DIY Cleaning & Organizing

How to Start a Pressure-Washing Business in 11 Steps

It seems like a simple process—buy a machine and some ladders, advertise online, get jobs, get paid. But successfully starting a pressure- washing business requires a little more work ahead of time.
Meghan Wentland Avatar
A close up of a person pressure washing a deck.

Photo: istockphoto,com

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Pressure-washing can help restore the outside of a home to its former glory. Mildew, mold, moss, and other debris often build up on house siding, decks, fences, outdoor furniture, and doors—pretty much anything that is exposed to the elements. Pressure-washing is an efficient, effective, and satisfying way to clean exterior surfaces. However, most people don’t need to do the task frequently enough to make it worth owning and maintaining the kind of high-quality equipment that will do the job well. Additionally, many people may not be comfortable scaling the side of a home while dragging a hose and pressure wand. These factors create a marketplace for pressure-cleaning services. So how does an entrepreneur start a pressure-washing business? There are several steps for entrepreneurs to take prior to buying one of the best pressure washers and taking appointments to ensure that their business will be safe, legal, and successful. Although there’s no pressure-washing business start-up kit to help entrepreneurs get started, following several steps can help them find their footing in the industry and grow a successful business.

A person pressure washes a deck.
Photo: istockphoto,com

Before You Begin…

Before getting too far into the planning process, it’s key for an entrepreneur to make sure they know how to pressure-wash and how to do it well. It’s not uncommon for weekend warriors to have a pressure washer that they can pull out to blast a little mildew off the back of their home, but owning a business that specializes in pressure-washing means the owner needs to know all of the best-practice techniques. Aspiring business owners will need to spend some time learning the dos and don’ts of pressure-washing, making sure they know the uses of different tips, angles, and force levels. No entrepreneur wants to start a pressure-washing business by stripping all the stain off of a deck and blasting chunks of wood into the air. 

Tips for Starting a Pressure-Washing Business

  • Determine the business’s unique selling point (USP)—the things that will set the business apart from the others in the market—and then capitalize on it. 
  • Make sure the business’s goals and pricing structures are realistic—especially at the beginning. 
  • While establishing the hours of operation, check the noise ordinances in the towns where the business will offer services. Some municipalities don’t permit loud machinery noise before 7 or 8 a.m., and no business owner wants to get a citation. 

STEP 1: Research the market and create a business plan.

There is always a demand for pressure-washing. It’s a growing industry, especially as clients become more interested in the environmental value of cleaning with pressurized water instead of using chemical cleaners. The question for someone opening a pressure-washing business is where they fit in the local market. Entrepreneurs will want to spend some time looking at the United States Small Business Administration’s market research and competitive analysis guide. Then they’ll want to do a survey of the pressure-washing companies already operating in their area. There will probably be a few of the best power-washing companies or pressure-washing companies that have been in place for decades, some large operations, and some small one-person businesses. In general, low start-up costs mean it’s pretty inexpensive to break into the pressure-washing market, so entrepreneurs will need to ensure the market in the area isn’t oversaturated before they begin investing. Entrepreneurs will also want to look at the services these potential competitors offer to see if there’s a gap in the market that their company could fill.

Next, aspiring business owners will want to develop a formal business plan. Why? Well, first, starting a business can be overwhelming and a little intimidating. Having a formal business plan in place means entrepreneurs can be more confident that they’ve addressed all of the known issues and some of the unknown ones. Also, many banks or lenders will want to see a business plan before approving financing, or the formation of business bank accounts. 

What does a formal business plan involve? First, the owner will need to complete a business overview, in which they identify the services the business will provide and who the target customers are. Business owners will need to include a list of services they plan to offer and their planned pricing strategy, along with a summary of their market research to show that the business is needed and viable. The overview will also need to include an analysis of the competition’s strengths and weaknesses balanced against the proposed business’s strengths and weaknesses. Next will come a marketing plan, a hiring plan and timeline for bringing employees onboard, and carefully constructed financial projections for the first year, including a target income, estimated expenses, and the business owner’s salary. Once the business plan is complete, the entrepreneur will need to formalize it by adding an executive summary of the whole document, a table of contents, and a title page with the business name and the date. 

Writing a business plan can seem challenging—especially for those who have never written one before—so getting some help from a professional isn’t a bad idea. Alternatively, entrepreneurs can check their local small business association for guidance and templates. 

STEP 2: Decide how you want to structure your business.

For legal and tax purposes, it’s important for an entrepreneur to formally create their business structure and give their business a name. There are several ways to structure a business, including a sole proprietorship, a limited liability company (LLC), a partnership, or a corporation. 

