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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have this problem when it comes time to quoting a price for pressure washing, be it decks or a whole house. My competition, will mix like a cup
of jomax and bleach into one of those big jug garden pump sprayers. And like spray this fine mist onto either a deck or the house. And then they pressure wash it off. Where as, I use 5 gallon buckets, pour a whole gallon of bleach into the bucket, fill the rest with water and using those scrubbing brooms like you see at a car wash to clean hubcaps with, and then dip into the bucket and scrub the side of a house like heck. I feel I am doing a superior job, but
these guys with their 'hot' tanks on the beds of their trucks and their 15' wand extensions, never even get off the ground and go up a ladder. And they are the ones making me look like a fool by beating my estimates by 50%.

Granted in hindsight, for a vinyl sided house - I now feel that their approach is probably the one that makes sense. But for wood sided houses and decks, I feel they just aren't doing quality work. You got to really saturate that wood with mildew/spore killing chemicals and clean it off well. Not to mention, my technique when applied to decks. I remove all the oxidized wood with the bleach and scrubbing. I never have to work the pressure washer hard into the wood, unlike my competition that seems to gouge out all the spring grain of the wood.

I also have another beef, and I am open to opinions on this. I see it mentioned everywhere that using bleach on decks can sometimes be very bad for the wood. And then these $20/gallon wood brighteners are marketed to subsitute for bleach. Now I can see whey these guys only want to use a cup of this stuff into a garden sprayer. But has anyone ever had the experience that bleach had negative effects on the wood?

-PlainPainter
 

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Using household bleach is not something I would consider even remotely connected to a quality job in my opinion. (If we are talking about wood siding or decks here)

Every family of tree produces a different set of circumstances where tanins are concerned. Using oxalic acid would be a good place to start instead of household bleach. Oxygenated and peroxide based bleaches and cleaning products are what a pro should be using on wood.

Also a pressure washer is required equipment as far as I am concerned, it doesn't have to be truck mounted, it could just be a portable unit. But scrubbing with a brush is something I would pay a neighborhood kid to do, not a professional.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I think I didn't convey how I do a job properly. like I said, I take a 5 gallon bucket, pour a gallon of clorox bleach and then fill the rest with water. With those brushes you put on the end of a pole - I dip into the bucket and apply onto the decks and scrub like heck. I then wait like 20-30 minutes and then pressure wash it off with my honda gas powered 2400psi pressure washer.

My gripe is 3-fold:

1.) Doesn't Clorox bleach kill everything? And why is it inferior to these acids for doing decks and the sides of a house. It's cleaned wood of all mold and oxidation for me.

2.) Is misting on a solution on the side of a house as good as me using a deck brush and dipping into a 5 gallon bucket of solution, and then scrubbing it on.

3.) I get my booty up a ladder to scrub these houses, these guys just stand on the ground with their 15' extension wands, mist a very fine solution. And then power wash it off.

I did one deck that was 5 years old, and never had been treated - it was very weathered grey. I filled my 5gallon bucket with a gallon of bleach and the rest water and then dipped my deck brush into it and then brushed the deck. This 5 gallon of solution was scrubbed over 250sq.ft. The oxidised wood just lifted with this action. I didn't even have to work the pressure washer very much, the action of removing the mildew and oxidized wood was done already. My competition will spray a fine mist at a rate of 1 pint per 250sq.ft instead of me scrubbing on 5 gallons, and then gouge the wood with the pressure washer.
 

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My 2 cents on the wood care.

