Can Pressure Washing Damage Pavers and Bricks?

24 June 2019

One of the advantages of having a home in the Tampa Bay area is the ability to live outdoors during much of the year when the weather is nice. Many homeowners choose to beautify their properties with a variety of hardscape elements such a paver driveways, walkways and patios, along with brick retaining walls and even enclosures for outdoor ovens and cooking areas.

These hardscape elements are favored, not only because of their beauty, but also for their longevity ease of cleaning. Most hardscape elements may be cleaned regularly with the sweep of a broom and a spray of a garden hose. After a number of years, however, your pavers and brick hardscape elements can become dingy or stained from frequent use. That’s when you’ll want to think about using a pressure washer for that occasional deep cleaning to keep the surfaces looking bright and heighten curb appeal.

Can I Pressure Wash Hardscapes on My Own?

The basics of learning how to use a pressure washer are relatively simple. These machines are readily available for purchase or rental at your local hardware or big box store and there isn’t much difficulty involving in connecting the nozzle, turning on the unit and beginning to spray. The problem comes not with the pressure washing itself, but when inexperienced homeowners choose the wrong nozzle, a pressure that is too high or spraying too closely to the objects that require cleaning.

When cleaning bricks or pavers with a pressure washer, you can cause significant damage to your hardscape, which can result in pitting, lines or uneven surfaces. You may also damage the mortar between bricks, while the joint sand between paving stones can be blasted away. These problems are more likely to occur of your installation is less than a year old. However, if you learn how to properly clean these surfaces, you can avoid damage.

Cleaning Pavers

The best remedy for not damaging pavers in your driveway or walkways is through regular maintenance. The more regular your maintenance, the less likely you are to have to use pressure washing to clean these surfaces. Regular maintenance that you perform on your own will also save you money in the long run as you won’t have to use harsh chemicals that cost extra money and are unkind to the environment.

Try to sweep your pavers weekly and rinse them occasionally with a garden hose if you seem an accumulation of dirt and grime. You can also consider using a leaf blower to prevent dirt accumulation. Cleanup after a tropical storm is particularly important. Areas such as the driveway or an outdoor dining area should receive additional attention as oil and grease can build up from vehicles and from cooking food. If you find stubborn oil or grease stains on your pavers, read our tips on how to remove them. Addressing these problems as soon as possible will give the stains less chance to sink in. Performing a weekly inspection and cleanup of these areas will go a long way toward preserving the beauty of your property. By doing so, you shouldn’t need to perform pressure washing more than once a year.

To pressure wash a paver surface, first, spray the area with a 25-degree nozzle and concentrate on the areas that appear to be the most stained by soaking them with water. Next, apply detergent. If you know the brand of pavers used for your hardscape, look for detergents recommended by the manufacturer. You can also ask for help from the store where you bought or rented the machine or by researching the topic online. The machine’s manual should also have a listing of suggested cleaners.

Always test the detergent on a small area of your pavers to ensure that they won’t become discolored or faded. Read the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that you are using the proper strength. Attach the soaping nozzle and spray the area again. Let the detergent sit for at least five minutes to break down stains and grime.

Once the area is ready, change to a surface cleaner nozzle. Alternately, you can use a rotary nozzle This step in important as it will not only blast away dirt and stains, but it will disperse water over a larger area and reduce the risk of damage to your pavers. Try to avoid hitting the joints directly and confine your stream to the paver surface. Even if you are careful, you are likely to dislodge some of the sand, so make sure to brush it back into the joints when the area is dry. Your pavers are not ready for a final rinse. Reattach the 25-degree nozzle to rinse away remaining detergent. Applying a sealant can also help keep your pavers looking great all year long.

Pressure Washing Brick

The process to clean your brick driveway, retaining wall or even an exterior wall of your house, if you have a brick facade, is similar. Brick's biggest problem is even though it is a resilient building material, it tends to degrade, or break down, with age. Thus, you must be extremely careful when pressure washing brick. Make sure to thoroughly inspect the area for cleaning and patch cracks or holes in the bricks and mortar before pressure washing. Let the repaired area dry for several days.

If you have a brick driveway or walkway, follow the same maintenance schedule to regularly sweep and wash away dirt. You can follow the same steps as above to clear a brick surface by soaking the area initially with water and then applying detergent. The biggest difference is that you should use a 40-degree nozzle instead of a 25-degree nozzle as brick is more prone to damage. When working on a wall, always apply water and rinse from the top down. When applying detergent, work the opposite way and apply from the bottom up to avoid streaking. Check the manufacturer's recommendation for cleaning brick, but a good rule of thumb is to use a force of 1000 psi or less. Stains are often more difficult to remove from brick than from pavers, so you may have to apply extra detergent or even scrub a stubborn area to get the best results.

Whenever working on pavers or brick always stand a safe distance away from the surface you want to clean. Generally, start at about 10 feet but never move in closer than three or four feet as the strength of the stream can damage the surface.

Even with these tips, you may still feel unsure about doing the job yourself. Relax, my company Edwin's Pressure Washing located in Land O' Lakes near Tampa is here to help. Contact me for your FREE quote.