Intro and Flummoxed

Good Afternoon!

For some time I have known of the PWRA, but have not had a need to explore. Until now. Once some invoices are paid I’ll be joining - I belong the the WCRA and regard as among the best purchases I have made since starting my business.

For starters, I have a window cleaning company that I started about 18 months ago. It’s going pretty well, business is improving and I am getting more and more efficient. It’s big fun!

Last summer I cleaned the windows on an apartment complex and some office buildings for a property management company. After I finished the work they asked me if I do pressure washing, in specific cleaning siding, and though I have no knowledge of how to do this, or equipment, I said of course!

They gave me the job and I cleaned a complex of five two story buildings, about 3000 sq ft each. I cleaned these with a five gallon bucket of Jomax and outdoor bleach mix with my waterfed pole and Unger pad holder and thick microfiber pad. I am sure I underpriced these a bit, but I don’t think I did too bad. My hourly ended up being about $60/hr, so no complaints. I am pretty good with pole work - says the window cleaner! While the work was slow, the buildings looked superb and afterward they told me they have nineteen properties that need cleaning - some windows, some siding, most need gutter whitening. The PM company contacted me last week and I got the green light for four of these properties.

Well. Talk about biting off more than I can chew. The amount of work is not at all intimidating, it’s that after being slow for some time, my bank account is way slim - so the ability to buy a pressure washer, or even rent one poses a challenge at this time because of other purchases that will be needed to transport (I currently use a Jeep Cherokee) - i.e. hitch assembly renting or buying a small trailer, etc. What is intimidating is just figuring out how to do this until these purchases can be made.

Now, I am going to buy an appropriate system for commercial work once a few of the jobs are finished. I have been doing some pretty intense research along with a lot of thought to the level of involvement in pressure washing I want as part of my business. I see tremendous opportunity here, so I would like to have the capability to do larger and more extensive work. It is a perfect add-on to window cleaning, as this I have seen from many of my colleagues at the WCRA.

So, sorry for the lengthy discourse, but I wanted to both introduce myself a bit, and also give some information on my dilemma, so I can ask a few questions.

The first question is: (and I know this must sound like a person with a bottle of windex and paper towels asking how to clean the outsides of those third floor windows) How exactly would you go about cleaning these structures without a pressure washer - more specifically, what solution?

How I am thinking about this is with my water fed pole and a backpack sprayer. I have 32’ of pole with a fan jet attachment that will get my solution to all the dormers of every job I have coming up. I can attach a brush to agitate and then rinse with a garden hose. This I think will work, and be quicker than lowering the pad into the bucket for every bit of wash I want to apply. I read that the ratio from downstreaming the solution to what hits the wall is about 10:1 ratio of water to mix. Achieving this on a five gallon basis where I will be using this straight would have me mix my solution at a mix of about 60 ounces of 12% for every five gallons, plus five ounces of Elemonator, and the addition of Gutter Zap, or nothing at all. Is my math anywhere close? or will this dilution dry the vinyl to a crumble?

Is 12% and Elemonator the appropriate solution?

I don’t know. I just know that I am getting into pressure washing/soft washing long before I am really prepared, so I will become a nuisance to all y’all before long, I am sure! The same thing happened in window cleaning. My second job was a fitness center that was about 150,000 sq ft of glass. I ended up getting a ton of business from that account, so maybe this will be the springboard for a lucrative addition to my existing business.

Thanks for you consideration.

Shemsuddin Millard

Go rent a pressure washer unit at Sunbelt Rentals to hold you over til you get paid and reinvest what you make from the job into the equipment that you need. It may cost like $400 to rent one for a week, but it is better than passing up on the job and losing the other future units.

Thanks, Christopher. I may well do this, still crunching numbers to see about hitch, trailer, hoses, telescoping wands, and chemicals plus rental fees. The problem is 30 day net. I can do some window cleaning jobs in between to keep bills paid, but a month’s worth of rentals will use up that money pretty quickly. I do believe I will have to go the slow route until checks start coming in. I won’t lose the work - just will take twice as long. It seems that the learning curve with a pressure washer will have me working at a slower pace until I become facile with the system. The PM knows the method I employed at the first property, so I don’t think she has a problem with how I go about doing the job.

Can’t send PM’s yet, Chris. I am in Asheville, I can star anytime - I have a window job tomorrow.

I would not attempt this job without the proper knowledge and equipment. You would be doing this industry a disservice. Call in a professional and watch and learn. Ask for a finders fee. Above all read these forums over and over and take notes. Good luck to you.


