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How To Pressure Wash A House Before Painting

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Cleaning the exterior walls of your house before painting is the smart thing to do. You really should remove all the dirt and debris. Doing this will ensure the paint will adhere properly to the surface and it will give the house a much cleaner look.

However, this task, as you can imagine, is extremely labor intensive and time consuming. Do you really want to be hand scrubbing your entire house? If not, consider using a pressure washer. To pressure wash a house before painting you need to prep the area, spray with a high pressure nozzle to clear debris, soap with a low pressure nozzle to loosen up residues, and then spray again with a high pressure nozzle to rinse off detergent. Lastly, give the house a three to four days to completely dry. 

All that sounds pretty straight forward, doesn’t it? Let me continue on with some details that might help make the job easier.

Prep Work

Before you start, take some time to prepare your tools and the area you’ll be working on. It’ll help speed things along. You might also prevent injury if you take the time to run through this checklist.

Clear the area

As obvious as this task sounds, I can’t stress enough how important it is. This concerns not only how good your paint job will finish in the end, but also your safety.

Any shrubbery or plants that are positioned close to the house should be covered. If possible, remove them completely. They’ll get in the way. You’re going to want to remove any landscaping in close proximity to the house when you paint anyways in order to avoid them touching wet walls.

Create a clearance around the house so that you can walk around it while you’re both pressure washing and painting. This safety measure can help you avoid tripping over some obstacle, thus injuring yourself.

Clean areas with mold and mildew

Depending on where you live, your house might have some mold and mildew that has accumulated. These can be a little bit challenging to remove. You’ll have to apply some form of disinfectant to clean these areas. Usually, some mixture of bleach and water, or even some white vinegar, should be enough. You can Google for some home recipes and that will save you some money. Apply it on the affected surface and rinse.

Get your tools ready

Prepare your washer. If you’re using an electric one, know that you’ll need an outlet. For a gas washer you’ll obviously need gas. 

For this project you’ll be using the black, green and yellow nozzles. Pressure washer nozzles are universally color coded. The black nozzles are the soaker nozzles and are used to apply detergent on surfaces. The green nozzles have a narrow 25 degree spray pattern and are used for high-powered rinsing. The yellow nozzles have a focused 15 degree spray pattern and are often used for paint stripping.

During the soaping and soaking steps, you’ll be using a pressure washer multi-purpose detergent. You have your choices to select from. Or if you have a specific house siding that requires a more delicate cleaning solution, get that ready.

First Pressure Wash Pass – Clearing

Purpose

The purpose of this first pass is to wet the surface and to get rid of large debris that might be stuck to the house.

Nozzles

Set your pressure washer to use either the green or the yellow nozzle. These are the high pressured nozzles and they will provide powerful blast. Use with care because you might hurt yourself or you might damage the surface of your house.

The yellow nozzle is where you have to proceed with caution. Typically, its okay to use for paint stripping, as that’s what it’s known for. But with certain masonry surfaces, there’s a chance of chipping. 

Steps

Stand 2 feet away from the house and start spraying. Use sweeping horizontal strokes to evenly wash manageable sections of the house. Never aim and spray straight on at the house because there’s a chance the pressure will be too great and will damage the surface. Do not spray upwards into the crevices between house siding either. Be careful not to let any sections dry out. You can adjust your position as needed. Move closer for more applied water pressure and further away from the house.

Remember to be safe. Use goggles to protect your eyes from blasts of water that repel off the walls. Avoid standing on ladders as you’re pressure washing and use extension wands instead.

Second Pressure Washing Pass – Soaping

Purpose

The purpose of this second pass is to soak the house with detergent. Soaping the surfaces will loosen up the remaining residue dirt build up. After 5-10 minutes of soaking, the house should be ready for a rinsing.

To start, prepare the pressure washer detergent. Some washers have compartments where you can pour the solution in. Others require a siphon. Regardless, pressure washer detergents are often sold as a concentrate, so you’ll need to follow instructions and produce the right mixture to use.

Nozzle

Switch to the black nozzle, then start spraying. You’ll want to work from the bottom up to avoid streaking. The reason for this is because as the soap loosens the dirt, gravity will pull it down. If you start from the top, you’ll have streaks stream down. As these streams of dirty water dry, they’ll mark up the side of your house.

Steps

Work in sections that you can manage, while carefully monitoring and avoiding sections of the wall from drying out. Stand about 1 foot away from the house. Use multiple horizontal passes that sweep and cover the entire section with soap.

Third Pressure Wash Pass – Rinsing

Purpose

The purpose of this third and final pass is to rinse off the detergent from the house. The soap will have done its job by now. Whatever remains should slide off from the blast of water you’ll be spraying.

Nozzle

Go with the green nozzle. You’ve done you’re paint stripping and large debris removing with the yellow nozzle. Soaking was handled with the black nozzle. A nozzle that’s somewhere in the middle will finish the job. The green nozzle has a slightly larger spray pattern than the yellow nozzle, and that will make washing the soap off easier.

