Beware Unwanted Side Effects of Power Washing Your Home's Exterior

Real Estate Agent with Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA VA License # 0225089470

Beware Unwanted Side Effects of Power Washing Your Home's Exterior

Earlier this year, I listed a home in the best condition I have encountered in a long time.   The sellers truly cared about their property and had made sure that it was in tip top shape to hit the market.  That included a good power washing of the vinyl siding. 

In time, after some lowball offers from buyers, the home attracted an offer the sellers were very happy to accept.  What could possibly go wrong when you have a home in this tip top condition, with all new systems, during home inspection?

Cue a torrential rain storm that had two and a half inches of rain slamming into the home with a fierce wind behind it, during the span of one hour.

It's never a good sign when you get a phone message from the buyer's agent that simply states her name, that she's at the home and there's a problem that cropped up during inspection.  "Please call me as soon as you get this."


During the inspection/torrential rain storm, the inspector pulled the cover off the electrical panel and water was running down it.  There was also water coming out of an overhead light socket in the basement.  Yikes.  The buyer's agent went on to say, "The buyer is voiding the contract."

This is not the kind of news you deliver over the phone.  I made contact with the sellers and headed over to the home.  First and foremost, I was concerned for their safety.  Water running down the electrical panel and coming out of a light socket were nothing to take lightly.

The sellers were hesitant to believe the issues.  Thankfully, the buyer's agent has sent me a video of the electrical panel and told me that the light socket issue would be evident by the water on the leather sofa in the basement.  We looked up, there was no water stain.  The sofa did indeed tell the tale.  A lot of water there.  So the husband got on the sofa and pulled out the light bulb, the trim and felt around.  Yep.  It was wet.  

Where was the water coming from?

The sellers and I went outside, worried that if the home inspector couldn't figure it out, that we would be left stumped too.  The two water intrusion issues were immediately evident.  The putty around the holes in the siding where the main electrical line and cables for internet and TV came into the basement was missing.  You could see the basement lights through the holes.  And lining up with the placement of the light fixture, a vent outside that was warped and missing caulking.  The wind had driven the massive amounts of rain into the holes.  And our buyers, moving to the area from the southwest, were voiding the contract.

How did these vital water proofing measures fail?  In addition to being dried out over time, the power washing of the home blew them out.  It was only an hour after my departure that the connected the dots.  

If you are going to, or have recently, power washed your home, check points of entry that should be caulked or puttied.  You don't want water pouring out of an overhead light fixture or running down your electrical panel.  And if you happen to experience an issue like this during a home inspection in a torrential rain storm, check those points of entry.  If they are compromised, ask the seller to re-putty around entry line holes and caulk around vents.  Come back and recreate the issue with a hose, right on the problem area.  If you can't recreate the water intrusion, it is fixed and you can breathe a sigh of relief.




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Richard Foster
Nevada Perfect Homes - Henderson, NV
Broker Owner, BS, ABR/M, CREN, CRS, GRI, RRG, SFR

Thanks for sharing . . . We have stucco in most of our market, but I can see how the home could be damaged here... 

Jul 21, 2018 09:53 AM #43
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Chris Ann

Wow, that is quite a story. Who would have thought this could be the result but something to keep in mind for any power-washing. And also a reminder about having caulking and such checked and redone where water could get in, including flashing around vents on the roof and by the chimney!


Jul 21, 2018 10:52 AM #44
Diana Zaccaro
Tropical Beachside brokered by eXp - Cocoa Beach, FL
"The Accidental Blogger" Cocoa Beach, Florida

What a shame the inspector and buyers' agent did not explain the problem to the buyers without scaring them away. Good post on an important subject, thanks for sharing.

Jul 21, 2018 11:05 AM #45
Melissa Spittel
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Westminster, MD
"Achieving Results Together "

Great advice for all of us! Always learning something new.

Jul 21, 2018 11:06 AM #46
Carolyn Roland-Historic Homes For Sale In Delaware and S. Chester County PA
Patterson-Schwartz Real Estate - Wilmington, DE
Carolyn Roland, GRI, CRS

This points out an additional thing to worry about when power washing. I had heard it was important not to point it upwards if there is horizontal siding. You could be shooting water under the siding.

Jul 21, 2018 01:21 PM #47
Ron Aguilar
Continental Mortgage - Saint George, UT
Mortgage & Real Estate Advisor since 1995

thanks for this good advice. I have used a power washer to a home but very aware of some areas that can cause a problem. 

Jul 21, 2018 03:51 PM #48
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Living and learning - and sharing the experience on Active Rain. Nice that all of us here can learn from each other.

Jul 21, 2018 04:10 PM #49
Jeni Blessman
Keller Williams Realty - McLean, VA

Excellent post & heads up Chris Ann...Thank you!

Jul 21, 2018 05:39 PM #50
John Henry
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Good info Chris Ann.  Here in Florida there is a lot of humidity and mold grows constantly on any side of a house that does not receive direct sunlight daily.  70 percent of the houses have concrete block exteriors and the rest are wood framed with siding, wood or vinyl, etc.  Continued use of chlorine power washes on any paint finish tend to thin the paint and affect the coloration so careful application is important in terms of amount of chlorine to dilute with water.  Also the generator powered washes will flake the paint away if too powerful.  No doubt old caulking will be damaged so this procedure should be carefully administered.

