Power Washer Q&A

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Dear NH,

Are the electric pressure washers available in home stores adequate for removing all the loose paint from wood siding (cedar shakes and smooth)? If not, what size pressure washer would you recommend?

P from Syracuse, NY


Pressure washers, whether they are electric or gas powered, are rated by pressure in pounds per square inch (PSI) and the rate of spray, or gallons per minute (GPM). These two factors are intimately related and must be evaluated together to get a true picture of the overall power of the sprayer.

For example, one unit may have a decent amount of pressure (2000 psi) but push out little water (1.5 GPM). This is accomplished by restricting the size of the spray nozzle. The problem with this approach is that low volume of water means very slow going... you will be working all day on a very small area. On the other hand, a 2000 PSI sprayer with 3.0 GPM is going to save you lots of time.

For intermittent around-the-home use, a 110 volt electric unit with at least 1400 PSI and output of around 2.0 GPM should be sufficient for general cleanup and some level of "loose" paint removal. However, if you are looking into doing heavy duty paint stripping with the pressure washer… and you did say "remove ALL the paint"… you will need the additional power of a gasoline unit. Because of the high cost of ownership and maintenance, even some smaller painting contractors opt to rent the big units rather than purchase. At price tags of $2000 to $4000 dollars, purchase just doesn't make sense for a few jobs a year.