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The dirt and debris that inevitably accumulate on your deck can negatively impact its appearance and lead to premature aging. Fortunately, a pressure washer can be used to quickly and easily power away mold, dirt, stains, and even everyday wear. Pressure washing should also be performed prior to painting or staining your deck, as a clean surface is necessary for proper finish adhesion.
Things You Should Know About Pressure Washing
Keep the following points in mind as you prepare for deck cleaning:
Pressure Washing and Power Washing Aren't the Same
Many people use the terms "power washing" and "pressure washing" interchangeably, but the two services are in fact different. While both use powerful streams of water, power washing relies on hot water, which in general does a better job of blasting away stubborn buildup and debris. A pressure washer, by contrast, uses a very powerful, concentrated water stream to clean surfaces.
So which is right for your deck? If it's in serious need of a cleaning, power washing is probably the better option. Because it uses water that is both hot and pressurized, a power washer typically does a better job of removing deep dirt, mold, and mildew. Depending on the condition of your deck, however, a pressure washer might be sufficient. Speak to a professional about which option he or she recommends.
The Use of Chemicals
Chemicals are sometimes used in the fight against deck grime. If hiring a professional cleaning service, be sure to ask them what chemicals will be used as well as what effects they may have on plant and animal life and the public water system. Most contractors offer eco-friendly cleaning products, although they might cost a bit more.
Know Your PSI
Pounds per square inch (psi) refers to the pressure of the water stream emitted by a power or pressure washer; the higher the psi, the more powerful the blast of water. It's important to understand that the jets of water these machines produce are powerful enough to make a mark in concrete, so they can easily gouge wood, not to mention make a mess of any exposed skin. If you're doing the work yourself, a psi no higher than 2,000 should be used. To be safe, start with 1,000 psi to make sure it's not damaging your deck. You can then bump up the pressure as needed to sufficiently remove stains.
Hiring a Professional
Renting a pressure or power washer for the afternoon and cleaning your deck yourself is certainly feasible, but some homeowners feel more comfortable hiring a contractor for the job. Aside from sparing you the time and hassle (which can be considerable if you have a large and/or dirty deck, or the weather is inclement) of washing, professionals will perform a more thorough and efficient cleaning, and they know how to avoid damaging wood (plus, if they do damage it, the company will be on the hook for the repair).
And again, it bears mentioning that power/pressure washers do pose a risk of injury. Furthermore, the units used by pros tend to be more powerful—and therefore more effective—than those available for rent. A final reason why you might hire a pro is the ability to bundle services. Your home siding, driveway, patio, and walkway may also benefit from pressure washing, and your newly-cleaned deck will be ready for a fresh coat of sealant or stain to protect it from the elements.
Pressure Washing Costs
- Paying a professional to power/pressure wash a basic single level deck with around 250 square feet might cost $150 to $250. Larger decks or those requiring heavy cleaning will cost more; a 20 x 20 foot deck might cost $300 to $400. Expect a minimum charge of at least $100.
- Renting a pressure/power washer for the day might cost $60 to $80 depending on the unit's capacity.
- An economical washer can be purchased for $75 to $150, although a more powerful machine will cost at least $150 to $300. Professional grade washers cost $1,000 to $3,000 or more.