Bleach as a cleaner doesn't really clean. It bleaches. It's O.K. for dealing with mildew and can be used if the surface is really infested with mildew but bleach is what paper companies use to break down the lignin of the wood to make pulp. Having said that I think that, using it in the proper concentrations and dwell times for a particular job is fine,but if the siding or deck has alot of grey dead fibers on it you really should be using a percarbonate based cleaner which will actually clean the wood and loosen the dead grey wood fibers so you can easily remove them using no more than 500 psi on your pressure washer. (drop the pressure using tips so you don't lose any GPM's and slow down the cleaning) The percarbs will also deal with the mildew very well.
It doesn't matter if you use bleach or percarbs, they are both highly base and need to be neutralized with a mild acid wash which will restore the natural color and really make your work stand out from the competition.
The Ph. of the surface will make a difference in the longevity of the finish.
But this process adds time and cost in products to the bid and makes it a bit harder to sell without explaining the pluses to the client. If you don't do this and stand out from your competition based in the knowledge of wood care it'll be a hard sell to a client that doesn't realize the difference and just goes by bid price.
How are you pricing your projects now by sq.ft., man/hrs., difficulty factors?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I will try to explore these percarbonate products. But now instead of buying a gallon of bleach for a buck, now I will be paying $20 - goodbye profits. About the bleach not cleaning up the grey fibers, When I mix a concentrate of 1 gallon of bleach to 4 gallons of water - and then use a deck brush to spread it on and scrub. The Dead fibers just lift right up! That's why I back off on the pressure washing - I only need to rinse, not actually remove wood. So why should I move over to a product that's going to cost me $20 to spread over 250sq.ft over one that only costs a couple of bucks? But that being said I will try the product - and keep an 'open' mind about it.
What products should I use to neutralize? I have never heard about that procedure. So far, I clean my decks like heck and use Muralo Lumberjacket deck/siding stain - and the decks last 2 years on the planks.

About how much I charge - that's really tough, I don't think I have gotten that down to a science yet. I can give you an example, My last deck of the summer was a deck with 2 stairways and was 8 feet above the ground and wrapped around two sides of a house. And it would be 50 feet long if you straightened it out and ten feet wide. With Approximately 80 feet of railing/spindles. I took a helper I was training - and it took either 4 or 5 hours {8-10 man hours} to pressure wash. Again - maybe the worker I was training was slowing me down. And Then a couple of days later we stained, and right now I like to tarp the deck and do the railings first. I don't like to be sloppy - so I hand brush out all the spindles and railings. Then when they were all done - with 3 foot handle extenstions we brushed out the gaps between the planks. And then finally rolled the deck and steps. It took 11 hours {22 man-hours}, again it seemed we were doing a good pace, this was a huge deck, but maybe my guy was really slowing down the process. And I haven't figured if I should maybe spray the railings and spindles, but at $25/gallon of stain - maybe material costs would exceed what my previous labor costs are. Anyways that being said I asked for $750 - and felt like I made very little money, and the customers felt like they were paying an absolute fortune. To add insult to injury - the wood was so dry, that it soaked in all the stain and looked mottled, so I said it needed a second coat to be really good - and the customers thought it should have been for free. Well we compromised and I got another $150 for materials and labor to cover all the steps, floor planks, the top railings - just the flat areas.

All in all it took 9 gallons of decking stain. They have 2 houses on the cape, one on the maine coast, and another in Hawaii - and I just got a negative balance notice in the mail. LOL.

So to recap

9 gallons $225
helper $200
profit $475
hours I worked 5+11+2 =18
my wage $26.39

$1.36/sq. foot, to power wash and first coat of stain.
$1.60/sq. foot, if you average in the second coat of stain on all flat parts.

I didn't lose money, but I don't think I did well as far as my company is concerned, $26.39 should be my wage. And there should have been a lot more for profits, reinvestment, equipment, taxes, insurance, etc. But god-forbid you tell these things to a client, they don't want to hear it.
 

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Another 2 cents.
If you measure the actual sq.ft. of surface that needs to be treated and the rail system is a typical spindle type and you figure in the fascia board and the uprights on an elevated deck and add a couple of steps and stringers in your actual sq.footage will probably be about 1100- 1400 sq.ft +/-.

