Under Pressure: Washing Your Metal Building

Published April 23, 2014 by Whirlwind Team

Depositphotos 39144173 originalDoes your spring cleaning routine extend to your metal building? It should. Pressure washing a metal building is one of the easiest and quickest ways to remove accumulated grime, mineral deposits, debris and cobwebs that accumulate throughout the year. The longer dirt and grime covers your building's facade, the more susceptible your building is to oxidation and corrosion. Also, your paint will be more likely to be irreversibly stained.

Remember that one of the greatest benefits of building with metal components is their durability when maintained as per manufacturer's instructions. Adhering to these recommendations can save you thousands of dollars in unnecessary maintenance over the course of the building's lifetime. Most metal building manufacturers recommend washing your metal building at least once a year, every six months is optimal.

The following steps will guide you through DIY washing techniques to restore your metal building back to the way it looked when it was new.

Easy Steps for Pressure Washing Your Metal Building Exterior

1) Rent a Pressure Washer

You can rent a pressure washer from your local home improvement store. A pressure washer consists of a small motor, electric or gas, that is connected to a high-pressure water pump. The pump accesses water from a tank and propels it through a hose with a manually controlled nozzle. The water is pushed out with a pressure of up to 2000 per square inch. This force, combined with a proper detergent, will blast any mildew, grime, dirt, or other debris off the facade of the building and will allow you to access up to two-stories' worth of exterior square footage.

It will also strip away any loose or peeling paint so you can repaint and/or seal areas that would have been prone to further corrosion or oxidization down the road. Always read the instruction manual carefully, and never point the nozzle at a human, pet or other animal as the force of the spray can cause injury.

2) Prepare the Building

You will need to take several pre-cleaning steps to protect landscaping and other items around the building, as well as the interior and yourself.

  • First, remove potential hazards such as outdoor furniture, container planters, ornamentation, etc. What can't be removed should be covered with a tarp or plastic sheeting.
  • Water surrounding plant beds thoroughly before covering them so they aren't able to absorb any potential detergent run-off.
  • Close windows and doors tightly so the spray can't penetrate and damage interior furnishings. If you have a storage unit or self-storage style rolling doors, verify they are sealed well enough to handle exterior pressure washing without allowing water to infiltrate the space. You may find out these doors need to be washed by hand.
  • Cover light fixtures, utility meters, cable boxes, and any other exterior/electrical penetrations.
  • Switch the breakers off to any power that runs to exterior sockets and lighting fixtures.

3) Pre-Wash Techniques

Your pressure washing will be much more effective if you do a little pre-wash work to loosen up the grime and get to work on mildew. First, use a soft wall brush with a long handle, and use it to scrub the exterior walls horizontally and then vertically. This will also remove any spider webs or cobwebs, which are practically impervious to pressure washing efforts. If there is any visible mold or mildew growth, mix a bleach solution with one-part bleach and three-parts water. Use a spray bottle to spray the solution onto any visible patches, using a ladder to access hard-to-reach spaces.

4) Low-Pressure Soak

Now your exterior is ready to be pressure washed. Flush the hose and then use a low-pressure setting to spray clean water to pre-soak the surface.

5) Add Detergent

In most cases, you can add about 1/3 cup of laundry detergent to every six gallons of hot water. However, you will want to verify that this is appropriate for your particular paint or metal building sealant. If you are in doubt, contact the manufacturer or your contractor to verify which type of detergent they recommend.

6) Pressure Washing

Keep the unit on the low-pressure setting to start. For most buildings, this will be enough and will prevent unnecessary paint stripping or denting of your metal siding. Set the wand at an angle and begin washing the building Work in sections and moving the nozzle from side to side. Heavily soiled areas can be tended to using a water-powered scrub brush attachment, or you can use a regular scrub brush and work on them by hand.

7) Rinse

If you used detergent, rinse the tank and refill it with fresh water. Flush the hose and nozzle and then rinse the building facade to remove excess detergent.

Allow your building to dry in the sun and wind and enjoy your metal building's fresh new look.

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