Blast Away: Using A Pressure Washer For Outdoors
Early summer is an excellent time to take on outdoor maintenance tasks that have been on the back burner awaiting warmer weather, but before it gets to be too hot.
Right about this time of year we pull out our trusty pressure washer and go blasting around the house on a cleaning rant. We begin with the highest place on the house and work our way down and then outward to areas that surround the house.
A pressure or power washer uses water under high pressure to strip away grit grime on all sorts of surfaces. Sometimes you can combine bleach or other cleaning agents, but we find that water is all we need to accomplish most cleaning tasks.
By this time of year, most moss, algae or liken which you may have on your roof has probably dried out. A pressure washing will remove all of this – along with any other grime that may have collected on the roof over the last year. Power washing a roof can be a daunting and dangerous task. Unless you work well on heights, we suggest that you hire a residential power washing professional to do the work for you. If you choose to take it on yourself, wear rubber soled boots and use a safety harness securely anchored to the opposite side of the roof and your waist.
Work from the lowest point of the roof (with your back to the ridge) and, using a sweeping action, clean about a four foot wide section at a time. Move to the side and then step up the roof until you have reached the peak. Doing so will keep you on a dry footing and help prevent slipping. Repeat the process on all sides of your roof.
Although your roof will be clean your gutters will likely be filled with all sorts of muck from the roof. Since a power washer may be too powerful for this tight area, we suggest that you use a garden trowel along with a garden hose to thoroughly clean the gutters and downspouts. Use the garden hose as a snake to flush downspouts and drain pipes.
Next, move on to cleaning eaves, soffits, siding, windows and trim to remove grit, grim, spider webs and wasps nests. As with the roof, work from the bottom up. This will prevent potential streaking and staining. A pressure washing with water is all that will be needed for most siding. Vinyl siding may require a bit of detergent and water and some scrubbing with a nylon truck brush to remove oxidation and/or staining. Then rinse thoroughly. We like to leave the window screens in place for ease of cleaning and then, once clean, remove them to clean windows and frames.
Move on to power wash porches, patios, paths, decks, barbecues, outdoor furniture and other finishes that could benefit from a good cleaning.
Beyond a good sprucing up, House Pressure Washing will reveal cracks in stucco, gaps and bare spots in siding, loose mortar, deteriorating window screens and missing caulking. There’s no better time to make these repairs.
Repair hairline cracks in stucco using an exterior grade latex caulk. The secret is slightly dampen the area with water first and use inject a small amount of caulk into the crack. Use an old paint brush and water to remove excess caulk to prevent the caulking from appearing through the paint. We like to place texturing sand in the palm of our hand and blow it onto the surface of the fresh caulk to have it blend in more thoroughly to the surrounding finish.
Use a high quality exterior caulk to fill in gaps in siding and surround window and door trip. Again, less is more. Inject the caulking into the joint and remove the excess with a damp finger and/or sponge.
Remove any loose paint that may remain after the power washing by scraping and/or sanding. Fill in voids using an exterior grade vinyl spackling compound. Allow it to dry, then sand and prime with a high quality exterior grade primer/sealer and apply a coat or two of finish.
Repair damaged or missing mortar using a mortar patch and a jointer – a narrow trowel that gives mortar that smooth uniform look. Be sure to dampen the mortar first to prevent dry mortar from drawing moisture out of the fresh mortar, which can result in cracking and poor adhesion. Seal the brick or stone and mortar with a high quality exterior grade brick and stone sealer to prevent freeze and thaw damage in winter.
If your window screens were old and brittle, chances are good that pressure washing them all but destroyed them. If such is the case, rescreening is in order. If the frames are in good shape all that is needed is new vinyl screen material and rubber spline – that the cord that holds the screen into the frame. The only tools needed are a utility knife to trim the screen material and spline to size and a spline roller used to force the spline material into the groove on the frame. Working on a flat surface, place the new screen material over the frame and push the spline material into the groove. Make sure that material is taught that you will have a “tight as a drum” finish.
Finish up your cleaning frenzy with window washing. First, never wash windows in the sun or in the heat of the day. Use your favorite window cleaner in and out. We like using a touch of vinegar in warm water and we have found news print to be the best wiping material. Old copies of our column seem to work especially well. Here’s a secret for streak free windows. Wipe the inside surface of the windows vertically and the outside horizontally or vise versa. If streaks do appear, you’ll immediately know what side of the glass they are on and can readily eliminate them.
For more home improvement tips and information search our website or call our listener hot line 24/7 at 1-800-737-2474.