Need Professional Opinions — Startup Pressure Washing

Hey everyone,

I’m starting up a new pressure washing business In the spring of 2022 in order to pay for grad school. Honestly, I’m really excited to jump into it, and have put in a few days research into it and I have lots of questions!

I am currently a college student living with my wife and son, so as you can imagine my budget is very limited— So I am looking to get started as “minimalist” as possible, but I also understand good equipment is worth the cost. Here is what I have planned so far, any input or advice would be appreciated:

I understand a 5 gallon per minute, 3000 psi honda GX390 (belt drive) is ideally what I’m looking for. I haven’t found any on sale in my area, but the ones I see online are typically in a bundle with around $2000, such as this one I found on Pressurewashersdirect.com

https://www.pressurewashersdirect.com/Pressure-Pro-EB4040HC-HTQBS-Pressure-Washer/p6715.html

Am I going to need to buy a water tank in order to use this? or can I hook it up to a customer’s water spicket and be fine?

As far as advertising goes, I was going to print out 1000 business cards for really cheap and start going door to door, i would also try FB marketplace and Craigslist once I had some before and after pictures. Until I’ve had a few clients and built some revenue, I was planning on just using water with no chemicals. I would service driveways, patios, gutters, and sides of houses (no roofs yet). For pricing, I wanted to have a $150 minimum or $0.20 per square foot, but I’m not sure what people charge for house cleaning or gutters. Any help with pricing??

When I do move on to chemicals, I don’t imagine using more than bleach for organics and oxalic acid for rust stains, and SH for roofs, did I get that right? And do I only spot clean for rust stains?

Any professional advice would be greatly appreciated. These are all the questions I have thus far, I am super excited to open this business next year, but the last thing I need is getting started on the wrong foot. I feel comfortable with an initial investment of $3000, but obviously anything cheaper would help if it’s possible. I know mistakes are a natural part of learning, but I want to minimize any HUGE avoidable mistakes. Thanks!

Well, a lot of us got started with a 4gpm/4000 psi so it’s not really necessary to hunt down a 5/3000 right away if you just plan to wash a few smaller houses. Belt drive is preferred as it pulls from a tank. I started with a direct drive but soon realized not everyone’s spigot put out over 4gpm so my machine would cavitate once in a while.

Get you a 4/4 belt drive that is easy to find, a small 35 gallon tank and various downstream fittings and go to town. Oh and insurance…which I can’t seem to nail down lately.

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You can’t properly clean only using water. Any algae, mildew, moss, etc will come back in no time. Not to mention the numerous other stains you might run in to. Be sure you do more research before moving forward. You’ll find out that chems are used on almost much every job.

You’re better off saving up a little more than starting a business on the cheap. It usually ends up costing you more in the long run.

Best of luck. You can learn everything you need to know on here so be sure to stick around and read, read, and read some more.

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Much success on your startup, all the advice you need is here. Just use that search feature at the top, it gives you a lot of knowledge. Just take time to read and retain, you’ll do fine.

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is a 35 gallon tank all the size I need to get started?

I would be weary of starting a business to fund your school. Starting a business has many costs you don’t think of and they can add up very quickly. I would recommend doing it as a side gig to your full time job until business is going well enough to quit your job.

And don’t be that guy who Pressure washes houses with high pressure. Learn a bit about down steaming bleach for cleaning houses

For a 4/4, yes. Plenty.

A couple of things you need to ask…have you ever pressure washed someone’s house before do you have insurance to cover mistakes and if your starting out you will make a few from maybe killing plants to messing up paint etc etc from using wrong or to strong of chemicals

If you haven’t ever pressure washed before maybe post a general location and see if anyone is willing to let you shadow them for a day or 2 to see if you really can and if you really want too washing can be very easy at times but also you can be in a situation where one wrong spray of the wand will cost you thousands …practice will always help but no one is perfect and no one will always know 100% how to clean or fix things

Your budget of 3k isn’t to bad yes you can get a decent 4x4 setup for around 2 to 2500 if you want pull or electric start and down streaming is always easy but it also depends what kind of houses you have in your area …are they mostly vinyl or are they stucco and brick which will take more then downstreaming to clean those surfaces

Now some people don’t always like the route on financing but it can be a great tool …you can get a decent belt drive 4x4 and a basic softwash setup for under 5k and from my experiences usually very low to 0 intrest rate and usually they give 1,2,3 year terms so 150 or so a month little safe then spending your whole 3 grand because you might need to go buy something from the store or something might break it happens …and spend some money in marketing …

It’s alot to think about and alot of knowledge is out there but make sure it’s what you really want to do and figure out when it’s 100 plus degrees with humidity in the summer you don’t want to do it anymore

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Currently my wife is working full time as a PTA, which helps a bunch. When you talk about down streaming, are you talking about softwash?

I have a couple of family members who are willing to let me practice on their house before I work on strangers’. If I understand correctly, the bare minimum I need is a water tank, pump, 4x4 belt drive machine, and a softwash machine? Or is it possible to start without the softwash and only work on concrete, fences, and gutters?

And this is for pressure washing, not softwashing, correct? wouldn’t that only give me less than 10 minutes of washing?

