Under pressure

So today we finally had a sunny enough afternoon to begin pressure-washing the house. I watched with glee as the years of moss and dirt were blasted off the foundation, leaving nothing but pristine concrete.

No, actually, that was what I THOUGHT was going to happen.

What actually happened was that the two of us wrestled a giant rented machine to within ten feet of the house, and then slung hundreds of feet of hose around us in great slumped-over piles and coils and trails of plastic. After five minutes of trying to screw in a quick-release fitting (duh) we both put our feet against the machine and the wall and pulled on the starter cord seventy-three times before we realized that the fuel feeder-thingy was set to “off.”

The seventy-fourth pull and the engine roared to life, and we threw our arms up in the air and danced around in our unspeakably filthy clothes. And then we grabbed the wand off the ground, pointed it at the house, and braced ourselves. We looked like we were about to pull the starting blocks out from under a Formula One racer, crouched and tense with one foot back and grins on our faces.

My finger curled around the trigger and I just gently eased it back… a little more… a little more… and THERE!

Out of the nozzle curled four tablespoons of water and the engine shut itself off.

No matter! A temporary setback! Prime the gas line, choke the engine, a mighty series of pulls, and we were off and running again.

Once more we took up our raising the flag on Iwo Jima poses and pointed the wand at a thick layer of moss defiantly crawling up the porch cinderblocks. Put my finger to the trigger and this time I hit that baby for all I was worth.

With a sickly “fttttt!” noise, enough water to hydrate an anemic hosta shot from the nozzle. And then even that trailed off.

We thought about scratching our heads, decided our hands were too filthy, and set to work dis-assembling the entire thing. Every hose was uncoupled, straightened, recoupled. I had to run halfway into the street to get one of them fully uncurled. We read and re-read the puny instructions. We debated over whether we’d confused the outflow hose with the inflow hose. Tools were brought out and used to poke at various valve points while we argued over air pressure and the strength of copper.

Finally, we strung the whole thing back together again and heaved at it once more, bringing the rattling engine to life. Pointed the nozzle – SURELY it would work! We know all about copper! – and opened it full-bore.

Doug finally dragged me back as I was yelling incoherently and using the end of the wand to BASH the moss off the wall.


I am sure you know the end of this story; it’s sadly predictable. The Home Depot guy said “Oh, you guys on a well up there on the hill? Didn’t you know you needed 45 psi out of your well to even get this thing going?” We thought of the gentle drizzles that come out of our water fixtures and shook our heads sadly. He took pity on us and didn’t charge us for the rental; I think he saw that Doug was covered with dirt and algae and sweat and the aura of my white-hot rage and didn’t want to push us any further than he had to.

So now our poor house remains under-pressured, under-washed, still covered with moss and dirt and encrusted with bits of flaked-off insulation. We are honestly not sure what to do now; the pressure-washing was not optional. Even if I scrub every inch of it with a brush (and let’s all laugh at THAT ever happening) I still can’t get in deep enough to expose the raw wood on the deck and the back of the house (both of which need to be re-primed and painted). We’ll be talking with our extremely long-suffering contractor in the morning – maybe he has some secret solution.

Meanwhile, on a positive note, we have bathroom tile!



5 thoughts on “Under pressure

  1. I am sorry for laughing but dang, that was rather well written and quite funny! Sorry it didn’t work, and hopefully the contractor can think of a solution. But the tile is lovely!

  2. I believe there are companies that come out with a water tanker truck and pressure wash buildings. You may want to pick another do-it-yourself project and pay someone to pressure wash the house.

    Since I once restored an 1896 Victorian house, all I could do was feel your blisters (and frustration). Go look at the tile again. It’s lovely.

  3. Ugggggggggh. You’d think that they would talk to you about that when you rented it, no? 😛 I admit to also laughing though. 🙂 Love the way you tell stories.

  4. LOVELY tile!

    Joanna, you must be the *best* at telling bedtime stories!!! And pirate stories… you’re like Jo March of the Internet age, with a sub-specialty in dogs. LOL! I [heart] this blog, and you. Wish we could come help, we totally would. Hope your long-suffering contractor can come up with a solution.

  5. There may be smaller pressure washers that can work on lower pressure. My parents and I are both on wells and can get one running.

    Although, pressure washing is actually *really* bad for whatever you’re washing. A giant scrub brush and a normal hose will be better for the house, if nowhere close to as quick. The historical society hates pressure washers for a reason.

    Also, if you have any wood you were going to pressure wash and then put a new finish on, make sure you wait *weeks* before applying a new finish, or the water you just pushed into the wood will come out and kill your new finish.

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