One of the main issues homeowners have attempting to pressure wash a deck for the first time is that they often do more harm than good. Homeowners expect that more pressure is better, which often leaves deep and unsightly damage on each pass of the wand. With each new detrimental mark, people tend to add more pressure trying to erase the mistake. People can easily end up in downward spiral of increasing pressure and increasing wood damage. Rest assured it does not need to be this problematic for the first-timer, and we at Vortexx aim to demystify the process from start to finish.
Inspect the deck that needs to be washed. Is the wood older or much softer than average? Does your deck have significant buildup of coating from the past? Is it a large surface or smaller with more intricate corners? These factors will help you determine the specific nozzle, cleaner and wand distance required. For significant buildup of stains or sealers, a cleaner may be required prior to pressure washing. Try to avoid cleaners when possible as clean water and good pressure can often do a perfect job in lieu of chemicals. Utilize a larger degree nozzle and wand distance for softer wood, to avoid doing damage.
Understand that pressure washers are a combination of pressure and flow of water. More flow means a better ability to clean. For most deck surfaces 1500 pounds per square inch (PSI) is more than sufficient.
The next step is to choose an appropriate fan degree for the nozzle. Typically decks will need anywhere from a 25-degree nozzle (for more stubborn build-up) to 40-degree (for newer decks with less damage or synthetic wood). The higher the degree the less pressure at point of contact. Test a small, hidden area prior to starting to ensure your nozzle selection is appropriate for your wood surface.
The main goal of pressure washing is the clean away dirt and debris away but to leave no visible traces in the wood or leave raised wood fibers. The pressure knocks the dirt loose and the flow rinses the debris away.
Before starting, ensure to have the appropriate safety gear. Many people underestimate the force and injury a pressure washer can inflict on a human body. Be sure to have rigid rubber boots and water resistance work pants as well as eye protection.
Now it is time to begin the job at hand and there are many pressure washer accessories that can make the job easier. If you decide to use a chemical to loosen the dirt consider a foaming bottle or lance. These attachments will allow you to apply solutions to large areas in a very short period of time. In some cases a broom or deck cleaner attachment can also be extremely beneficial. Depending on the number of nozzles in this attachment it will shorten your job by 300 to 400 percent.
Another new product that can greatly reduce the time it takes to pressure washer a deck is a Roto Deck Cleaner. This attachment uses a high speed rotation of a zero-degree nozzle to fan out the pressure. Don’t mistake this for a traditional Roto Jet nozzle which is to be used for blasting of stubborn stains on hard surfaces or paint removal. Traditional roto jets have the potential to do substantial damage to your wood surface very quickly. Making use of a longer lance will greatly reduce back fatigue and give you a benefit to reach higher surfaces as well when needed. Some common extended lances are 48” and 59” versions.
Always start from the top down. Begin sweeping the wand from one side to the other in a consistently equal length and distance. Slowly move from the higher railings down to the larger deck area. Once complete, leave the deck to dry completely in order to inspect for any stubborn areas. It is always easier to see missed or damaged spots when dry. It is very important to carefully read the label on your protective coating or stain. Many will require several hours of drying time before application. Finally, and most importantly, congratulations are in order for a job well done!