Exterior Wood Surfaces
Restoration or Vandalism?
You need your deck, log cabin, wood siding, or for that matter, any surface on your valuable property restored it is important to define exactly what you want done and then make sure you or the contractor know how to accomplish the task to meet your desired result. First, we need to define a few terms.
Restoration – The action of returning to a former owner, place, or condition. The act or process of returning something to its original condition by repairing it, by replacing it, cleaning it, etc.
Cleaning – Make (something or someone) free of dirt, marks, mess, especially washing, or brushing. The activity of removing the dirt from things and places.
Washing – To cleanse by or as if by the action of liquid (as water). To remove (as dirt) by rubbing or drenching with liquid.
Blasting – The shock wave of an explosion (in this case with water). A forcible stream of air, gas, or stream from an opening (in most cases water from a pressure washer).
Vandalism – Willful or malicious destruction or defacement of public or private property. Willful or IGNORANT destruction. ANY activity that is considered to be damaging or destroying something that was good.
Most people want their valuable home, deck, or other structure restored to a “like new” condition. Sometimes this can happen by cleaning but that is not the case with wood surfaces. The goal for wood surfaces is to restore it to a former condition as defined above. To do this let’s address the other processes that contractors use. Today you get different trades that state they work on decks or exterior wood surfaces but how are they performing their work? There is a trend toward using an extreme amount of chemicals to “soft wash” wood surfaces. What these contractors are actually doing in most cases is spraying a higher than recommended dilution of bleach which lightens the surface and initially “wows” you with the result. A couple of items with this process, BLEACH DOES NOT CLEAN it lightens and remediates mold and mildew. Soap and detergents clean. When these contractors bleach your wood with too strong of a solution it can hurt landscape and other surroundings. Applying too much bleach can result in leaving it IN the wood where it will dry the wood out and could cause it to prematurely decay. Applying too much bleach, too strong to wood surfaces can cause it to burn the wood and cause excess fuzziness to the wood. The contractors who are selling you this service are not selling restoration services, they are basically selling you snake oil and taking your money while damaging your property. See vandalism above! The next item regarding restoration of wood is that most of these surfaces have grayed from exposure to the sun. What happens is that these surface wood fibers that have grayed need to be removed with a light amount of pressure or brushing and rinsing. Many of these contractors who are just applying bleach are just lightening the color of these fibers and not removing them. What happens next is when you apply a sealer or stain to the surface it fails and becomes blotchy in appearance quickly. This is because that eventually these fibers begin to separate from the wood surface because it was not properly prepped for coating. All wood restoration contractors know that the optimal final appearance is determined by how well the prep work that goes into it.
There are other contractors who “pressure wash” your wood surfaces to “restore” them. While this may not be a bad method, it is not if it used as a tool to rinse with only. Matter of fact, wood surfaces used with the right product always require less than 1000psi and in most cases 600psi or less is all that is needed. Softwood species like cedar requires less pressure while hardwood species like mahogany or Ipe withstand higher pressure. Many homeowners think that the pressure washer “cleans and restores” surfaces. This is so wrong, just ask a neighbor that has ruined or damaged a surface using a pressure washer in this way. Let’s look at this closer, how does pressure clean? Too much pressure will damage and possibly destroy your valuable property. The restoration process uses cleaners, restorers, strippers, brighteners and so forth to do the actual work. Actually, the first step is to remove grayed wood fibers or strip an older coating. In these situations we use surfactants that help lift and remove the wood fibers or older coatings from the surface where they now just need to be lightly rinsed off with no damaging pressure. A good analogy would be cleaning your oven, when you apply an oven cleaner to the surfaces and allow to dwell for 20 minutes it is an easy wipe down and clean. If you did not use the oven cleaner, you would spend a lot of time using quite a bit of elbow grease to clean. When cleaning and restoring surfaces this procedure should still be used, use the right product and allow to dwell to make the job easier. It is so important to make sure you or your contractor is using more than just pressurized water. Pressurized water is basically blasting the surface and blasting wood surfaces will not restore anything.
While these terms may also apply to other surfaces like exterior home surfaces, outdoor furniture, concrete, concrete pavers, stamped concrete, etc. it must be recognized that unless one is using some type of cleaner, stripper, or other product to actually do the work you are not providing any type of restoration. Why do we see so much damage caused to people’s valuable property and assets? Mostly because there is not enough education and research provided to the contractor or end user. Vandalism is defined as “willful or ignorant destruction” so it is not an excuse for those who do not know the proper procedures and techniques used in restoration, the information is out there. When planning your next restoration project do research for yourself or ask the right questions to your contractor to insure they will be restoring your property and not vandalizing it.