For a very small business, a sole proprietorship is the simplest option, as it uses the owner’s personal social security number to register and uses a “doing business as” (or DBA) name. The trouble with a sole proprietorship is that because the owner is actually the business, all of the liability in case of damage, accident, or injury falls directly on the owner personally. LLCs protect personal assets while allowing the business owner a little more freedom in terms of how the company is managed and taxed. Corporations are slightly more complex to register and have more restrictions on management. However, a corporation is its own entity, separate from the owner, so any debt or legal challenges belong to the business, protecting the owner’s personal assets.

Entrepreneurs who want to ensure their business is registered correctly can hire one of the best LLC services, such as LegalZoom or Northwest Registered Agent, to help them file the correct paperwork. Hiring such a service adds to the business start-up costs, but it can be worth it for business owners to know they’ve checked all necessary boxes for their business to operate legally.

STEP 3: Get the appropriate business licenses to operate legally in your state.

Licensing requirements for businesses vary from state to state. Some states require all business owners to obtain a general business license, while some require general contractor licenses. Others require a combination of business permits, environmental licenses, and professional certificates. Entrepreneurs will need to check the business page on their state government website to verify the specifics. It’s vital that business owners check the actual state government page. There are quite a few sites that are willing to provide the necessary forms to a new business owner for a fee, but the forms are generally online at the state government at no charge. 

A close up of a person pressure washing a patio.
Photo: istockphoto,com

STEP 4: Get business insurance coverage.

Insurance coverage is important for every business, which includes business insurance for pressure-washing. This project involves shooting powerful streams of water at surfaces and climbing on wet ladders and roofs while hefting pumps and hoses. This makes carrying insurance nonnegotiable. Any business needs to carry liability insurance at a minimum, and a pressure-washing business may choose to cover its equipment and property as well. When the business scales up to include employees, workers’ compensation insurance is also required.

The best small-business insurance companies, such as NEXT Insurance and Thimble, can help pressure-washing business owners get the best coverage for their company at a price that fits in their budget.

STEP 5: Apply for an employer identification number (EIN) and open a business bank account.

If an entrepreneur opts to register their business as an LLC or corporation, they’ll need to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This allows the business to file taxes and be identified as an entity that’s separate from the owner. 

Keeping business expenses and profits separate from the household expenses of the owner will keep life simpler and make things easier come tax time. Opening a new business bank account using the business EIN will make that separation simpler to accomplish. Many banks offer perks for their business clients, especially if the business owner already has an account, so it’s a good idea for entrepreneurs to check with their personal bank first before shopping around for the best business bank account.

STEP 6: Purchase the basic equipment and supplies needed to start the business.

When first starting a pressure-washing business, there’s no need for the owner to go overboard when it comes to equipment. But it is necessary for an entrepreneur to buy the foundational pieces of professional pressure-washing equipment they’ll need to do their job well. It’s worth business owners doing some research and investing in quality pieces that will form the basis of their business. That doesn’t mean entrepreneurs need to buy the most expensive tools, but choosing pieces that are well fabricated can help business owners save money in the long run. The following items are necessary for getting a pressure-washing business off the ground.

  • A pressure washer. Unsurprisingly, entrepreneurs will need to have a good-quality pressure washer to get their business started. The best gas pressure washers cost more up front than electric ones and will require the business owner to transport and store gas. Electric versions cost less but are also less powerful and will require the business owner to locate a power outlet at customers’ homes and use extension cords to reach the necessary areas. Pressure washers are available in light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty models, and each type is priced accordingly. A smaller company just starting out may consider renting or leasing the equipment initially to save on start-up costs.
  • Supplies. Pressure washers can come with several different attachments, including the best pressure-washer surface cleaners, nozzles, hoses, siphon pumps, and wands for gutters and tough-to-reach spots. Entrepreneurs will also need to purchase cleaning supplies and gas and oil to run the pressure washer.
  • Ladders. Entrepreneurs will need to purchase a ladder that they can maneuver easily to reach higher areas of homes. Ladders will need to be safe and sturdy to support the weight of the worker and any equipment they’re holding. 
  • A uniform. It might not seem like a necessity, but even a T-shirt with the business logo will lend an air of professionalism and help employees feel part of the team. Plus, customers and passersby will become familiar with the company.
  • Transportation. Business owners will need one or more vehicles to cart the washer, supplies, and ladder to jobsites. This could be managed with a pickup and a trailer. However, for legal purposes, it’s a good idea to have a vehicle owned by the business instead of the owner—and the owner can put the company logo on the sides for inexpensive and effective advertising. Vehicles can be leased if an outright purchase isn’t in the budget.

STEP 7: Decide which services to offer and set your rates.

Before setting rates, business owners will need to determine which pressure-washing services their business will offer. Good market research into the cost to pressure-wash a house or the cost to pressure-wash a driveway in their region will help an entrepreneur learn what other companies in the area are offering. Since the owner will want their company to stand out, they’ll need to craft a menu of services that includes regular pressure-washing services as well as some specialty services that other companies don’t offer. 

