More Power!

Thank you Tim Taylor (Tim Allen) in one of his most famous lines from the family television classic of my childhood, Home Improvement. What is it that I need “more power” for? Well, power washing, of course!

To save time scraping and scraping in a futile attempt at removing the loose paint from the exterior of my house, I have decided to use a power washer in place of endless hours of scraping. I have had several people warn me about the possible dangers of power washing cedar shingles, so I plan on using the power washer to remove the loose paint on the gables of the house where there is currently flat wood siding.

The paint on the shingles is, for the most part, still adhered quite well. Certain areas are peeling, however, and we plan to remove all the loose paint from those areas by scrubbing them with a stiff bristled scrub brush. We planned on washing the shingled walls with a mild detergent anyways, using a stiff bristled broom to speed things up. Having a few people help with large scrub brushes shouldn’t take too long. I hope. The primer we are using is specifically formulated to bond over failing paint, although it does recommend removing all the loose paint first. It is supposed to help seal the edges of the areas where the paint has peeled off, so that your new layer of paint won’t be ruined by the paint underneath continuing to peel.

I have watched several online videos with hints and helpful suggestions for using a power washer to remove paint, hopefully I have gleaned everything I need to know. I even found these tips in the form of a checklist:

1. Locate your exterior power outlet if you are using an electric pressure washer, and your outside water faucet.
Although we wish there were, there are actually no exterior power outlets on our home (future project?). A heavy-duty extension cord through a slightly open window will do the trick (just make sure it’s not the window directly near where you are working so as not to pressure wash the inside of the house). We do have water faucets on both the west and south sides of the house, and a garden hose long enough to reach around on the two remaining sides.

2. Close all windows and seal any small holes in the windowsills.
Windows will be closed tight (except for the one with the extension cord), and there are no holes in my new windowsills!

3. Remove any shutters, this is a favorite place for spiders and wasps so you want to power wash really well underneath.
Although I did include shutters in this rendering of how the house will look once it is painted, my house currently does not have shutters. So no worries there. Although we still get more than our share of spiders and webs under the eaves.

4. Make a note of the location of outdoor lighting fixtures and mailboxes, as you won’t want to spray those.
We have a porch light mounted on the ceiling above the front door and a wall fixture to the side of the back door. There is an ancient and ugly broken motion-sensing light on the back corner of the house (why haven’t I removed it before now?) but it’s breaker is turned off. I plan on replacing it with a soft flood light after we paint so that when I pull into the back driveway at night, I have illumination to find the house key while walking to the back door. On dark nights, it is a pitch black walk between the house and garage.

5. As for personal gear goggles and wet weather outerwear are a good idea …you can bet on getting wet!
I have safety goggles that I wear whenever dust, debris, or injuries are possible. It is supposed to be a little on the warm side tomorrow, so I have no problem wearing some swimwear.

Now… where is the tip about using a pressure washer while standing on a ladder? In each of the tutorials I watched, they were standing firmly on the ground. In order to get close to the paint on my homes gables, I am going to be on a ladder. You know how powerful those car wash sprayers feel after you are gripping for 60 seconds? Yeah, imagine in your mind the picture of me holding a more powerful version of one of those while balancing on a ladder 8 feet in the air. That is what I am imagining also.

As for the shingled areas of the house, I was given this tip by a friend who has much more experience in this area: most DIY’er who attempt to pressure wash cedar shingles end up damaging the shingles. Cedar, after all, is actually a soft wood. Sure, it holds up to water extremely well, but not at 2400 – 3000 psi. He said that if the power washer is powerful enough that it hurts your hand, it is too strong to use on the shingles. And by all means, DO NOT start your pressure washer on full blast and put your hand into the spray! Start at the lowest pressure, and build up the pressure until it just starts to sting, this is as powerful as it can be and not damage the cedar.

Do any of you have cedar shingles on your house? Have you ever used a pressure washer before? While standing on a ladder? Did you break anything?


  1. #1 by Olly Parry-Jones on July 9, 2011 - 3:56 AM

    …That’s Tim “The Tool-Man” Taylor!! 😀

  2. #2 by Adam A. Ries on July 10, 2011 - 7:41 PM

    Thanks for the comment, Olly, and you’re right; Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor. That was an every weekend highlight for my family when I was growing up. I stopped by your blog and really liked some of the pictures in your gallery, especially that magazine holder. I enjoy woodworking myself also, but lately I like more refinishing and restoring of old furniture. Taking a piece of furniture that someone is throwing out and refinishing it to new life is enjoyable to me.

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