A regular house (2 story 1800 sqft) depending on your skill/ set up is gona take probably a hour to 2 hours of wash time …you don’t need a water tank unless your pulling more than 4 imo but everyone has diffrent opinions …if you have never pressure washed before go rent a machine and practice on your house first before anyone else’s…anything that you touch with a pressure washer can easily tear it up and thats what you don’t want…concrete will easily mark and break with high enough pressure and to long in the same spot and that could cost you a ■■■■ ton of money

Like I said call around a few local guys and ask to shadow say your new and you want to learn or rent a machine and practice on your house

Or go on youtube and watch a few videos for tips or just a basic how to guide personally I would stay away from a few guys who try to sell you anything through a program all of their info you can find online for free or just by asking questions on this forum …you will know who is selling a course within the first minute or 2 no hate respect the hustle but what they are charging for free info for a hour or 2 of searching Google should be a crime lol …or if you have any questions just send me a private message …some people on here like to bully and humiliate new guys

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It’s a buffer tank, not a “replace running water” tank…you only deplete it at whatever rate your machine outpaces the homes water supply (@4gpm, probably not often at all, but you’ll want it when you geta crappy water house.).

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Okay that makes sense, thank you! Do customers ever have a problem with us using hundreds of gallons of their water? Just curious in case it comes up.

You should discuss with customers that you’ll be using their water. At that point, they can ask you to use their well if one is available on property, use municipal water, or they can tell you about any low water pressure that they may be aware of. I’d recommend checking the water pressure/flow in-person if you can/if you do an on-site estimate. You may come across homes in mobile home parks that have no outside water spigots at all and you’ll have to consider bringing in your own water if you are still wanting to do the job.

For reference, the below house totaled 280 gallons worth of water that I used. I only know because I had to turn meter on and off when arriving and leaving the property. That’s with a 3.5 gpm machine. Housesiding, front porch, rear porch, rear deck. No driveway wash on this one - that would have consumed a lot of water itself.

How do you like your 3.5 GPM machine? what is the PSI? and I’m assuming you don’t need a buffer tank?

It’s been a great starter machine for me. I have a full time job so this just helps me to makeup some extra income that the full time doesn’t get me. I started with the idea of just wanting to wash 3-4 houses a month, but I’m coming to the end of my 3rd year of doing this and it’s grown to 3-4 houses a weekend typically. I’ve never used a larger or “professional” machine so I can’t compare it to what’s better out there, but for washing one and two story homes this has been great by my standards. The machine is labeled to put out 4K psi, but I’ll never use near that much pressure. I never got into this to get larger that just an one-man operation. With that stated, there are plenty of sole operators with much more advanced equipment than mine, allowing them to shoot further, rinse faster, tackle larger projects and more. But, for the customers I’m targeting I feel like I’m doing just fine.
Pros: initial cost, no buffer tank = no problem at 99% of my jobs, can downstream chems just fine through 150-ft of hose and up to 2.5 story homes as long as the winds are at bay without use of a ladder. Plenty of machine to clean house siding, decks, small patios, fences, and 2 car driveways.
Cons: limited on size of jobs I can take on, slower on concrete drives then I’d like to be, I have to be on trigger every 30 seconds or so since I didn’t set up for a buffer tank (which I can, but I haven’t deemed necessary yet).

***If the money is there or can be had easily then absolutely go for the better machines out there (or build your own). But, since most people are winding down for the season, consider making your purchase late winter and focus on learning more about customers you want to target, procedures to try and follow, various techniques you’ll want to try and implement into your business and of course save up the $ so that you can spend it when the time is right!

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Sounds like a pretty reliable machine! Would you suggest a 4 GPM for better concrete services? As far as wood goes, my greatest fear is destroying someone’s fence or deck area with too much PSI. I know the greatest thing I can do is practice with my own machine, but I have yet to buy one. Do have any tips to avoid this?

I bought the Honda engine and even though it’s the smaller-than-industry-standard GX270 it’s been reliable. Engine has been solid, pump has been great (one minor repair where garden hose connects to pump intake).

To limit the pressure to just what is needed to clean wood you would use a nozzle chart and purchase the correct nozzle for your application. If you were to walk into Lowe’s or Home Depot and look at the pressure washer accessories section you’d likely find just one white tip to purchase claiming it’ll fit a range of washers between PSI x and x. That’s true- it’ll absolutely fit, but it doesn’t mean it’s the right white tip for your particular job. If you have a Northern Tool in your area, check out their white tip selection and you’ll see many variations. Although they all connect to the wand the same, it’s the size of the tiny hole in the middle of the tip that changes. You’ll have to take into consideration things like your pressure washers gpm, overall pressure hose length and desired psi output to determine which tip is right for you. For simplicity’s sake your typical wood cleaning jobs (pressure treated pine deck boards or fence pickets) don’t really need more than 1,200 psi. If you use the “standard” white tip that is issued with your machine be warned that you’ll likely damage the wood boards and fur them/etch them. *Note - I’m no expert in wood cleaning so I’m open to criticism from more experienced cleaners for both my sake as well as for setting up the OP with correct information.
As far as concrete cleaning goes I’ve gathered that usually more gpm the better, with the exception of areas with poor drainage or where you can’t have runoff.

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Your machine could be rated for 8000psi but can rinse delicate flowers using the right nozzle tips.

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