Start a pressure washing business by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your pressure washing business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a pressure washing business?
The main startup up cost is leasing the pressure washing equipment and the transportation to take the equipment to work at the client’s premises. Transportation is usually a van with advertising of the company painted on the van to attract more customers when the van is in operation with the power washer. Having a physical facility, such as renting an office space or work space is not necessary unless you want to offer services of power washing to vehicles that are passing by on a main thoroughfare.
The basic expenses for starting this business include:
- Lease for power washing equipment and water tanks $2,000 down payment and $700 per month for the equivalent of $25,000 in equipment.
- Alternately, you could buy pressure washing equipment to for a larger upfront payment (which would save you money in the long run). Pressure washers range from a few hundred dollars to over $15,000. Consider which type of pressure washer you need to start your business.
- Lease for a commercial van that is fitted with the power washing equipment - $450 per month.
- Gasoline and vehicle maintenance $250 per month
- Advertising (flyers and business cards) - $200 per month
You will need to have good credit to get the leases for the equipment and the van, a few thousand dollars to get started for the down payment, plus enough to pay the lease payments for the first six months while you find customers. You can easily start this business with less than $10,000 in cash and finance the rest using credit. Your goals will be to generate $2,000 or more per month in paid jobs in order to create a sustainable business effort.
What are the ongoing expenses for a pressure washing business?
The ongoing expenses for this business include the labor cost for the workers, lease payments for the equipment and the van(s), insurance, and the amount allocated to the monthly marketing efforts.
Who is the target market?
Depending on the target market, the customers might be homeowners, vehicle owners, government agencies (which need pressure washing services for roads and other government buildings/structures), and/or commercial property owners. Most pressure washing businesses do better by offering their services to all types of customers and have workers that are experts in doing certain kinds of pressure washing. Besides seeking customers from the general public, it is advisable to get long-term contracts from commercial operations. Examples of these contracts would include maintaining the exteriors of multiple commercial properties owned by the same person or organization or cleaning a fleet of vehicles on a regular basis.
How does a pressure washing business make money?
Some of the most successful businesses in this sector have many repeat clients. For simple jobs like pressure washing a car, pressure washing businesses charge a flat rate of around $50 to $100, which includes “detailing.” Detailing is the finish work after the pressure cleaning is done. It includes waxing the vehicle and making the vehicle look like it is brand new.
Another mainstay in this business is the cleaning of the exterior surfaces of real estate. Power washing homes and commercial properties is very lucrative. You can charge by the square footage of the exterior surfaces that are cleaned.
How much can you charge customers?
Home advisor gives some examples of the range of prices for pressure washing a home. A typical homeowner will spend between $184 to $380 for a pressure washing of the home and its exterior surfaces.
Here are a few of the common prices:
- Exterior siding of a home - $100 to $300
- Driveway - $80 to $200
- Deck or patio - $250 to $500
Commercial properties pay $0.25 to $1.50 per square foot of exterior surface area. Higher rates are charged for buildings that are multiple stories and include the rental cost of the scaffolding or window washing equipment needed to reach the higher levels.
Cleaning a vehicle is around $50 to $100. Washing semi-trucks and boats would be about twice that amount.
How much profit can a pressure washing business make?
If you keep the equipment usage level high, you can expect to make at least 100% of the amount you pay for the equipment lease per month. For example, if the monthly lease payments for a van and equipment plus insurance are around $1,200 then you should earn at least $2,400 per month as your minimum goal. If your main customers are homeowners, you will be doing about 3 to 4 jobs per week to meet this minimum.
How can you make your business more profitable?
As an expansion of the pressure washing business, you can also offer pressure cleaning of drains, pipes, and sewage lines. The equipment is similar and the water pressure is very effective in clearing blocked pipes, blasting tree roots out of the way, and keeping sewer lines flowing.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your pressure washing business is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, but if you still want to weigh all your options check our our article, What Structure Should I Choose for My Business?
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
In most states, it is necessary to obtain a wastewater discharge permit. More information about these permits can be found on your local state website. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Services Contract (e.g. MSA)
In business where services are provided on an extended basis, a services contract is often put in place outlining terms and conditions of service. You may wish to require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement clarifies client expectations and minimizes risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, and service level expectations. Here is an example of one such services agreement.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your pressure washing business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
Labor Safety Requirements
It is important to comply with all Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.
Relevant regulations include:
- Appropriate hazard identification
- Injury reports
- Proper safety precautions when operating potentially dangerous equipment (e.g. pressure washer, ladders, etc.)
Certificate of Occupancy
When pressure washing businesses operate from a physical location (like when offering a drive-thru pressure washing service for cars) a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) will be necessary. A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a pressure washing business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your pressure washing business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
How to promote & market a pressure washing business
The best promotion comes from word-of-mouth that happens naturally when you please customers with the work you do. A campaign of using hand-out flyers is also a good idea. Giving discounts for repeat customers helps build a stable business. Offering a commission to related businesses such as an auto repair shop or a landscaping company for bringing you customers is another great way to increase business.
Contracts in this business often come from local government agencies looking to fix up part of the area. Establishing long-lasting relationships with government officials can help ensure your business is responsible for the restoration of your area.
As this is a service that is not crucial for everyone, it is important to consider your market. Residential customers with high disposable income tend to be the most valuable customers. Power washing is often needed at construction sites upon finishing.
Another good source of customers is homeowners who are putting their homes on the market. People usually want a house they are selling to look its best and that includes the cleanliness of its exterior.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
One of the most effective ways to advertise your business is to have a very attractive logo and big lettering of your phone number painted on your van(s). When the van is not busy doing a job, park it in a place where it is highly visible to lots of traffic that passes by, who can see the van.
Customers are naturally drawn to high quality service and low prices. This is another place where word-of-mouth is extremely valuable. Satisfied customers will stay and recommend your services to others.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Pressure Washing Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
Those who are comfortable using high-pressure washing equipment and enjoy helping their clients make things look sparkling clean and new are best suited to this type of business. Ideal owners are those who enjoy cleaning things for people and who have a nice personality that is friendly and attracts more clientele after a job is done well.
What happens during a typical day at a pressure washing business?
First and foremost, owners of this type of business pressure wash clients’ property. A business owner for a pressure washing company needs to maintain good relations with existing clients and constantly look for new ones. The goal of the business owner is to keep the appointments for the cleaning teams with a full calendar. The idea is to use the equipment and the teams as much as possible.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful pressure washing business?
It helps to have some mechanical knowledge and to be comfortable working with pressure washing equipment. The equipment needs to be maintained properly and can be dangerous to use if not handled correctly. A guide to pressure washer use and maintenance can be found here.
What is the growth potential for a pressure washing business?
The exciting thing about this business is that a person can start in one local area and then expand to offer similar services in other areas. There are franchise opportunities and a business can expand from a local market to a regional market and then go national.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
How and when to build a team
This business starts with a single van. It can expand based on the demand for services and the expansion happens with one van with one new worker at a time. Usually, a single person can handle a job. Sometimes there is a need for two people. This means that to build up a team requires getting another van, the equipment, and hiring at least one new person, perhaps with an assistant.
It is easy to decide when to add another van. The decision comes from having the first van over-booked and turning away new customers. You do not want to invest in a second van too early, but you also want to be able to handle the demand for your services with enough staff and equipment to meet their needs.
Pressure washing equipment can be very dangerous. It is imperative when building a team, to hire employees who are certified and reliable. More information about certification can be found on the website of the Power Washers of North America.