Any task is always made easier with the right tools. At Commercial Restorations exterior building cleaning and house is no different. The right equipment can make the job easier and less time consuming.
Pressure Washer – Most contractors opt for a gas-powered portable pressure washer, cold water, rated at least 4 GPM. Hot water speeds the job up, and can be a worthwhile upgrade. If you go for hot water, limit yourself to 5-6 GPM, as this can be used with a typical hose connection to city water and no large tank is required.
Wands – The wands used with a washer can be very important. Having different length wands can make easy work out of hard to reach places. A short wand is excellent for washing small, closed in spaces. A long wand helps in reducing splashing in difficult areas like the underside of an upper level deck. A dual lance wand can apply chemicals at low pressure and rinse at the same or slightly higher pressure without changing wands or tips. A dual lance wand applies to house washing in that you can use this type of wand to regulate pressure as needed as you move from siding to brick, etc.
Telescoping Wands – Typical telescoping wands telescope from 6’ long to either 18’ or 24’ long, allowing you to reach areas like gable ends without trouble. They are used to apply power-washing agitation to hard-to-reach surfaces. These tools have a wide range in features and cost, from as low as $100 to as high as $500. The lower priced units are generally made of fiberglass and weigh up to 70 pounds or so. The more expensive models are made from aluminum and weigh as little as 17 pounds. Lower priced telescoping wands use plastic twist couplers to hold the wand in the extended position. Without careful handling, these twist couplers can strip out. Higher-end units use cam-lock fittings to hold the wand in an extended position.
The weight factor is very important with a tool like this. Often, contractors use belts to help support the weight of the wand with their hips rather than hold the tool all day with their arms alone.
Telescoping wands are a form of “direct” pressure washing, meaning that you will be washing with pressure on every square inch of surface. Using a tool like this is much less efficient than using soft wash tools like an X-Jet. Washing a house with a telescoping wand usually takes at least twice as much time as soft-washing a house. Nevertheless, a telescoping wand is a useful tool that every contractor whould have in his arsenal.
Tips – There are two factors to consider when selecting the proper tip: the orifice size and the spray angle. The orifice size determines the quantity of water and the pressure you will use. The spray angle determines the pattern of the spray.
Tip sizes are shown two ways. The first is a 4 or 5 digit number. In this method, the first two numbers indicate the angle of spray and the next 2 or 3 numbers indicate the orifice size. A 2505 is a 25º tip with a #5 (or #05) orifice. The other way that tip sizes are identified is by color-coding and by orifice size.
- Red (0°) – The most powerful, not recommended for any house washing.
- Yellow (15°) – Used mostly on masonry.
- Green (25°) – The most commonly used, and is excellent on most surfaces including houses.
- White (40°) – Best used on wood surfaces.
- Black (Chemical Tip) – Mostly used on low pressure to apply chemicals.
These color-coded tips can be bought in various orifice sizes (such as #5, etc.).
To determine the orifice size, use the chart found on the next page. In that chart, you will find that if you have a 3000 PSI pressure washer that puts out 4 gallons per minute, you should use a 4.5 tip size.
Stepping up to a larger size reduces the pressure. Stepping down a size increases the pressure (and reduces the GPM). Never drop below the nozzle size recommended for your machine. This can be dangerous and can damage the machine.
This can all seem like higher math, but the chart makes it simple. Cut out a copy of the chart and pin it to a wall in your shop area. With a highlighter, mark the column under the pressure output of your machine. Now highlight the row with the GPM output of your machine. You will see the orifice size that you should use. A 3000 PSI machine that puts out 4 GPM should use a 4.5 orifice tip size. If you wanted a 25º tip for this 3000 PSI machine, you would buy a 25045 or a Green 4.5.
Surface Cleaners – Surface cleaners were originally designed with flatwork in mind, but several manufacturers have developed versions that are made to be used as wall washers. These are smaller, hand-held units that may have vacuum connections for capturing the used wash water.
