Posts Tagged Pressure Washing

Under Pressure

If you feel the need to sing along with David Bowie to get into the groove for this post, you can link to the music video of “Under Pressure” here. Or just hum along to it as you read on down the page.

Last weekend I forewarned that I was about to embark on a pressure washing adventure. I am here blogging to you to say it was successful. No falling off ladders, no broken arms or busted windows. We were thankful for a warm sunshiny day and cranked up the pressure washer. Be cautioned, if you use a pressure washer you will get wet. Like, soaking wet. I recommend high school chemistry class goggles and machine gun operator ear protection. Clothes are optional. I am wearing clothes in these photos only because I am extremely pale skinned and didn’t want the camera operator to get blinded in case of a camera flash. Oh yeah, and because I have neighbors.

This is the back side of the house, notice how there is no grass growing. The backyard has a the most massive oak tree I have ever seen and it needs trimmed like a tangled fur shaggy dog. The amount of shade provided by this tree prevents grass from growing very well in the back yard, the lawn is mostly creeping charlie and other green weeds. But I am concerned with the house right now. The trees and lawn will happen. Eventually.

In these pictures I’m pressure washing a length of soffit. I also took the opportunity to clean off the gutters and downspouts, even jumping up on the roof to carefully wash off some moss in certain areas and blast out the last of those crazy helicopter seeds that our maple trees provide a downpour of. The trick is to be careful with the tips on the pressure washer. Start out with a wide angle. If it’s not doing enough work, slowly work down to a lesser angle. I used 40 on the shingles mostly to wash them of dirt. On the gables, I first used the 25 nozzle and then the 15 nozzle to remove what I felt to be an adequate amount of loose paint. The 15 nozzle did leave some grooves in the wood gables if I stayed in the same place too long. The trick was to keep it moving. Then I washed what I already knew was a trouble spot. And it turned out my fears were correct. Wet wood chunks flew off the house and I cringed.

I knew there was a problem here. I didn’t know how bad it was. This short length of gutter has been tilted so that rather than drain to the downspout, it lays in the opposite end and drips down the side of the house left of the window. The vertical board siding above the gutter, as well as the two rows of shingles below the gutter were in bad bad shape. As in, I ripped the wet pieces off with my bare hands. The fascia board behind the gutter and the soffit board below had to come down. The smaller red circle to the upper left shows where the upper fascia board was rotted as well. I already had to rebuild a short length of soffit and fascia as I mentioned back in this post, and the process is just the opposite of tearing the pieces off. Measure new boards to length, dry fit, shave 1/8″ off length, dry fit again, use paintable caulk and set the new board in place. Nail board securely into ends of rafters. Caulk all seams with paintable caulking. (Why the italics? Read this post to find out why I now pay much more attention to what kind of caulking I use.)

So how well did the pressure washing work? Check out how much bare wood is exposed on the south gable after being power washed. It was pretty much solid white when I began.

I should snap a pic of the ground around the foundation. Covering the ground with plastic only worked about halfway. The dark mulch now looks like salt and pepper with all the white paint flecks that flew off the house. Oh well, live and learn. We need to re-mulch around the house anyways.

The last few days have been crazy with scraping, priming, scraping, ladder climbing, scraping, and priming. Move ladder and repeat.

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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?