Jul 21, 2018 06:19 PM #51
Robert Vegas Bob Swetz
Realty ONE Group - Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas Henderson Homes for Sale

Hello Chris Ann, congrats on the AR feature and a great post with some great information on washing the exteriors of homes ;o)

Jul 21, 2018 09:07 PM #52
Bruce Kunz
C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100 - Howell, NJ
REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale

Thanks for sharing this, Chris Ann Cleland. I'm adding this to my list of things to ask/ check... I hope the sellers were able to correct the problems with minimal expense & trouble.


Jul 21, 2018 09:46 PM #53
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

What a disaster! If it CAN go wrong, it WILL go wrong at the most inopportune time. I'm so sorry this happened in the middle of your sale, Chris Ann.

This mistake could have happened to anyone, even a licensed contractor. Extreme caution should be used when cleaning around entry points, power outlets, etc., to avoid water penetration and/or damage.

Jul 22, 2018 08:03 AM #54
Greg Mona
Faira Homes Corp - Scottsdale, AZ
Real Estate in the 21st Century!

Thanks for sharing this, Chris Ann Cleland. While this doesn't necessarily apply here in "stucco land", it is always good to know about things like this for future reference. That said, many painters DO power wash the stucco before painting the home.

Jul 22, 2018 08:55 AM #55
John Wiley
Right Move Real Estate Group- EXP Realty - Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

Chris, thanks for giving us a really great heads up. Sellers have so many things to consider when preparing their house for sale. I am sure they did not contemplate any negative outcome from their improvement efforts.

Jul 23, 2018 05:49 AM #56
Greg Cremia
Shore Realty of the Outer Banks - Nags Head, NC

The real problem is the poor installation of the wiring. The wires entering the house should be encased in conduit to prevent the wire coverings from getting cut/frayed and the wires entering the house should also have a drip loop (U shaped bend in the wire) so water drips off the bottom of the loop and does not run down the wire into the panel box.


Jul 23, 2018 07:38 AM #57
Mike McCann - Nebraska Farm Land Broker
Mike McCann - Broker, Mach1 Realty Farmland Broker-Auctioneer Serving Rural Nebraska - Kearney, NE
Farm Land For Sale 308-627-3700 or 800-241-3940

Based on the many comments that are throwing the inspector and buyers and power washer under the bus...most of you will not like my comments.  

There is one party to blame here and that is not the inspector or the former buyers. Nor the power washer.

I can never ever fault a buyer for walking away from a home that has water issues.  Having water coming from an electric light or socket is incredibly dangerous. Having it come from the power panel is even more dangerous.

Having it come from those locations while doing an inspection is about as big of a red flag as possible.

Absolutely the inspector should be saying how dangerous it is and other underlying potential consequences such as death by electrocution...future mold potential...water damage to furniture and other personal property...rodent issues and I am sure I am forgetting some.

This is clearly the sellers fault for not resolving the problem after the power washing.  They want to know who messed the deal up...they should look in the mirror.

Did they not do a walk-around and inspect the siding after the wash was completed?

Based on the photos...the huge opening for the electrical has old cobwebs in the photo.  I so not see some of the telltale signs of old caulking in the photo such as some of the edge of the old caulking left behind that would survive a power washing and/or a torrential rain. 

No matter...they should have done a complete walk around after the power washing was complete.

You are assuming the Power washer knocked out the caulking. I am not sure that is the case...unless someone saw them do it. Again I look at the photo and see cobwebs.

The vent cover is warped and was most likely warped from mother nature. It also does not appear to have caulking around it...which will allow water to travel sideways under it in a hard wind driven rain.

I have the same vent covers and have changed all of mine twice in 15 years.  Mine are shaded for most of the day and still get warped. Those in full sunshine warped much quicker.

My is not the inspector's fault...nor the buyers fault...nor the Power washers fault.   It isn't even the Buyer Agent's fault.

That leaves very few to pick from as to whose fault it is that the deal fell apart due to water running out of the ceiling through a light and from an electrical panel during a rainstorm while the buyer and inspector watched it. 

Personally, I would have walked away from the house as well...or asked for a reduction in pricing. 

Yes...sometimes trying to make something look really nice does not work out...and I hope your sellers rebound quickly with another buyer.

Jul 23, 2018 11:41 AM #58
Nina Hollander
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Charlotte, NC
Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor

What excellent advice, Chris Ann. I live in a community of homes sided with Hardiplank which is painted. One of my neighbors told me they had hired someone to pressure wash their home's exterior and after the work was done they had to repaint the house because whoever did the work used too strong a solution and pressure. That was one expensive pressure wash!

Jul 24, 2018 12:24 PM #59
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Wow!  That's just plain scarey.   I've always had a thing about power washing.  When home sellers power wash a brick house, the mortar can fall away.  My first instinct is not to power wash!

Jul 24, 2018 08:30 PM #60
Monica Hill
RE/Max Associates - Wilmington, DE
the REALTOR to help you discover Delaware

Good post and very good advice! I hope your clients were able to resolve the issues without too great of an expense.

Jul 27, 2018 01:03 PM #61
Robin Wells
RAW Chimney Sweep and Inspections - Penetanguishene, ON
Giving Peace Of Mind One Chimney At A Time

Thanks for post.  Yes power washers can actually be very dangerous tools and some moreso than others!  When you look at the pressure of some of the higher end power washers, there is not much they can not destroy.

Mar 10, 2019 06:18 PM #62
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Chris Ann Cleland

Associate Broker, Bristow, VA
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