Deck maintenance
August 2, 2004 8:50 AM   Subscribe

Adventures in suburbia! I have a deck. Apparently, decks need maintenance, and mine sure needs to be power washed. Is this something that I can do (I'm about as un-handy as it gets)? If I do undertake this task, is there anything that I should know/look out for so that I don't leave a path of destruction?
posted by adampsyche to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
You can do it! You might want to avoid spraying anything living or fragile with the washer. Otherwise, rent one and fire away.
posted by Shane at 9:02 AM on August 2, 2004

You will get a series of nozzles that will enable you to fire at various velocities. Some of these velocities will bite into your deck like a chainsaw, so be sure to test them first, and choose something that will just skim the scum off the wood.
By the way, you are going to have a ball. There is nothing on earth more fun than a power washer, and I only hope that you have a big enough yard to go wild on some stuff --take down a few branches, rip up a little ground, sandblast some sidewalk. If every man had a power washer, there would be no more war.
posted by Faze at 9:10 AM on August 2, 2004

What Faze said, and keep the stream the hell away from body parts.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:16 AM on August 2, 2004

Response by poster: woo woo!
posted by adampsyche at 9:23 AM on August 2, 2004

We just borrowed one from a friend last weekend to wash the stone on our garage. It was SO fun! We went nuts and cleaned every single surface that we could reach with it, even our sidewalks, and the neighbor's sidewalks. It was...a blast. You'll love it! Watch out for sandalled toesies.
posted by iconomy at 9:28 AM on August 2, 2004

Remember, your typical garden hose delivers about 40 psi water pressure while the higher-end electric model power washers deliver from 3000 to 5000 psi. (You could get a gas powered model that goes much much higher). Think safety.

Also, if you rent (or buy for that matter) try to find one with the GFI (ground fault interupt) built into the plug.

Oh, one more tip. When I use mine (Delta 5000psi) for extended time periods, it tends to overheat occasionally tripping the GFI. If this happens just let it sit a minute or two. That's normal operation as far as I can tell.

And what some other posters said...they ARE A BLAST!
posted by Cedric at 9:31 AM on August 2, 2004

Read instructions THROUGHLY and make damn sure you know what you are doing before powerwashing your automobile.

Consider yourself warned.

As far as the deck goes, just don't use the "laser beam" nozzle and you should be fine. Fire away. The flat "fan" nozzle is likely exactly what you want.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:38 AM on August 2, 2004

Response by poster: For a deck, how much PSI do I need? I'm looking at one that's in the 1700 PSI range. Do I really need much more than that?
posted by adampsyche at 9:44 AM on August 2, 2004

I once used a powerwasher to take paint off a garage I was painting. The paint came off in tiny flecks that drifted into my neighbor's driveway and onto his car, where they dried. They were hard to scrub off. Learn from my mistakes.
posted by luser at 9:47 AM on August 2, 2004

find out how many gallons-per-minute the washer uses. 2gpm is typical. Then multiply the psi (e.g. 1700) X the gpm.(2) This gives you 'cleaning units' CU.(3400 in your case. sorry I have no links to this--it's just what I remember when I was in the market for a washer).

The salesman recommended 3000 to 5000 cu to me for regular household chores. Including the deck. So 1700psi should be quite adequate.
posted by Cedric at 10:19 AM on August 2, 2004

I have one of the little 1200psi ones. It's just fine for cleaning the deck, cleaning the vinyl siding, ripping out chunks of weakened concrete, destroying the finish off the asphalt, and peeling paint off my car. Oops.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:30 AM on August 2, 2004

Response by poster: Cool beans. Thanks, all! HoTTT power washing action to commence!
posted by adampsyche at 10:35 AM on August 2, 2004

Power washers are awesome, and perfect for cleaning a deck. The one other thing to be careful about with them, though, is that you can force water into various materials--either into the wood fiber, or into the brick/stucco face, etc.--and that's usually not good for them. Once it looks clean, it's clean...just don't get carried away, and you'll be fine.
posted by LairBob at 10:39 AM on August 2, 2004

One bif of advice: try to get a nozzle/hose long enough for your height. There is nothing more obnoxious having your connections end up a foot short of your height so you have to lean over for ten hours while power washing. Does wonder for the back!
Watch out for brick, though. I dunno if we have weak brick or something, but my dad's powerwasher sent small chunks of brick flying off everywhere when I tried to powerwash it. Not fun!
(Yea, the nozzle usually doesn't need to be right on the surface, but our driveway gets mightly dirty and you have to)
posted by jmd82 at 11:35 AM on August 2, 2004

Read instructions THROUGHLY and make damn sure you know what you are doing before powerwashing your automobile.

Two days ago I heard a horror story about this at Home Depot. Yikes!
posted by anathema at 5:52 PM on August 2, 2004

You do want to be careful with the decks, especially the walking surfaces. Raised grain from power-washing can create oodles of nasty splinters for bare feet to find, and you'll have to power-sand the whole thing to undo the damage.

You also want to be careful with your siding. Power washing vinyl siding with an "up" angle forces moisture beneath the siding. If the stream is powerful enough, it can rip apart the moisture barrier (house wrap) underneath the siding, or expose other weaknesses of your siding's installation. (I've been told that 9 of 10 siding installations would fail the manufacturer's inspection in one way or another.) At minimum you're putting water behind the siding that will take a long time to dry, and might encourage mold.

Ultimately the main thing you need to do to rehab your deck is the deck wash (oxalic acid), which will bring back a nice color, and a proper stain (solids last longer, but few semi-transparent stains last more than a year). Remember that the worst enemy of your deck isn't water (the wood was pressure-treated), or dirt, it's ultraviolet rays which leach the color and turn it gray. You can't "wash" that out -- you need to chemically bleach it.
posted by dhartung at 10:32 PM on August 2, 2004

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