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New Guy and a Few Questions

Discussion in 'Power Washing' started by mikewhit1010, Jun 5, 2008.

  1. mikewhit1010

    mikewhit1010 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 394

    I have been searching this site and have gathered a lot of good info. There has not been a current thread on this and I am sure things have changed. Any suggestions would be great.

    I run a landscape business and have noticed there is a large market for this in my area. I have also noticed I can upsell it to a lot of my clients. I am not to afraid to spend a decent amount of money to get started but I know I dont want to spend more then 2K.

    As in lawn mowing a commercial grade piece of equipment is worth every penny. However we all got started and kept adding so what type of equipment would you get. I have a trailer and truck. So here are the questions.

    If you had $2000 to get started what would you buy. Knowing you have a trailer and truck.

    Do most of you hook up to the owners water? Do you all have tanks on trailers or do these commercial washers hook up to the water spouts too?
    When their are water restrictions does that mean you cant work? Where do you buy your chemicals?

    As you can see I am learning but still need to know more so I was planning on starting on Concrete walk ways, patios and drive ways for starters and then moving to one story homes then two story homes. Can you guys let me know what you think.
  2. Truly Beautiful Lawn Care

    Truly Beautiful Lawn Care LawnSite Member
    Messages: 141

    You are absolutely right, there is a big market for pressure washing. The biggest thing for an LCO, is that "trust" is established between the client and LCO.
    If I was only going to spend 2k on a pressure washer, not sure what I would buy! I shelled out 5k for my unit and never looked back. However, there are some good machines out there that can get the job done. Remember, its all about GPMS!
    I always use customers water. And they have no problem with it. I have a commercial washer and it has the standard water hook up.
    I use Simple Cherry. Good stuff! I stick with the Home Depot bleach. 5.25%. I stay away from the 12.5% Still working towards using that. There are several sites that deal with pressure washing and pressure washing only. Those guys and gals provide a wealth of free knowledge. Most of those sites, I have not joined. I just read and take notes. Here is where I got my unit... www.amazingmachinery.com Hope this helps!

  3. CCPC

    CCPC LawnSite Member
    Messages: 102

    This is a tough one. You see I'm a little torn with how I feel about other tradesman thinking that they can add professional pressure washing or roof cleaning services to there current operation/trade as a sideline.
    the first thing that you must know is that to take part in the pressure washing trade, be successful, and do it right, with quality and efficiency leading the way, you can't go in with the mentality of "I only want to invest $2000".
    To set up a professional rig, with all the things you will need to do the job right, and make it profitable, you are looking at a minimum of 4-8 grand, but to really get started right, more like 10-12 grand.
    Look at it this way, how successful would I be in the lawn care business if I went down to HD or Lowes and bought a push mower, cheap weed eater and blower, and set out to sell a lawn care service? You guessed it. Where I come from we call em inexperienced hacks and lowballers that do nothing more than damage a trade that other professionals have spent years to grow and nurture.
    I guess all I'm saying is, you don't want to go into another trade half cocked with a small budget, and little knowledge or experience. That would be a recipe for disaster.
    With all of that said, the most important investment you can make if you are dead set on getting in the exterior cleaning business, is to go to as many forums as you can that are specific to the pressure washing and roof cleaning trades and learn as much as you can from people that do this all day every day. Good luck.
  4. Truly Beautiful Lawn Care

    Truly Beautiful Lawn Care LawnSite Member
    Messages: 141

    Nice website Lance.
  5. mikewhit1010

    mikewhit1010 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 394

    Listen I am in the lawn business. This is true. However I am in this business because I am not a hack and I am not someone that low balls. So that being said I do not want to invest thousands and thousands of dollars upfront just like I didnt when I started my lawn business. In 12 months I have reinvested every dollar into equipment upgrading to the top of the line stuff. I am wanting to start low and move up. I am concerned with one big issue which is water ration in TX. This is why I dont want to invest 12K right off the bat.

    I appreciate nothing you said. This is supposed to be a site where you can gain help. Now if I cant get any help then what happens. Well I dont know what equipment to buy or how to bid or how to do a job which then increases the chances of me messing it up. However I have done a bit of power washing and I understand it. I understand the bidding side. I just was wondering about the busniess as a whole and the equipment.
  6. CCPC