Hoses – The best recommendation here is to use non-marking (non-black) hoses. It is helpful to have both 50 and 100-foot lengths. Remember the longer the pressure hose the lower the pressure output. You may lose as much as 30 PSI for every 100 feet of hose. Make sure you have enough GPM to operate, too. One way to test how much water flow you have at the job is to time the filling of a 5-gallon pail. If it takes less than a minute to fill the pail, you have more than 5 GPM available.
Ladders – Make sure your ladders are safe. Check weight ratings and OSHA approval stickers.
Fiberglass ladders are the strongest (and also the heaviest). Aluminum ladders are a risk because of overhead wires.
An assortment of styles and sizes is good to have. A 6 and 10-foot stepladder and 16 and 24-foot extension ladders are all you need for most jobs. Consider using lifts and harnesses as needed for higher areas and safety reasons.
Tarps – It seems you can never have too many of these either. An assortment of tarps is ideal, such as canvas, paper, and rolls of plastic for masking. Remember not to use plastic on plants and vegetation. Be sure that heavy tarps, when placed over landscape plants, have supports to avoid damaging the plants underneath (or breaking them).
Brushes – It is important to have a variety of different type and size brushes. You will need soft bristle brushes for more gentle cleaning like vinyl siding. You will want to have a nylon bristle brush for more aggressive cleaning like masonry. You can get different length handle brushes for different applications. You will also find brushes with threaded ends to fit different size poles and extension poles.
Sprayers and Chemical Applicators – There are many different types and models for chemical applications. Some are not appropriate in certain situations for safety reasons. What one is comfortable with is usually what works best. There are pump-up sprayers, powered sprayers (usually a piston or diaphragm type pump), injectors, etc. that can be used. Proper care and cleaning of this equipment will save you money in the long run. Nothing is more frustrating than a clogged or broken sprayer. When using chemical in a sprayer you should have one sprayer for one use and clearly marked. If you use squirt bottles these also need to be marked with their contents. This is an OSHA requirement.
X-Jet – This is an “external” injection system designed to deliver cleaners to surfaces up to 40’ away. It is referred to as external injection because no cleaner goes through any part of your equipment. Very popular for house washing, but only suitable when used with strong “touchless” style cleaners.
Shooter Tips – Designed to shoot a long stream. Ideal for use with your downstream injector.
Extension Cords – Be sure to have heavy duty extension cords to be able to run the equipment you are using.
Turbo Nozzles – The rotating nozzle gives cleaning impact like a zero degree spray nozzle, but the cleaning width of a fan spray nozzle. This accessory rotates a 0° jet stream in a circular pattern at thousands of RPMs, increasing effective cleaning power by up to 50%. It is a huge time saver and can be very effective in certain situations. These nozzles can cause damage and should be used with caution. Ideal applications include concrete, specifically around curbs and in conjunction with a surface cleaner. This is also an excellent nozzle to use on some masonry surfaces. This nozzle can be used for paint preparation on aluminum or vinyl siding, but a “safe” distance away from the surface is recommended. In this application the turbo nozzle merely cleans a larger area thus saving time. You do not want to use too much pressure to cause damage nor use too much water that may find its way behind the siding causing damage.
Additional Equipment – Job circumstances may require you to use additional equipment such as scaffolding or man-lifts for unusual jobs. It is normal to pass the cost of renting unusual equipment directly to the customer.
TYPICAL EQUIPMENT LIST
1) Pressure Washer
4) Pressure Washing Hoses
5) Garden Hoses
6) Ladders (Assorted)
7) Tarps (Assorted Types and Sizes)
9) Chemical Sprayer or Applicator
10) Telescoping Wand(s)
11) External injection tool (optional)
12) Buckets (1 gallon and 5 gallon)
13) Extension Cord
14) Gas Can
16) Safety Equipment (Glasses, Respirators, Gloves, Etc.)
17) Basic Tools (Hammer, Punches, Cordless Drill, Etc.)
18) Brooms and Leaf Blower
20) Yard Sign
21) Cleaning Products (Window Cleaner, Thinner, Mineral Spirits, Etc.)
22) Surface Cleaner