Outdoor Decks: The Pressure's On

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ June 1, 2010

You've survived your first outdoor barbecue over the Memorial Day weekend. But now your wooden deck is sticky and smells of basting sauce. If you haven't cleaned your deck from last year, now's a good time to get it ready for the upcoming battles with chlorine drips from wet bathing suits, chicken and rib sauce, spilled wine, and residue from bird over-flights.

More than ever, I'm finding advice from other bloggers that even if you have a so-called "low maintenance" deck installed, you just might need to call in the heavy hitter--a pressure washer. If you do, be sure to check with your rental company for all the details in running one on your deck. Using excessive pressure can permanently damage your deck.

Choosing Your Pressure Washer

I'd hate to recommend anything more powerful than a spray of 1,200 psi, and I certainly don't believe you need to spend money on special detergent sprays. A mild house detergent is strong enough. Of course, this depends on the kind of wood used to build your deck. A 1,500 psi spray can gouge channels in the deck.

The nozzle remains the most important component when it comes to selecting a safe system for the deck itself. The wider the nozzle, the softer the spray. Each nozzle is measured by the size of degree, with 0 being the strongest and least appropriate size for the deck. Adjustable spray nozzles that go up to 60 degrees or more may be a good choice for you. (Most people recommend 40-60 degrees.)

Adjustable nozzles work just like nozzles on your garden hose, cranking down to a powerful narrow spray or a safe, wide fan. Quick-connect nozzles have a set spray size (fan width). Low pressures are set for applying soap. If you can, I'd recommend nozzles that have adjustments for pressure and flow and choose the widest setting for your first deck cleaning project.

You can also hire a professional contractor to clean your deck, especially if you want to include a new stain. Depending on where you live and the size of your deck, you might get a total estimate for a pressure wash and stain for around $300. You can save money by refinishing your deck on your own.

If you're looking to buy a pressure washer, Readers Digest has a review of the two major types, electric or gas powered. Proceed carefully when choosing and speak with experts from dealerships or deck-care companies.

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