There is much in me that agrees with your point of view. There is another part, though, that looks at this as the job that finally puts my business on solid footing - not only financially, but also the acquiring of skills, knowledge, and equipment to pursue and execute future work with no impediments.

The method I will most likely have to use is not ideal, granted. But I also do my homework to make sure I don’t do damage, nor do I want to look like some schmoe that has no clue and is merely padding my government assistance with some under the table work. I do take to task one thing - I am a professional, and am seeking guidance from professionals. This is a new venture, yes, and I agree I am underprepared - but I am sensitive to not only making myself looking like a schlub - but all of you, as well.

Commercial work = 1/3 upfront. Call local paint stores they may have a pw’er to rent cheap, get the right tips and a downstreamer, (the place you rent from will not have what you need).

By telling the customer you offer pressure washing and then showing up with a wfp, backpack sprayer and a garden hose does not reflect the way I wash siding. It would be like me telling a customer that I offer window cleaning and showing up with a bottle of windex and a roll of paper towels. The point I was trying to make was there is nothing wrong with referring this job to someone who has the experience and proper equipment. When I am asked about window cleaning I refer that work to a local window cleaning co. I have no knowledge of it nor the equipment. I certainly appreciate you not wanting to lose the work but a man has to know his limitations. Be careful putting SH in a backpack sprayer. If a leak occurs you could burn yourself. I am not trying to ruffle your feathers or question your professionalism. I wish you the best of luck.

Backpack sprayer with bleach, not a good idea. You will be so much faster with a PWer that it’s worth getting one. Good luck.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD

Wish you were closer, I am supposed to have my equipment in the next 2 weeks, would drive up there and help you out so that you could get rolling with some equipment of your own.

Thanks everyone. All good points. Brian - no sweat - I get it. When I did the first property it actually worked to my favor because the previous pressure washing company put holes in the siding - lots of them. So, when I started cleaning with an applicator on a pole they were very pleased.

Showing up without a pressure washer is pretty lame. I didn’t offer characterize the new work as pressure washing, I said I was going to clean the siding, which is in fact true and not alluding to a method I don’t possess. Still, I appreciate what you are saying.

I appreciate the offer and the kindness, Chris. You’re not that far, maybe we’ll cross paths or I will get a lead you can service!

Still below the threshold to reply to PM’s. Thanks for the posts, and glad to be here with all of you. I will be bending many ears for the foreseeable future!

I will give you 10% finders fee and clean these buildings in a half day. I doubt you quoted them close to what I would charge so maybe not. I would never try to do this without even having a descent pressure washer. You may think that this could put your company on the map but it can also knock you clear off the map if you screw something up or cannot complete it. Do you have insurance for this kind of work? If not you can will be screwed if you damage something and that can be as easy as using to strong of a solution or any number of things. Think of how many people will see you washing like this and think to themselves “there’s no way in hell I’m calling this guy to clean my property”. Also on thing you should always remember, a happy customer will tell 1-2 people on average about your service and an unhappy customer will tell on average up to 10 people about how bad you are. That comes from an actual study that I read not too long ago and I think about it on every job I do. Good luck with whatever you decide. I have had a couple of situations that I thought I was getting myself in over my head with commercial work but I always had the professional equipment to get it done and did my research and had one of the smartest and most successful PW’er around here that I could call anytime I needed help. There’s nothing wrong with being up to the challenge but sometimes you have to be realistic about it and make sure you are giving a PROFESSIONAL service and not just rigging up some stuff to barely get something done.


Thank you for taking the time to write. Your experience and professionalism are no doubt why you have the business that you do, and your willingness to call on those a few steps ahead of the dance further equips you to maintain and grow your enterprise.

I have been thinking about this message since you posted it this morning. There is something that I needed to really investigate for myself, and that is - in my field of expertise, would I do the job with lesser equipment? I already did. Now, the difference between window cleaning equipment and pressure washing is apples and oranges, yes, but the purest difference between cleaning siding with an applicator as opposed to a pressure washer with a downstream injector is efficiency. All things being equal, this is about it. If the solution is correct, care taken to guard against spills, and breakable or easily damaged items are stowed indoors or away from solution or moisture, then the main thing that a pressure washer has is efficiency.

When I started window cleaning, I had a couple of sgueegees, two mops and a t-bar, a 12 foot articulating ladder, a buck, a belt and towels. As time has passed I now have a water fed pole rig, extension ladders and a larger articulating ladder, better hand tools, and a full complement of safety equipment for when I have to be on ladders or over open spaces.

