Q: Challenges operating both a painting and a power washing business?
A: When I started our business in 2001, I began with both power washing and painting. I thought it made sense to be full-service in the offering. But because of where I’m located, painting is our year-round service, while the power washing is really only an option seven to nine months of the year, as many of the chemicals don’t perform below 50˚ F.
While the two businesses exist under the same umbrella, my goal is to operate them as separate and distinct entities. When I started, information and resources for power washing were limited. Anyone with a ladder and a power washer could clean a roof or prep a house. But today, there’s a lot more science and education to it. I belong to both the Power Washers of North America (PWNA) and Pressure Washing Resource Association (PWRA). PWNA actually offers training in best practices and certifi cation. Related industries like siding and roofing manufacturers are taking note, with some voiding their warranties if their products are not cleaned to certain specifications. Right now, about half of our crew is trained to those specifications for power washing as well as trained as painters. The number of crew trained may change as the power washing side of the business
While I include a power wash in every exterior paint bid, I don’t always push it hard with my other painting services. The bulk of the power washing work isn’t tied to our paint work. We do a lot of house washing, roof cleaning, driveway and walkway cleaning and, believe it or not, prep washing for other painters. That said, having a power washing capability does make for a natural opportunity for future contact with our paint customers.
I think a lot of people look at power washing as a no-brainer. You hook your rig to a hose and off you go. But in truth, if you’re going to do it right, there’s a lot more to it. Anyone thinking of adding it as another service has to recognize that it’s another full-time job that requires a good bit of education. For one thing, you’re working with some pretty powerful chemicals. You and your crew have to become mini-chemists. If you mix together the wrong stuff, you can actually create some dangerous combos, including Agent Orange. And there are other serious factors. For example you need a medical examiner’s certificate (obtained from a licensed medical examiner listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration National Registry) if you are driving a vehicle over a certain weight; you need your MSDSs on hand at all times; and you need to register your vehicle with the DOT based on the size of the vehicle and how much chemical you’re carrying. Plus, if you have a spill, you have to know when to call in the EPA.
Like I said, it’s a lot. But it does provide 10% of our total billings and is growing. Last year, I set a goal of increasing my power washing billings by 100% and hit that target. I aim to do the same again in 2019.
Christian Militello owns and operates Militello Painting & Powerwashing with his wife Angelina in their hometown of Ambler, PA. They are committed to learning as much about their industries as possible and sharing that knowledge with their 10-person crew to ensure they deliver the best possible service to every customer. Christian is the VP of his local PDCA chapter and serves on the education committee for PDCA national. MilitelloPainting.com