I think that you HAVE to shoot for a minimum mn./hr. rate of $35/hr. Thats every mn/hr. You have to make money on your helps labor. So you should have billed about $1050. for the labor $225. for stain, cleaning solution, gas for your P/W etc...all those little things and time add up!! and don't forget the time spent getting the job and estimating and running materials and clean-up and disposal of trash etc. and added the materials + profit. The bid should have been closer to $1500. I think.

As far as the percarb cleaners and acids go you can mix your own if you buy the chems in bulk and bring the cost down to about $1.25/gal for the cleaner and about .65/gal for the acid. There are pluses and minuses to doing it this way.

How do you regulate the pressure on your washer when you work, you said you use a 2250 psi machine?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I totally agree with you about the bid price, I was having self doubts whether or not I am efficient at doing this. Efficiency is everything in this business.
But that being said, I am tight with money and usually take on jobs where profit margin is slim - just so I have cash flow, be it I end up making minimum wage or not. Another problem - that deck was totally worth the money you said. But I have noticed living in a rich community - these clients are total
A-holes. I have a better time with people who are more middle class. Rich people don't seem to be content until they got me working for slave wages. They thought this deck should have been done for $550! So right now, I am turning down more jobs, because I feel my dignity is at stake. But I am suffering financially for it as well.

I don't really regulate the pressure on the machine other than putting it closer to the wood when I want more cleaning or pull away. It is a 2200 or 2400 psi machine. More than enough, it gives out great volume.

-PlainPainter
 

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A slight change of subject but the pressure washer subject line is what I'm after.

I have been thinking of picking one up and wonder what is the minimum size I should look for. I would be using it in the spring for cleanups and such before refinishing decks. It seems like a handy tool to have. I don't want to clean houses just decks and possily some sidewalks, stone walks etc.
 

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MinConst
Go for GPM's instead of psi. For wood prep you should never use more than 500-600 psi on woods like cedar and 700-900 psi on treated. Minimum 3-3.5 GPM. If you have to go up in psi to get more GPM's you can drop the pressure without loseing GMP by using the right tip.
 

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PlainPainter said:
I totally agree with you about the bid price, I was having self doubts whether or not I am efficient at doing this. Efficiency is everything in this business.
But that being said, I am tight with money and usually take on jobs where profit margin is slim - just so I have cash flow, be it I end up making minimum wage or not. Another problem - that deck was totally worth the money you said. But I have noticed living in a rich community - these clients are total
A-holes. I have a better time with people who are more middle class. Rich people don't seem to be content until they got me working for slave wages. They thought this deck should have been done for $550! So right now, I am turning down more jobs, because I feel my dignity is at stake. But I am suffering financially for it as well.

I don't really regulate the pressure on the machine other than putting it closer to the wood when I want more cleaning or pull away. It is a 2200 or 2400 psi machine. More than enough, it gives out great volume.

-PlainPainter
PlainPainter I agree it can be a tough sell sometimes when you're trying to sell a quality job and the competition is $800. under your bid. BUT people will buy quality over price if they can be shown the difference in the results.
Regardless of the cleaner you use..bleach or percarbs, if you neutralize with an acid wash the visual difference in the color of the wood will make an immediate impression on the customer.

On woods like cedar I almost always detail most everything with defelting pads or Osbourn brush on a variable speed polisher/sander. It really doesn't take that long and the result is a deck that looks like new cedar before applying a stain. People are ALWAYS impressed with the look over their neighbor who had someone come in and blow the wood apart with too much pressure and just basically stain over the mess.
 

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MinConst said:
A slight change of subject but the pressure washer subject line is what I'm after. I have been thinking of picking one up
Mini- This info might be useful. I bought one earlier this year from Sam's Club. I wheeled it out of the store and this guy standing there turns and introduces himself. As it happens he's owned a commercial pressure washing company (restaurant kitchens, institutional kitchens, buildings, etc.) for twenty years and has some 75 pressure washers of various sizes. He was nice enough to spend the next 25 minutes asking about my needs and educating me about pressure washers. He even turned me on to a guy that does pump repairs and custom builds. The thing he emphasized most was the importance of buying a machine with a good pump that is readily serviced. He explained that Cat and General pumps are the two he's had the best service from. He also told me that the Karcher machine I had on my cart would not serve well and would be a nightmare to get parts for. I returned it on the spot and wound up buying one from Northern Tool and Equipment. It has given me great service.
 

