Getting a Foot in the Door

Hello everyone!

I’ve been browsing this forum for quite some time but still have tons of threads to go through. I saw a post by Racer that convinced me to join the community.

I want to start a legitimate pressure washing business small scale so I can do on the side after work. I’m not really interested in house cleaning or soft wash at the moment. I am more into surface cleaning for residential and commercial. I have a couple questions I want to get answered that are broad but also some that are very specific.

I read the guidelines so I understand those and I am very respectful person… I am just lost on the etiquette for this particular group. Should I bombard this post with all of my questions or one at a time in several posts?


I guess I can start off with a general question about startup equipment. Starting with surface cleaning, I had been looking at either buying a prebuilt machine or building, comissioning my own. I like the idea of of having a skid plate in the back of my pickup truck where I can switch out different parts or even take the whole kit out if needed. I plan on using a wand and surface cleaner combo but custom kits seem so expensive compared to prebuilt machines with similar specs available at big box stores.

My first question is should I worry about buying a machine outright or just buy an engine and water pump so I don’t put money into two things?

Welcome! Where are you from?

San Diego, California.

I guess I should have introduced myself first… Haha

Thanks for asking about group etiquette. It’s a good question :+1:t2:

Try itemizing the top 3 or 4 questions in one post. Let the discussion progress a bit and see where it goes. Then if you’ve got more questions, you can post them to the same thread, or if they’re a complete break from the original topic, maybe start a new thread.

And as always, start by using the search feature. Even if your question isn’t answered directly, it will give you the foundation for asking an informed question.


Welcome!! I live in Houston, Tx. Same thing for me I want to start with Driveways, Side Walks.

Thank you, nice to meet you.

I’ll do my best and just edit the OP.

There shouldn’t be any machine you’re looking at that has the same specs that a big box store carries. If you’re mainly going to focus with flat work you’ll want at least 5.5 gpm and 3500 psi but 8 gpm/3500 psi is even better. If you’re only looking at getting a 4 gpm I would recommend starting off with residential house washes and driveways. It’s just too small for large commercial flat work jobs. You really want to have hot water for commercial flat work anyways. Some places, especially restaurants have some pretty greasy concrete. Gum can also take a lot longer with cold water. Most of us actually make the most money by doing house washes. There are a lot more houses out there than anything else.

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Thanks for the response! I am interested in a hot water units when I advance because my end goal is contracts with restaurants, but mostly sanitizing underground parking garages in the inner city. But… A hot water unit looks pricey and is beyond my comprehension at the moment. Should I just start off with a more economic engine and pump? I know I can find a more powerful honda + general combo for as much as the highest pressure washer at any hardware store.

I’m so dizzy from reading specs that it becomes a puzzle. A $900 machine at home depot claims the same specs as a $900 cat pump. It’s so confusing.

You’re wanting gpm not psi. Look for at least a 4 gpm but stick to residential. At least that’s what i think you should do if you don’t have the money for better equipment. Stay out of the big box stores.

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Advice taken.

I am most likely going to start off with strictly concrete and driveways anyhow. Any advice on what to look for if I build my own skid for a truck? Is the engine specific to the pump that I choose?

It’s going to be a tough gig just doing concrete as a business. Especially by yourself when massive lots are involved. House washing is the easiest money you’ll ever make. What attracts you to concrete cleaning?

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I plan on hiring for large contracts. The square footage in most of these garages is breathtaking and I have worked in a majority of these places as a grocery worker for 15 years.

I think what attracts me to conrete cleaning is that it seems uniform and controllable, even with all the dips and angles. I understand that the downside of cleaning underground parking includes homeless, urine, and reclamation tanks, but it is still preferable over fussing over different textures and building material.

Just for reference I guess. I don’t fully understand the specs yet.

Sounds to me like your intimidated by the thought of spraying bleach on houses. Concrete work has its problems as well. In regards to the machine you would go straight to a v twin for efficient day in day out concrete cleaning, it’s inevitable that you will upgrade down the line if you buy a small machine. Think ahead of time.


Damn. You called out my insecurity. It’s true, but I still prefer concrete cleaning because of its form. I am thinking of a cat pump and a honda. Can I delay that upgrade by starting this with, let’s say, a cat pump and honda engine?


You sure can, it will just take longer to clean and rinse. You’ll make more money with a bigger machine, less time on site, more jobs scheduled, more turnover within a year equates to more profit for beers and toys

You realize you won’t be able to tackle parking garages with that machine? I mean I guess you could but most places want you in and out. It’ll take you months with that machine.

I think you just need to slow down. If anything over 4 gpm is too expensive and you want to do commercial work right off the bat, you are going to regret not being patient. I have 2 options that I think you should be doing.

  1. Get a 4 gpm and do house washes and save your money so you can upgrade to an 8 gpm setup for commercial concrete.


  1. Hold off on buying equipment for a year, get a different job where you can save money to buy an 8 gpm machine and better equipment. You will hate yourself working with a 4 gpm on flat work in commercial.

I agree. He messaged me last night because he hit his ten post limit for the day. He said his equipment budget is flexible so what would I suggest for a startup kit to avoid the upgrade later?

This is what I told him.

"If you plan on doing parking garages an 8 gpm is almost a necessity. Too be honest hot water really is too due to all of the oil stains where cars parked and gum that people throw on the ground. A bigger machine requires a buffer tank. You can’t just expect to throw a small machine in the back of your truck and go clean parking garages. There are specialty companies that travel the country doing them for like 3 to 4 cents a square foot. They have ride on pressure washers and like 4 other 10 gpm machines working at the same time.

There’s another member on here from San Diego. He’ll be able to tell you if you’d even be able to land any parking garages. I’ll tag him in your thread tomorrow so you can see what he says. You’ll definitely need a 2 million dollar insurance policy for commercial work. A lot of commercial places won’t even let you turn in a bid without first providing your certificate of insurance. You can get by with a 1 million dollar policy for residential.

I really think your best bet is to start with residential until you can upgrade to a trailer with hot water, buffer tank, hose reels with 200 feet of hose, etc. It’s just not going to work doing commercial work and pulling your machine out of the back of your truck. You can get by with it a little more for residential but still doesn’t look professional. I know all of this isn’t what you want to hear but I say it because I want to see you succeed."

Hey @Powerjet. What do you think of him starting with a 4 gpm in San Diego and doing solely commercial flat work like parking garages. Think he’ll stay busy or be able to complete the work?

Another thing to add about moving to a larger machine which you need for parking garages is you’ll then need a good size truck or trailer. I would estimate to get setup for parking garages you’re looking at around $15k for equipment and that doesn’t include the truck. That’s why people are recommending to start with house washing.