Steps

This step is similar to the first where you were removing large debris, so just refer back to that part again for the details. Remember, you’ll want to spray from the top down. You can adjust your position as needed, whether that be closer or farther away from the house. It just depends on your need for water pressure.

Drying After Pressure Washing

In general, you should let your house dry for 2 to 3 days after pressure washing before you start painting. But the specific window of time might depends on other factors. So keep the following conditions in mind.

Weather

More wet and humid areas might require as long as a week, or even more. Areas in the Northwest like Seattle or in Southeast like Florida are wet or humid.  Paint simply takes longer to dry in those areas.

However, in areas such as Arizona or Texas, where temperatures can reach the hundreds during parts of the year, a day or two will suffice.

Siding material

Some house siding materials dry faster than others. For example, vinyl and cement siding might take just a day. Wood and other masonry building materials could take several because of their porous nature.

The Best Tips for Pressure Washing Your Home

Having the best tips for pressure washing your home can be a great idea. This way you know whether you are doing it properly. 

Valued landscaping

Do you have shrubs or landscaping plants around your home? If so, always make sure they are covered before spraying any type of cleaning solution. 

Testing your sprayer

You should also test your sprayer before spraying your entire home. This should be done on an area of your home that you can’t see well. Behind shrubs or on the backside of your garage would be a great place to do your test spray. If not done properly, you could crack the siding on your home. 

Working in smaller areas

When pressure washing your home, you should work in smaller areas with rinsing, applying the detergent, and rinsing again. This will stop the detergent from drying before you get around to rinsing it off. 

Rent or buy

There are many uses for a pressure washer. You can rent one, but you may find that you want to use it for many reasons. Buying one might be a better option. 

Getting the accessories

There are some pressure washers that have brushes and other accessories which can attach to the washer. You may benefit greatly from using these on your home to get off thick grime, mildew, and other debris. 

When pointing upwards

If you must point the pressure washer nozzle upward, don’t drive it directly into gaps or cracks. Never shoot the water up through the soffit vents. 

Don’t pressure wash on a ladder

Pressure washers are strong. The pressure from one of them could knock you down. Standing on a ladder could prove to be dangerous. 

Minimum length away from circuits

Not only is it dangerous and could shock you to stand and spray near electrical devices, but it could break them, as well. Keep the nozzle sprayed away from these devices. You should keep your wand a minimum of 6 feet away from any electrical devices. 

What Tools and Supplies Do You Need to Pressure Wash Your House? 

There are many tools and supplies that you may want to use when pressure washing your house. These include the following:

  • A pressure washer with nozzles
  • Ladders (if you need them)
  • A bucket, sponges, and some bleach (for mildew treatment)
  • The cleaning solution

Be sure the cleaning solution you use is safe for your home’s siding. 

What Are the Types of Pressure Washers You Can Use On Your Home?

You can get electric or gas powered pressure washers. There are also low and high-powered pressure washers, as well. In most instances, the electric pressure washers are best for cleaning the outside of homes. You will need anywhere between a 1000 and 3000 PSI pressure washer. 

What Cautions Should You Take When Pressure Washing Your Home?

Pressure washing is mostly safe. However, the pressure that comes out of the hose can be quite strong. You want to make sure you don’t aim it at people or strip the paint on your home either. There are two main things you should be cautious of when pressure washing your home. 

Etching 

Under some conditions, pressure washers may cut through brick or concrete, so they could damage vinyl, cedar, and other material, as well. 

However, you can avoid this, by standing back far enough when you are pressure washing your home. Generally, you will want to stand between 1 ½ feet to 6 feet away at least. A stream nozzle also helps to prevent damage. 

Injecting 

You should be cautious of spraying at too low of an angle under your siding. Higher pressures may drive the siding upward and get the interior insulation wet. You can prevent this by spraying at the proper angle. This would be perpendicular or downward. 

Warning about lead paint

You should not pressure wash your home if the home contains lead. Many of the homes that were built before 1978 may have lead paint on them. Pressure washing these homes could cause the lead to spread in the air. You can always have your home checked for lead by the local health department. Safe handling during the pressure washing process is always important. 

Many people wonder whether it would be worth it to hire someone to pressure wash their home. There are some great benefits to hiring a professional to pressure wash your home.

A better clean

Professionals pressure wash homes for a living. They know the ins and outs of different siding, when to pressure wash before painting, and they can do the job faster since they are experienced at the job. If you want a better clean, a professional is more likely to make that happen.

Removal of loose paint

If there is paint already peeling or blistering off your home, you will want this to be taken off. A professional is going to know how to do this properly without damaging your siding further. Having this paint removed can help with the paint preparation process. 

If you’d like to use the pressure washer to remove paint please visit our article about how to use a pressure washer to remove paint.

Enough drying time 

The professionals will assure your home has enough time to dry before the painters come in. They will make sure to take note of the type of siding you have and what paint is going to be used. This will help them determine when to schedule your pressure wash project. 

Final Thoughts

Now that you have a better idea on the process of pressure washing your home, the costs associated with pressure washing your home, and what tips you need for this process, you can make the decision as to whether you are going to do this project on your own or hire a professional to do it for you. 

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