    CCPC LawnSite Member
    Messages: 102

    I think you are misunderstanding my post and are taking in personal. the points I was trying to make is that it is going to be hard to get a foot hold in this business (just like in any business including lawn care), without the proper equipment or knowledge of the trade.
    Lawn care and exterior cleaning have nothing in common, and just because you may have had your hands on a pressure washer a few times in the past doesn't mean you are qualified to experiment on customers property.
    My reference to the small budget problem is that you simply can't buy all the things you will need to offer this kind of service with a $2000 budget. There's a reason that professionals in the exterior cleaning business have 12-16 ft trailer dedicated to the equipment necessities needed to do there job. The pressure washer its self is actually just another one of the many tools needed to do this right. Just some examples:
    Pressure washer belt drive 4gpm min., but to do it right at least 5.5gpm
    extensions ladders varies sizes
    step ladders varies sizes
    assorted nozzles, specialty nozzles, etc (not just the pretty colored ones that come with the pressure washer)
    chemical tanks, fuel tanks, mixing buckets, drill for mixing
    Surface cleaning machine
    extensions wands, back up guns
    high pressure hoses, low pressure hoses, chemical hoses
    downstream injectors plumbed for efficiency
    float valve tank with a hudson float valve
    personal protection equipment - respirator, gloves, ear protection, eye protection
    rubber boots
    high pressure hose reels
    dedicated pump systems for spraying concrete, or if you decided to clean roofs
    chemical wands, and sprayers
    brushes, and extension poles
    high pressure ball valves
    low pressure ball valves
    etc, etc, etc

    As you can see it can take quite a bit to get the things you will need, anything less, and your either not achieving a high level of quality, or not achieving a high level of efficiency, and to lack in either of these will lead to failure.
    I can appreciate the fact that you want to learn about the pressure washing business, hence the reason you started the post, but when you say you have gained nothing of my last post means you are only interested in hearing what you want to hear, and not the truth. My last post was intended to help you. I stated the reality of what you will achieve by trying to get into pressure washing with that budget, and a offered up the suggestion that you go to the many dedicated pressure washing forums on the web and read, read, read.
    Something else to think about, most liability insurance policies for lawn companies don't cover pressure washing, and especially roof cleaning. The insurance for the pressure washing trade can be a bit more expensive.
    Also, here in Florida, and probably many other states, pressure washing is viewed and coded as a construction trade. That means that besides owners that can get a workers comp exemption through the state, all employees must be covered with workers comp, and the comp codes they use are same as, exterior construction, roofing, concrete construction, etc. pretty expensive stuff.
    I'm just trying to give you some things to think about as you continue your research in this trade.

    One last thing, pressure washing is all about the chemicals. you almost have to become somewhat of an amateur chemist to have a good working knowledge of what you need use to tackle different surfaces the require different cleaning methods. Under standing what goes together, and what doesn't, the PH scale, different kinds of acids and when to use them, oxidizers, surfactants, etc.
  7. CCPC

    CCPC LawnSite Member
    Messages: 102

    Thanks Jay.
  8. mikewhit1010

    mikewhit1010 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 394


    Now that was the response I was looking for. Out of that one post I got more knowledge then most of the research I have done. I dont know everything and I dont have the time to take the classes so I was going to start light and stay with just a basical pressure washer doing side walks and drive ways. As soon as I had the chance to learn more I would go take the classes. The problem is I make more money now then I ever would if I worked for a company and learned the trade. So that puts me in a weird spot because honestly the best place to learn is actually doing it.

    So my question to you is how did you get started. I know reading reading reading but like I said experience is everything. Do they offer classes (maybe short weekend classes for us doing other things during the day) that I can sign up for.

    Anyways thank you for that response. It truely was helpful.
  9. CCPC

    CCPC LawnSite Member
    Messages: 102

    No classes needed. the best teacher will be to spend whatever spare time you have reading, and doing searches on some of the pressure washing forums. I'm not going to name websites because I'm not sure if I'm allowed to, but there are a few that have a wealth of information for newbies and pros.
    As for experience, a lot of companies will trade labor for learning for a guy that wants a little hands on knowledge. this works out great because you can go out for a few days, and get your feet wet on some jobs, and the other company gets some free help.
    This works good with companies that are close by, but not close enough to be considered competition.
    You got the right idea with starting out on concrete because it is harder damage, or screw up concrete, but you will have to purchase a surface cleaner if you want to profitable at it.
    An example:
    If you were to clean an average driveway with lets say a 4gpm 3,500psi machine with a wand, it could take you 4-5 hours to clean it. Where as, if you were to use that same pressure washer with a 20" Whisper Wash it may take you 45 minutes, or less with experience. These figures don't include stain removal, brightening, etc, this just gives you an idea of how the proper equipment can make a real difference.
    Cleaning exteriors is whole nother ball of wax. It's all about low pressure, technique, and using the proper chemical mixtures. this is an area where you really need to know what your doing, as the price for mistakes can be pretty heavy.
    Blown window seals
    chemicals leaking under a door and staining carpeting
    water damage
    plant damage-chemical burns
    over-spray damage to nearby vehicles, or other property
    electricity hazards from outlets, outdoor lighting, or fans

    You name it, and it seems every potential screw up is in the thousands to fix. The only way you get good at working around these hazards, and to be able to spot these potential problems, is experience.
  10. mikewhit1010

    mikewhit1010 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 394


    You are scaring me. No just kidding. I plan to launch this in october so I have some time. Like I said I want to get into this the right way. If I feel I cant with my budget and knowledge I wont. nothing worse then working for free when you mess something up or underbid something....I seriously appreciate all the help. If you dont mind I might pick your brain about a few things later on this week.

    Seriously thank you.

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