Residential pressure-washing clients will generally expect a pressure-washing company to offer house, deck, driveway, and patio washing. Specialty options might include fences, gutter exteriors and roofs, patio furniture, or even children’s sandboxes and outdoor toys. Business owners will want to be careful what they advertise, however. Some components of a home should never be cleaned with a pressure washer, or they require special consideration when doing so. Also worth considering are commercial clients: Towns and cities have building facades, sidewalks, memorials, and schools that need cleaning, and business parks and industrial districts have cleaning needs as well. 

Rates can be set in one of two ways: either hourly or by the job size and scope. Entrepreneurs will want to check out the local market and see if there’s a particular trend in the area, then take a look at how much others are charging. They’ll want to find just the right spot—they won’t want to price their services too high and essentially price themselves out of the market, but they’ll also need to charge high enough rates to ensure a profit. Entrepreneurs can test out a few of their services and see how long they take, then consider how much they would charge hourly or per job as a starting point.

A close up of a person pressure washing a deck on a sunny day.
Photo: istockphoto,com

STEP 8: Create a website and list your business on social media platforms.

A user-friendly website can help showcase a business to current and potential customers. The website will need to include the following:

  • Contact information
  • Pressure-washing services offered
  • Prices
  • Before-and-after photos of previous jobs
  • Client testimonials

Entrepreneurs who want to try creating a website themselves can use one of the best website builders for small businesses (such as GoDaddy), or they can hire a marketing agency to create their website and manage their marketing. The latter may result in a more unique website, but it will also add to the total start-up costs.

Entrepreneurs will also want to use social media and online job posting boards as much as possible. They can join local neighborhood groups such as Nextdoor, as well as Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and Instagram to promote their business to friends and neighbors. Business owners can post before-and-after photos on Instagram to show their work or make TikTok videos to show their processes. Business owners can also create listings on any of the best lead-generation websites for contractors, such as Angi or HomeAdvisor, to find new clients.

STEP 9: Make a marketing plan that includes both traditional and digital marketing methods.

It may seem tempting for a business owner to market only through online channels—they’re often free or low-cost, they’re easy, and lots of potential customers will see them. But it’s also important for entrepreneurs to remember that not all potential customers for a professional pressure-washing business are online. To reach the most clients, it’s essential to include both traditional and digital marketing methods in a business marketing plan.

Business owners can place pressure-washing business cards or flyers around town, place door hangers around neighborhoods after finishing a job, or use yard signs in customers’ yards (with their permission). Additionally, printing a sizable logo with the company name and contact information on the vehicle can grab the attention of potential customers while the business owner is driving around town. Other marketing ideas include renting a booth at local events and placing advertisements in local newspapers. These methods may seem old-fashioned, but they can be effective. 

STEP 10: Network with other local business owners.

Word of mouth is probably one of the most powerful marketing strategies available. And networking with local businesses is an excellent way to get word-of-mouth referrals. Partnering with other pressure-washing companies is certainly an option, but business owners may have better luck getting referrals by partnering with other home service businesses that can refer clients who are looking for pressure-washing services. 

Realtors and home stagers are both great potential partnerships, both because they may need pressure-washing services themselves and because their clients will turn to them for advice on who to hire to work on their new homes. Builders, rental companies, and gutter-cleaning businesses are also likely connections, because they do work adjacent to pressure-washing services or power-washing services. If the company will offer solar panel pressure-washing services, they can reach out to solar companies and installers for potential leads. 

Networking can mean several things. Sometimes it’s as simple as a business owner keeping a list of adjacent businesses whose work they respect and would be willing to recommend to their own customers. It can also mean offering pressure-washing coupons or discounts to clients or other business owners who refer new clients to the business. 

STEP 11: Hire employees to help you scale the business.

Eventually, the business will become established and the owner will become more proficient at using their time well and pricing their jobs right. At this stage, it may be time to upsize. The exact timing of when this will happen depends on the local market and the success of the business. However, once the business is making solid profits and the owner is maximizing their own work hours, it may be time for them to consider investing in another machine or two and hiring employees. At first, the employees will simply be a team to help increase the number of jobs the business can take on. But eventually, as the employees become more experienced and the owner can hire more people, the entrepreneur will be able to take a step back and let their employees do the actual work while they focus on running and growing the business. 

Entrepreneurs will want to choose their employees carefully to make sure they will represent the company professionally. They can look for employees that either have a lot of experience or are willing to learn, and they will want to train employees to work safely and effectively to get the job done. 

Starting a pressure-washing business can be an exciting, bold move that may also feel risky. Having a clear plan and in-depth knowledge of the business can reassure entrepreneurs that they have put together the very best package possible to make their business a success.