Can Pressure Washing Damage Concrete + Pavers + Bricks?

pressure washing concrete pavers

Hardscapes can beautify your landscaping, save water, and provide solid surfaces for parking, walking and entertaining. They are particularly popular for their durability and longevity, which allow you to enjoy your patios, walkways, sidewalks and driveways long after they are installed. For the most part, hardscapes like bricks, paving stones and concrete are relatively similar in the ease of cleaning and maintaining these surfaces; however, there are some major differences in longevity and expense in regards to repairing or replacing areas that become damaged.

Most dirt and debris can be removed from hardscapes with a broom or garden hose, but it should be noted that some areas do not allow cleaning hardscapes with water unless there are safety or health issues. Simply sweeping your concrete driveway or paving stone patio should usually be enough, particularly if you stick to a regular maintenance schedule to keep your hardscapes clean and looking their best.

There are times, however, when a broom just is not going to do the trick, such as in the case of oil stains, grease, algae or mold. When your concrete, brick or pavers are too dirty to be properly cleaned with a broom alone, many people automatically assume that power washing the concrete or paving stones is the best option. After all, this is a fast, easy way to clean hard surfaces. While you can use soapy water or detergents with your pressure washer to tackle tough stains, this is not always necessary, which may be appealing to people who want clean hardscapes without the use of chemicals. Additionally, while pressure washers obviously use water and are not the best option in times of drought, you can actually save water by using a power washer instead of a garden hose to clean concrete, bricks or pavers.

pressure washing concrete

Can Pressure Washing Damage Concrete or Pavers?

Cleaning your hardscapes is a fast, easy way to immediately increase your home’s curb appeal or improve outdoor living areas without spending a lot of money. You will notice an even more significant difference if your concrete, bricks or paving stones are dirty from years of neglect or if they have mold or algae growing on them.

Pressure washing is a popular way to clean hardscapes, and you can clean concrete, paving stones or bricks with a power washer. This is a convenient option using equipment that is widely available for purchase or that can be easily rented at tool rental yards or larger home improvement centers. There are no skills required to figure out how to turn on a pressure washer, aim and pull the trigger, so the fact that just about anyone can use them increases their appeal for tough cleaning jobs.

However, while the basics of power washing can be quickly and easily learned, using this powerful machine effectively without causing damage to yourself, someone else or your property is another thing entirely. Pressure washing horror stories include stripping paint off of houses, ripping off siding and shingles, damaging wood decks, destroying car paint jobs and even causing serious injuries.

The problem is not with pressure washing, itself; the problem is that inexperienced folks using a pressure washer can easily choose the wrong nozzle, use higher pressure than warranted or simply not understand how powerful a pressurized stream of water can be.

When using a power washer to clean concrete, bricks or paving stones, it is possible to cause significant, visible damage, which is usually in the form of pitting, lines or general surface degradation. You can also damage the mortar between bricks and disperse the joint sand between paving stones. In the case of concrete, slabs installed less than one year ago are more likely to be damaged than older slabs.

This damage is often caused by choosing the wrong nozzle, using higher pressure than necessary, holding the wand too close to the surface of the hardscape or directing the spray at the same place for too long.

pressure washing pavers

Tips for Pressure Washing Concrete, Bricks and Pavers Without Damage

If your hardscapes are particularly dirty or you just feel strongly about using a pressure washer to clean them, the best course of action is to hire a professional who has experience power washing your particular hardscape. This is the surest way to avoid damage and the potential for costly repairs.

If hiring a professional is not in your budget or you simply prefer do-it-yourself projects, then the next best thing to do is read our guides on how to effectively clean various stains and substances off of hardscapes. These guides will give you step-by-step directions on how to clean concrete driveways, paver patios or brick walkways without a pressure washer:

pressure washing tips

Before renting or buying a power washer, you should first see if a garden hose with a nozzle to direct the spray will provide a powerful enough stream of water to effectively clean the areas in question. If this does not work and you do decide to go with a pressure washer, practice on dirt or somewhere other than your hardscape so that you can get a feel for the machine and how powerful the spray is. Then, test out your new skills in an inconspicuous area to make sure there is no damage before you move to areas that are in plain sight.

Select a pressure washer with between three and four gpm (gallons per minute) at a pressure of 3000 psi (pounds per square inch). The next step is to select a nozzle that provides a wide angle, rather than a narrow stream of water. It can be tempting to choose a higher psi or different tip that will get the job done faster, but it is better to take your time and avoid costly and unsightly damage.

As you power wash your hardscape, be sure that you are using a continuous sweeping motion and that you do not allow the water to spray any particular area for too long. You will want to keep the nozzle at least 12 inches away from your concrete or pavers, and never point the sprayer directly at the ground, but rather, maintain the spray at an angle. If you are cleaning grease or oil off of your hardscapes or are using detergents, avoid runoff that will find its way to the storm drain. This water is also not good for your natural grass lawn or plants. If you are using only water, direct the runoff towards a lawn or flowerbeds. If you are using detergents or cleaning grease and oil, direct the runoff to a dirt or gravel area.

To further reduce the potential for damaging your hardscapes, you may want to consider renting or buying a surface cleaner attachment, which directs jets of water to clean hard surfaces but does not have the same potential for causing damage as a pressure washer.

If you are power washing paving stones, avoid directly spraying the joints between the pavers, as this can wash away the sand. If this occurs, you will need to replace the joint sand to maintain the integrity of the installation.

Power Washing Concrete, Bricks and Pavers: Final Thoughts

It is particularly important to avoid damage if you have concrete or brick hardscapes. Concrete can be repaired and sections can be replaced, but these repairs are always noticeable since it is nearly impossible to match the color of new concrete to the color of existing concrete. A brick patio or driveway can also be repaired, but it can be costly to remove mortar and damaged bricks and can be very difficult to match the new section to what is already there. If you happen to damage your paving stones with a pressure washer, the pavers that are damaged can be easily removed and replaced, due to the manner in which paving stones zip together during installation. Your installer can simply unzip the paving stones, replace the damaged pavers and put your patio or driveway back together.