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ARTICLES OF INTEREST
On this page are articles published by some of our members.

The Art of Pressure Washing

 

Pressure washing may seem like something that's easily done to remove mildew and mold from your deck, patios and siding. However, many homeowners have found that there is quite a bit more involved than just renting a machine and blasting it off your property. Over the years it's become a skill that most homeowners have decided they don't have the time or patience to learn how to do it properly.

 

Since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) started banning the use of pressure treated wood due to chromated copper arsenate (CCA), most people have decided to seal their wood decks as the EPA suggests to prevent the arsenic from leaching into the soil. Most homeowners use local companies to pressure wash their decks and siding to save valuable time and the expense of rental equipment and some prefer to do the job themselves on a hot summer day. If you decide to hire a contractor to perform the work for you, there are a lot of important questions you need to ask before you should allow them to work on your home. First, make sure the company your hiring has the experience and the right equipment to perform the job properly, using more than 1,000 PSI or less than 4gpm can cause damage to wood. In Maryland, your also required to have a Maryland Home Improvement License (MHIC) for sealing decks or any repairs and it must be listed in all advertising and vehicles.

 

Make sure that any contractor you hire has a copy of this license and a long history of performing work in the area also; check them out with The Better Business Bureau. Another way to protect yourself is to use a company with certifications and affiliations in their industry like The Power Washers of North America. The PWNA is the recognized leader in developing and communicating the highest standards in ethical business practices, environmental awareness, and safety through continuing education and active representation of the membership. PWNA educated and trained contractors raise the level of professionalism and value to their customers.

 

Unfortunately, many homeowners have tried using an unlicensed or inexperienced contractor offering a lower price, in some cases this may end up with the job uncompleted or worse, done improperly causing thousands of dollars in damage. It will cost more time and money to find the right contractor for you but it could cost far more, to hire a company without the proper experience or to do the job yourself. For example, most people don't know that using household bleach to remove the mold and mildew from your deck will actually damage the woods lignin fibers. Or that too much pressure can also damage the woods surface and cause it to splinter or fur. To many companies have decided they could tackle it without the proper training and with most machines putting out an average of 3,000 PSI it can be dangerous to the operator and your property. Properly learning the techniques and training for cleaning wood takes time, training and a long-term investment, each deck or house is different and they all require special attention. First you have to find out if there is an existing sealer or stain on the deck and how to remove it properly. Very similar to painting, deck sealers and preservatives won't properly adhere to a wood surface that has an existing sealer on it. First this product must be removed from the deck using a stripping agent and you must take steps to ensure that the stripping agent will not harm the plants or siding on the home. Most deck stripping agents have a sodium hydroxide base that will remove the existing sealer or stain and then it can be washed off with a pressure washer using a maximum of 1,000 PSI. When using a pressure washer you must clean with the grain of the wood the entire length of the board. By varying your distance from the wood or not going with the grain you may cause marks and discoloration in the surface. If done carefully, this will leave you with a clean surface for the next step.

 

Now that you have used a deck stripper to remove the last sealer, the surface must be neutralized so the sealer will absorb and adhere to the wood. Wood and other surfaces can be neutralized using citric or oxalic acid to bring them to a neutral Ph level, Oxalic acid will also remove tannin or leaf stains and also those iron or rust stains from rusting furniture. Now your wood surface is ready to be sealed and there are many other options to consider. The various sealers can be confusing to some but it's important to use a product that has ultraviolet protection from the suns rays. Most sealers have some UV protection, various oils to moisturize the wood and mildew prevention to fight the growth of mildew and mold. The best UV protection can be found in sealers that contain a pigment or stain, almost all of these products form a film on the woods surface, that may wear off with foot traffic or pets, they are semi-transparent allowing the woods natural grain to show while adding a tint of color to the surface. They will also help blend the over all color of the wood if some of your lumber has a different shade than others. You can also use products with solid colors, which don't allow the natural wood grain to show through and in most cases they usually appear to be painted when completed. Then there are preservative-based deck sealers that will penetrate into the wood. These products come in clear and different stain colors and they tend to last the longer because they penetrate into the wood. This allows the oils in the sealer to penetrate into the wood, which keep the wood from dry rotting, cracking, and also blocks the suns UV rays. These preservative sealers will hold up twice as long as the surface film forming agents and they will extend the life of the wood.

 

If you decide to use a power washer on your home, we would be happy to tell you how to do the job safely and correctly or to find a reputable and experienced company.

 

HENRY'S HOUSEWORK
Henry Bockman
President, Henry's Housework Inc.
MHIC#65039 Licensed, bonded and insured.
www.Henryshousework.com
301.353.9287

The Art of Gutter Cleaning

Fall is approaching and it's time to clean the gutters on your home. Many homeowners do this project each year to properly maintain their homes. What you may not realize is that most gutter systems should be cleaned 3-4 times a year with each season. You may be wondering why should I clean out my gutters so often? The reason is each season trees go through various cycles that can clog up your gutters. In spring, most trees drop seedlings and dead twigs. Spring is also the best time to inspect your gutters for any damages that may have occurred during the winter snow. In summer, trees lose leaves from heavy storms and high winds. In early fall, you should remove leaves that have fallen early to keep your gutters flowing freely. At the end of fall or early winter, you want to make sure everything has been properly cleared from the gutter system to help prevent ice dams or buildup of ice in your gutters. The extra weight of frozen water in your gutters can easily cause them to pull away from the fascia and in many cases, fall off the house. Improper gutter maintenance will lead to clogged or damaged gutters and can cause thousands of dollars in damage to your homes foundation, exterior trim and basements.

 

To clean your gutters properly, rent a sturdy ladder and get your a neighbor to give you a hand. Ladders can be rented from most local rental centers for as little as $40.00 a day. When using ladders, make sure you stay away from power lines, trees and windows. It's a good idea to use a ladder stabilizer to make sure the ladder doesn't crush your gutters or slip while your doing the cleaning. Ladder stabilizers can be purchased at most hardware stores for about $30.00. Remember your safety is more important than clean gutters, so make sure you get someone to help you. Thousands of people die each year from falls and electrocution while working on ladders. If you have gutter screens or gutter guards, make sure that they aren't damaged or clogged with leaves and branches. They won't help protect the gutters if the water can't get into them properly and the water may just flow over them making them useless, even if the gutters are clean! Carefully lift the guards to avoid damaging them and remove any leaves or debris under them and then reinstall them properly. You should run water over them to make sure they are working properly. Check your downspouts to see if they have screens at the top and clear them as well. If necessary, use a hose to clear any heavily clogged downspouts and make sure you replace any damaged gutter or downspout screens. While cleaning your gutters, inspect them to make sure the fasteners are properly secured. This can usually be done with a hammer, or in some cases a screwdriver. You may find that over time, the spikes that hold the aluminum to the fascia board have loosened. Either drive the loose spikes back into place, or replace them with longer ones for improved support. When gutters are loose, the pitch is changed and the water will overflow at low areas. Since you have help from your neighbor, this is also the perfect time to inspect your roof for missing shingles, cracked vent pipe gaskets or bare nails. Make sure you return the favor and help him or her on their house when you're done.

 

If you have any questions about gutter maintenance, gutter guard systems or to hire a professional to clean the gutters on your home, contact Henry's Housework at 301-353-9287. For more information about gutter cleaning, guard systems or our other services, see our website at www.henryshousework.com. We also offer a newsletter through our website with maintenance tips, reminders and discounts on our services each month.

HENRY'S HOUSEWORK
Henry Bockman
President, Henry's Housework Inc.
Online at www.Henryshousework.com
Office 301.353.9287


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