Exterior Wood Restoration Myth #1: “Anyone Can Do It”

The answer is… of course “anyone” can do it!

However , only a true professional can restore exterior wood correctly. This article will breakdown the myth that “anyone can do it” by explaining the pitfalls, the detail involved , what to look for in a contractor , as well as explain what exactly is involved in an exterior wood restoration project.

First , let’s ask a few questions , the same questions a contractor may ask or consider prior to estimating or beginning your project.

What is the history of the project? (Decks , Fences , Wood Siding , etc.)

How many coats of sealer/stain are currently on the surface?

What is the new coating going to be? Sealer ( with/or without a tone) , Semi-Transparent , or Solid

What are the differences in each?

Does it need to be stripped and neutralized/brightened?

What is stripping and neutralizing/brightening?

What happens if the stripper isn’t completely rinsed off?

How is salt formed on the surfaces and how could it affect the project?

Does it have to be pressure washed?

What size nozzle tip should be used?

What is a tip?

What are the different methods for application and their differences?

This just scratches the surface of questions. If you can’t answer even one of these questions whether or not you are a consumer or contractor , you are probably already in over your head. To restore exterior wood “correctly” it takes much more than a pressure washer and a water supply. Actually , if you are relying on the pressure of the water to do the cleaning , stripping , or part of the surface preparation , you are doing it incorrectly. Matter of factly , probably scarring or damaging the wood surfaces you wanted restored.

This industry often times has the reputation of the “fast food drive-thrus.” Consumers feel they are often not getting what they pay for. This exists because people are paying “fast food” prices to “fast food” contractors. Because a contractor owns a pressure washer does not mean that they are a professional in exterior wood restoration.

The other side of this is if you spent the money on the investment of wood siding , a deck , a fence , etc., why would you let just”anyone” restore it? Further and specifically , if you think that a contractor is going to come along and offers to restore your wood for less than $1.00 sq./ft.,then you are probably going to get what you pay for…headaches , problems , and disappointment. Depending on the preparation involved , previous coatings , height of work, type of finish coat to be applied , and other factors $3.00-$4.00 sq./ft. and over may not be out of the question.

Understanding the downside of not keeping up with proper maintenance it may cost much more in the long run.

Understanding the differences in the types of wood ; coatings ; chemicals ; procedures and methods ; cleaners,strippers/neutralizers ; cob blasting ; pressure washing ; rollers vs. brushes vs. sprayers ; and maintenance coats are just the tip of the iceberg. It does take experience and education to do the job properly. Let’s look at the contractor qualifications and characteristics. The contractor should be able to offer proof that they have knowledge of the trade by certifications affiliations to manufacturers , distributors , franchises , business or trade organizations. Most of the reputable manufacturers and organizations offer courses and/or certifications.

A consumer should feel free to ask if a contractor has any of these in their background. Some examples of these maybe , the Pressure Washers of North America(PWNA) , stain and sealer manufacturer certificates or affiliations , the Better Business Bureau , a Chamber of Commerce , or any way to determine they are in fact a “professional” with knowledge of the trade. A professional contractors appearance and conduct is just as important. Look for things like uniforms , logos on items like business cards , stationary , vehicles , etc.

The contractor who gets out of an old broken down car or van with a pressure washer hanging out of the back , who then knocks on the door wearing the clothes they slept in the night before is probably someone you should not hire. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like ; Are you affiliated with any organizations? , What are your qualifications? , Do you or your company have any certifications? , What is your experience/ , and What types or brands of coatings do you use and why? , just to name a few.

It certainly takes much more to restore wood correctly than it may look. Just ask anyone who has tried to do their own deck or the person each year spending an arm and a leg , time , and effort , and still can’t get it to look the way they want. It is amazing what some folks will spend to get a piece of indoor furniture restored by a professional but not their larger, more costly exterior wood. It would be like a fast food restaurant offering a $.99 Filet mignon steak meal. If you wanted a filet mignon meal you usually wouldn’t go to a place that is offering it for $.99 . So , the question is ; Why would you expect a 1,000 sq./ft. wood restoration project be performed for $200.00 to $300.00? It just doesn’t make sense.

In conclusion , “Can anyone do it?” , of course. But should “anyone” do it? Look for a professional contractor in your area and protect your investment.

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Everett Abrams is on the Execituve Board of Directors of the Power Washers of North America (PWNA) as President-Elect, a moderator on the PWNA website, and Instuctor for the Wood Cerification Class of the PWNA, and co-author of the “Exterior Wood Restoration” manual that is used to teach professionals across the country. Everett also participtes on the Joint Coatings Committee of the Forest Products Laboratory.

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