The very same could be said about doing windows that are 35’ up on a slope of loose soil going away from the structure. So many things can go wrong - not only to the structure, but the risk of injury is sky high if the wrong method is used. Would I do it with my beginning array of tools? Yes. Yes I would. Would the job take me four times as long to do well and safely? Yes, yes it would. The puzzle is a significant part of being in business and everything is a puzzle in the beginning. A year from now would I clean siding using a pole with a fan jet and a brush attached? Hells no. But can I use this method now and get the job done with damaging property and achieving great results? Yes, yes it can. I might even have some know of how to approach a situation for which a pressure washer is not the best choice - a pole with a fan jet may be an immanently safe and sane approach to something I encounter down the road- you never know. and it will already be in my arsenal of tools at my disposal.

I don’t want to come across as snyde or disrespectful. Rather, I have been in business for myself for seventeen years. I have a keen sense of image, comportment, follow through, and a work ethic to stay with something until it is done and done right.

I changed insurance carriers two weeks ago to make sure I am covered - care, custody, and control, baby. Also, $50.00 per unit on a seventy unit complex, seven buildings each about 6000 sq ft, not including breezeways which will be done with pure water and a brush - very low water output to minimize water and eliminate fumes from collecting in the walkways. Pure water is a premium solvent for this use. The breezeways I can knock out in less than an hour for each building like this.

Yes, I am cobbling together a solution, and yes I am choosing to do this and not farm it out. I have been working with this property management company for the better part of a year, this is going to give my business footing so it just seems like I am shooting myself in the foot if I don’t perform this work. Each step will get better, more efficient, etc. In a short time I will have the equipment that will lead me to say that I would never do a job without my rig. Knowing that at one time, I already did.

So this gets back to my original question. About 50 ounces of 12% for every five gallons of water seems to be the right ratio for applying straight mix - does this seems right? or too hot? or will I be scrubbing until March?

Wow this is just plain delusional, why even post if you’re just going to disregard every piece of advice. Btw a car is more efficient than a bicycle, which do you want to use to travel 100 miles?

Save the gutter zap for the gutters. Elemonator will help your solution penetrate, give it some “hang time” and also help you use less bleach. You’ll want to start out with about a .5% bleach solution for your vinyl and do some testing. Go up if you need to. A 1% solution is about as high as you should ever need on any vinyl. Call me if you need to. I’ll walk you through it. You’re gonna remember this job for a very looooong time. I just hope it’s not because you get hurt doing it.

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Thank you, Jason. I will call if needed - much appreciated.

Dan - my apologies for getting your name wrong. I don’t have editing features yet on this forum.

And John, if I screw this up, you can say I told you so to me and everyone else and your assessment of me being delusional will be correct. If I don’t, then you can give the next person trying to solve a problem through unconventional means the benefit of the doubt. Though, your assessment of me being delusional will still be correct, for the Lord only knows how cracked I am.

I think that if you can do it the way you did it in the past and they are happy with the quality and you make a profit off the deal, it doesnt matter what anyone else thinks.

This will give you an opportunity to grow and purchase more equipment so you can do it faster next time and be more profitable in the future.

Not everyone has the means to go out and buy the latest and greatest epuipment just because someone else says bite the bullet and buy it now.

Do what you need to do to get the job done and grow your business at a rate that makes sense for your circumstances. Everyone has an opionion and may do it a different way, but you need to do what works for you short term and long term to grow your business to the level you want it to be and to provide the level of quality services that you want to provide.

I understand exactly how you feel about wanting to tackle this job and some people way risk vs reward differently than I do. As far as your comment about a pressure washer just being more efficient. Efficiency is the key part to every job along with quality. It doesn’t matter how much you get paid to do something if it takes so long to do it that you end up making minimum wage. Good luck on the job though. I really hope it works out well for you.

I totally agree about efficiency being part of the equation. If this was April, and had glass out the wazoo to clean, then I would be looking at this much differently. As it is, I am in my slow season, too slow to be able to make large purchases right now with marketing plans and their costs coming up in a couple of weeks.

I have started on this, and the buildings are coming out really nice. But it is s l o w work. You can be assured that after a couple of these complexes I will be ordering a pressure washer with all the trimmings needed for soft washing.

I am learning a lot, though. My dad is a cabinetmaker, and when he was teaching me how to make things he always had me try at first to make it by hand, with this rejoinder: Learn how to use and make things by hand, then you will know what the tool is for and how to use it well.

Kind of old school, but I like it.