that particular type of power washing. If not, you may end up with the mirrors blown right off your truck, or pieces of historic masonry ripped out under the extreme water pressure.

Falling for Hot Water Claims

When shopping around for a contractor, you may come across advertisements claiming a proficiency in hot-water power washing. This sounds great, initially. Hot water makes the cleansing process faster, which is exactly why it's used in many industrial and commercial applications.

However, hot-water power washing is actually not what you want for your residential project. Commercial and industrial projects are generally much stronger and sturdier than your home. Commercial exteriors are built to last, not necessarily to look pretty. They rarely use decorative exterior materials such as cedar shakes, shingles or other easily-damaged decorative elements. Hot-water power washing can easily damage elements such as these. The heat can also warp vinyl siding, and it can damage nearby trees, shrubs and even your lawn.

Don't make the mistake of buying into this advertising ploy. Cold water and the proper cleanser is all that's needed for most home power washing projects. The only exception is a stained driveway, which actually does benefit from hot-water washing. Talk with any potential contractors to ensure that the right method is used in the right places.

Improperly Protecting Your Landscaping

In today's environmentally conscious society, most power washing companies use cleansers and cleaning products which are safe for use around children and pets. However, these cleansers can still damage trees and other plants if they are allowed to dry on the leaves.

This mistake is one of the most commonly made. While it's not catastrophic, it can be a real eyesore, since spots of dried cleanser will burn the foliage and leave behind ugly white or brown patches. Thankfully, this is one mistake which is extremely simple to avoid.

Before your contractor arrives or before you begin power washing, simply take your garden hose and thoroughly wet any leaves that are within range of the area to be cleaned. This will lessen the damage done by any cleanser which lands on leaves. Depending on how long the washing takes, you may want to do this several times, as you notice the leaves drying. Once the washing project is finished, give the leaves a final soaking to rinse away any traces of cleanser. This simple step will help you avoid (and probably completely prevent) any spotting on your expensive and beautiful landscaping.

Ignoring Power Washing for a Black-Streaked Roof

While it doesn't work in every case, this insider secret can potentially save you thousands in roof repairs. Many homeowners are dismayed when they notice dark black streaks on their roofs. These streaks are actually caused by a strain of algae that thrives on shingle material in warm, wet climates. Over time, this algae can severely compromise the integrity of the roof itself, leading to leaks and, eventually, making a costly repair job necessary.

Some roofs are simply too far gone to be helped by power washing. However, in many cases, the algae in question can actually be killed and rinsed away. Ask your contractor if this is an issue you're dealing with. Special cleansers along with low water pressure are required, in order to kill the algae without blowing the shingles right off your roof. Many companies in areas with wet climates specialize in this type of cleaning.

While it's not right for every situation, ignoring this option is a costly mistake, but it's one that can be avoided simply by asking a few questions.

DIY Without Proper Experience/Knowledge

Power washing seems like a very simple process, and in reality, it is. Water is mixed with cleanser and is fed through a nozzle under high pressure. However, there are many details which professionals deal with on a daily basis. These details simply aren't known to the typical DIY homeowner, and ignoring them can be a costly mistake.

One of most common DIY errors is renting cheap equipment. Many power washing units designed for rental rely on extremely high water pressure in order to get the job done quickly. These units often don't have controls for raising or lowering pressure. While this is fine for some jobs, it can result in severe damage. Using extremely high water pressure on brick or masonry, for example, can literally blast away pieces of your home. Before you rent a machine, check with a professional to see what type of pressure and which cleansers are appropriate.

You should also be very careful when attempting to power wash a wooden surface or a vehicle. High pressure can easily blow accessories off your car. Wooden surfaces can be scarred by high pressure. To avoid these and other common mistakes of DIY power washing, pay a small consultation fee to determine exactly what's required to get the job done properly.

Ignoring Overall Benefits

If you're reading this article, you've either made the decision to power wash or you're considering the option. Don't make the mistake of assuming that you can attain the same results as a power washer by using your garden hose and a scrub brush. It simply can't be done.

Far too many homeowners view power washing as a waste of money. They assume that since the only components involved are cleanser and water, they can do the job themselves, get the same results and save money. While you can certainly wash your home yourself, you just can't get the same level of deep cleaning.

Your home is an investment. In fact, if you're like most homeowners, it's the biggest investment you'll ever make. Keeping that investment clean is a big part of keeping it in good condition. If dirt, mildew, mold and other undesirables are allowed to collect and grow on your property, it can end up costing you much more than the price of a regular power wash. Oil and grease stains on your driveway, if allowed to set and become permanent, can lead to a replacement. As we mentioned, allowing black streaks to grow and take over your roof can also lead to a need for costly repairs. Allowing molds to grow on the exterior of your home makes them more likely to invade the interior, making your family sick and costing you a great deal of money to remove. As you can see, keeping your home clean goes a long way toward keeping it in overall good condition.

It goes without saying that regularly cleaning your home's exterior is a great way to maintain it and keep it looking good. The same goes for driveways, vehicles and other potential power wash targets. However, investing in a thorough, deep cleaning now and then can help maintain the integrity of your home for years to come.

Posted by: Diane
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