How to Use a Pressure Washer on a Wood Deck
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Pressure washing your deck is a great way to clean it up and prep it for a new coat of stain or sealer. Although some claim that a garden hose is safer for cleaning your deck, a garden hose alone doesn’t really provide enough pressure to really make a difference.
When using a pressure washer, you need to make sure that you don’t allow the tip to get too close to the wood. Getting too close will definitely cause damage. You should aim for around 1300-1500 PSI (pounds per square inch). Keep in mind that some pressure washers may go up to 3,000 PSI. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use these machines, just remember to use the widest tip (least pressure) available and hold the power washer 8-12 inches away from your decking surface to prevent damage.
Prior to using your power washer, make sure that you apply a deck cleaner or wood stain stripper to the entire surface. These powerful cleaners, along with the physical power of the pressure washer combine to restore your wood to a beautiful deck surface that will add to the beauty of your home.
Once a high quality wood cleaner or wood stripper has been applied to the wood, it’s time to use the pressure washer. First you need to choose the appropriate tip size. Nozzles, or tip sizes vary and the angle of the tip opening will determine the amount of pressure. The smaller the angle, the more pressure you get. A zero degree tip is the most powerful and is not recommended for decks as you will probably be able to write your name in the wood with this tip.
Some power washers come with variable degree nozzles that you can manually twist to adjust the pressure. Just make sure that you use a wider tip so the pressure doesn’t damage the wood fibers.
One other thing. Be sure that you are strong enough to handle a power washer! Using a power washer can be very physically demanding so make sure that you are capable of using this tool, otherwise you risk doing damage to your deck and yourself! Remember, this is 1500 pounds of pressure.
It’s best not to try your power washer on your deck the first time you turn it on. Maybe start on on a concrete sidewalk until you get the hang of it. If the pressure surprises you, you may end up with an area of your deck that looks damaged and sunken in.
Once you get the hang of your power washer and feel comfortable enough to begin cleaning the deck, make sure that you go about cleaning a few inches in front of your feet in a long, pendulum like motion. Be sure to wear protective shoes, boots if at all possible, because 1500 pounds of pressure on your pinky toe will not feel good! Make sure you exaggerate your sweeping motion to avoid any lines in your deck surface.
Remember that you are merely trying to remove the dirt that is embedded into your wood, not strip the wood of anything else. The cleaner and/or stripper will take care of removing any previous finishes. The pressure washer simply washes everything away.
When you are finished power washing you should still be able to distinguish the wood’s grain and texture. Also, if you used a stain stripper, make sure to use an oxalic acid based product or a wood brightener before staining or sealing your wood. This will neutralize any leftover stripper so you don’t have problems with the stain lifting later on.
All in all, a power washer is a great way to bring your wooden deck back to life and when used properly, can make your cleaning job much faster and easier. Whether you simply want to spruce up your deck or you need to prep it for using a deck stain or clear deck sealer, a pressure washer is a great tool to add to your arsenal of home improvement tools.