Apex Unlimited.com: Blog Posts
When the weather warms up, the deck is often the first place the family turns to for relaxing, having friends and family over and of course, grilling out. It’s also the often the first place that you notice needs attention. It may be greyed out, mold and mildewed and in need of attention. Unlike the walls of your home and other areas, your deck is horizontal- directly exposed to the sun, rain, snow and sleet. Dirt, animal droppings and all sorts of other nasty things accumulate on it faster than almost any other exterior surface of your home. In addition, wood is a unique substance that requires correct care and know how to keep it looking good. Where do you start? Follow these suggestions to get your deck looking like new!
Closely follow all safety procedures outlined in your owners manual. NEVER point the pressure washer gun at anyone! Please keep all children away from the project you are about to clean- pressure washers are powerful tools than can cut into the skin as easily as they remove dirt from stubborn job. Wear all safety equipment outlined in your owner’s manual, including eye and hearing protection. As always Apex Unlimited, LLC does not assume any liability for the use of any pressure washers.
As with any project, first get a feel for your pressure washer, learning how it works and getting a feel for working with the force of pressure against you. It may seem like many of the instructions tell you not to do this or that when using your pressure washer, but knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what to do. Quite frankly, it can mean the difference between quickly and easily finish your project and a ruined, splintered deck or even a trip to the hospital. The power of pressure washers should be respected and used correctly. Always have both hands on the gun-its safer and you have much better control.
Before you begin pressure washing your deck, there are a few basic concepts about wood and deck care that will go a long way in helping you to do the job right. They are: deck cleaning chemicals, how much pressure to use and which sealant to use. We’ll cover them now...
Deck Cleaning Chemicals
Pressure alone should not be used to clean your deck. A good deck cleaner (or deck wash) can go a long way towards easier removal of mold, mildew and other problems. Many suggest using bleach (sodium hypochlorite) as a way to remove mold, mildew and dirt. This is not recommended. Why? While bleach does get rid of mold and mildew, it can cause much harm to the wood itself. It removes the woods natural color, the lignin (wood is made of tiny fibers (cellulose) and the natural glue that holds them together (lignin) and can leave your deck looking discolored, splintered and all around not presentable. Bleach also will not allow your deck to absorb the sealant you will apply after it has been cleaned and allowed to dry. Avoid using any deck cleaning chemicals that have bleach (sodium hypochlorite) in them.
How Much Pressure to Use When Cleaning Your Deck
With all the power your pressure washer generates, it may be tempting to use super high pressure to clean you deck. While opinions vary, it is not wise to exceed 1500 PSI when cleaning your deck. Some contractors, by experience, chemical and proper technique use as low as 500 PSI and get a perfectly clean deck as a result- that’s why there the professionals!
You likely have 4 different tips with you pressure washer. Each allows you to clean with a different angle spray pattern. They’re color coded:
Red: 0 Degree, Yellow: 15 Degree, Green: 25 Degree and White: 40 Degree
As you can probably guess, the Red tip should never be used on wood-it is a straight stream of water than can tear up some concrete surfaces, never mind softer wood. Many use the 25 degree tip or 40 tip when cleaning wood. In using any tip, a major way you can lessen the force exerted on the wood is by holding the tip of the pressure washer gun farther away from the surface of the deck.
Is there a tried and true technique for pressure washing a deck? There is but it takes practice. In fact, before you ever pressure wash your deck, practice on a few old board to get a feel for what your pressure washer can do. Here are some tips on technique:
Think constant motion when pressure washing your deck. If you stop in one place for even a moment, you’ll scar the wood. Some use a pendulum-type motion when pressure cleaning wood- move across the board perhaps cleaning 2-3’ width sections. When you get to the end of your movement, pull the tip of the pressure washer back from the surface of your deck in an arc.
Always clean WITH the grain of the wood. Do not clean across the grain of the wood.
Let your deck dry completely, and apply a quality sealant with UV sunblock protection according to manufacturer’s directions.
By following these steps, you’ll keep your deck looking great for years to come!