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Dale and Pipeguy,
This is great information. I've been looking and have come up with a few models to look at further. Norther tool has a couple that are in the 3 GPM range but I don't see the pump as a Cat or General. I also found a Briggs and Straton with an Annovi Reverberi Triplex Plunger Pump. Meens nothing to me but figured I'd throw the name out to see yeas or nas.
Thanks for the help on this. I need to decide if the investment will be worth it.
 

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The one I bought is a 3.5 gpm / 4000 psi (variable to 0 psi) CAT pump model with a 13 hp Honda engine. That Honda is a great running engine and the pump has been problem free. PN 1578201-2503.
 

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Plainpainter - sorry, didn't understand that you pressure washed. It sounds to me like you are doing a lot right. The exception is using household or clorinate bleach instead of oxgenated bleaches and oxalic acid washes.

I see you are a new member at the deckcare forums. Do some sniffing around there and you will really learn a lot. That place is crawling with pros who do nothing but deck restorations.

Also if you want another good general source of information look at the California Redwood Associations site. Specifically their reference material here:

http://www.calredwood.org/ref/lit.htm

Go down the page till you find the publication called "How to Restore Redwood's Color" that is a really good primer for learning about wood, extractive bleeding, oxalic cleaners and oxgenated bleaches, how to analyze what a stain is on redwood. Of course it is about redwood, but it applies to cedar pretty much just the same.

You can go to the Western Red Cedar Association at http://www.wrcla.org and download there publication called "Guide to finishing Cedar" it has a section on cleaning cedar that is pretty close to the redwood associations recommendations for redwood.
 

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MinConst said:
Dale and Pipeguy,
This is great information. I've been looking and have come up with a few models to look at further. Norther tool has a couple that are in the 3 GPM range but I don't see the pump as a Cat or General. I also found a Briggs and Straton with an Annovi Reverberi Triplex Plunger Pump. Meens nothing to me but figured I'd throw the name out to see yeas or nas.
Thanks for the help on this. I need to decide if the investment will be worth it.
MinConst,
The Annovi Reverberi is commonly called an A/R pump. they are also common as far as parts go.
 

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PipeGuy said:
The one I bought is a 3.5 gpm / 4000 psi (variable to 0 psi) CAT pump model with a 13 hp Honda engine. That Honda is a great running engine and the pump has been problem free. PN 1578201-2503.
PipeGuy, The 3.5 gal/min. is o.k. but if you use the unloader to reduce pressure to say 500 psi for cedar what you're doing is recycling the water and loseing the GPM which is what really makes for the speed in cleaning or rinseing. You're much better off is you change tips to drop the pressure that way you get 500 psi at 3.5 gal/min instead of (just guessing here) 500 psi at 1.5 gal/min.
 

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Dale said:
You're much better off is you change tips to drop the pressure that way you get 500 psi at 3.5 gal/min.
Cool - what tip would I use? Also, any suggestions for pressure settings and tip application for cleaning earthmoving equipment (excavators, dozers, loaders, etc.) prior to servicing and for general upkeep of appearance?
Thank you for your input.
 

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PipeGuy said:
Cool - what tip would I use? Also, any suggestions for pressure settings and tip application for cleaning earthmoving equipment (excavators, dozers, loaders, etc.) prior to servicing and for general upkeep of appearance?
Thank you for your input.


PipeGuy check out this site. www.deckguide.com
Great people and topnotch info about all types of wood care.
Click the link for the nozzle chart and you can see what nozzle you need for various pressures.

For great pressurewashing info check out thegrimescene.com

I hope this info is o.k. to post.
 
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