|Residential and Commercial Pressure-washing |
by Sterling Property Services
Many people have learned the hard way about the pitfalls of amateur pressure-washing. If you plan to hire a professional and want the best result, how can you find the right company for the job? Here are some suggestions.
Step One: Identify Prospects.
- Ask friends, family and neighbors for recommendations.
- Use Google to search for pressure-washing companies, then look at their reviews on Google Maps and visit their web site, if any.
- Check Angie's List, Yelp and Houzz.
Step Two: Telephone Interview
Describe the work you want done. Describe any access problems or other special issues, such as building height over two stories, a steep slope, or the need to provide the water to do the job, as this will automatically eliminate certain bidders.
Ask questions to learn about the business. Here are some possibilities, ranging from basic to technical. Choose the ones that work for you.
More questions and things to consider:
Monitor the work as it progresses to be certain you're happy with the results, but don’t get in the way!
- How long have you been in business? Experience counts.
- Do you have a web site when I can learn more about your company? Having a web site is a sign of openness, accountability and a business-like approach.
- What type of equipment do you use? Professional equipment can supply a force of 3-4,000 PSI (pounds per square inch). It will have an engine with 11-15 horsepower and water flow of 3-6 GPM (gallons per minute). These figures are sometimes combined into CU's (cleaning units), which is PSI x GPM. Professional equipment has a rating of at least 12,000 CU's. Listen for a clear, knowledgeable response.
- What pressure do you use? The answer should be the lowest pressure that will get the job done without causing damage, no more than 1,000 PSI.
- What chemicals or cleaners do you use? Are they biodegradable and environmentally safe? Could they harm the siding, pets, plants, etc.? If the answer is “bleach”, beware. Professionals don’t use bleach alone because it isn’t an effective cleaner and can cause injury or damage. They also will work in sections so the cleaner isn’t on the house too long. Listen for product knowledge and awareness of the potential for damage.
- Do you carry liability and workers’ compensation insurance ? If yes, get the name of their insurance agent and confirm the details if you hire them. If an uninsured worker is injured at your house, you could be liable. Sole proprietors with no employees are not required to carry this coverage.
- Who will be on the job doing the work? What training and experience do they have? This is important. It’s usually best not to hire trainees or temporary workers like students.
- Will you provide a written estimate with a detailed description of the work? Not all contractors, even some experienced ones, can provide written estimates, but it’s preferable.
- Can you provide references? If you have any concerns, call and verify them. Look for reviews on Google Maps, Houzz, Yelp, etc.
Step Three: Get the Estimates
More questions and things to consider:
- Is the estimator on time for the appointment? Is he business-like and well groomed? Is his vehicle clean and professional with signs? His approach and how careful he is with his own appearance and vehicle will tell you a lot about how he operates.
- Walk through the project and describe the work you want done in detail, with any special instructions, such as access issues, areas that need care like a trellis with a delicate plant or fragile ornaments
- How will you protect my plants? Covering them with plastic or a drop for more than a few minutes could damage or kill them. We rinse plants before, during and after washing.
- Does the basic estimate include the exterior of the gutters, the downspouts and foundation?
- Can you include an option for inspecting, cleaning and flushing the interior of the gutters and downspouts by hand?
- Can you wash my roof? Many companies, including ours, will not wash certain roofs for safety reasons and because of the potential for causing damage.
- Does your estimate including washing my windows? Basic pressure-washing does not include more than rinsing windows.
- Who will remove and replace large container plants and furniture? What do you want me to do before you arrive? If you’ll need help, be sure to say so.
- Are there any special procedures or cautions for cleaning your type of siding? For example, older cedar shakes can easily be damaged by too much pressure and using the wrong tip.
- Discuss everything you’re concerned about and agree on what steps the contractor will take to avoid problems.
- What are the realistic results to expect from washing my house? (See below.)
Step Four: Evaluate the Estimates
Each estimate should contain:
- The complete scope of work, including the areas to be washed, the preparation that will be done, the products to be used and the clean-up and replacement of furniture and other items that will be done after washing, if included.
- Total cost for labor, equipment and supplies, and when payment is due.
- How long the estimate is valid.
Once you have all the estimates, confirm that each bidder is using an identical scope of work. Then you can evaluate and rank them. Compare prices, but be aware that an unusually low bid likely represents the least professional result. Check references.
Now that you’ve found the right person for the job, you can relax. Wrong! There are a few things left for you to do.
- Arrange to be there when the work is done.
- Plan ahead for the best result by removing all small and/or delicate items from the work areas.
- Park your car (s) in the garage or down the street.
- Make certain all doors and windows are closed.
- Bring your animals inside or keep them well out of the way. Even with modern equipment, pressure-washing is noisy, and that can be very distressing to some pets.
It’s good to have realistic expectations about the results of pressure-washing and to be aware of some of the things that can occur, even when the work is done properly.
- Pressure-washing may dislodge loose paint or caulking, but if the paint or caulking is sound, it won’t.
- Sometimes spots might remain on the siding after it’s washed. They could be bug droppings that have baked into the surface, a common fungus known as artillery or shot gun fungus, or granules from the asphalt shingles that ran off the roof and caused permanent stains. Don't expect washing to remove them.
- Windows might have water spots, but no more than there would be there after a rainstorm.
- Black streaks might remain under the eaves or on some aluminum gutters. They are permanent stains caused by constant moisture or rainwater.
- Pressure-washing isn’t a substitute for repainting. After your home is cleaned, you may decide that it’s time to get painting estimates.