As the season approaches, you may be eager to get your outdoor entertainment space ready for the upcoming warm, sunny days and mild, pleasant evenings. You may be content with your beautiful outdoor space just as it is. Or, you may be considering various exciting improvements to enhance your deck, patio or yard, from minor furniture additions to major landscape installations or exterior structural modifications. Whatever your plans this year, start by keeping your deck, patio, and outdoor furniture looking great and in good repair. And, ensure that you have some often overlooked essentials for the season of outdoor fun.
Cleaning Your Deck or Patio
Winter can cause wooden decks to swell and shrink due to temperature changes, or to warp due to infiltration and freezing of moisture. Although with a stone patio, there is no risk of the deterioration or rotting that can result from winter conditions on a wooden deck, a patio still needs thorough cleaning to protect it from excessive surface erosion and to maintain its attractive appearance.
- Deck Cleaning — Inspect your deck and under deck for rotting, mildew, and loose nails, screws, or railings. Discolored or soft spots many indicate structural issues. Clean the deck thoroughly, using an eco-friendly deck cleaner and deck scrubbing brush, to remove buildup of grime, mildew, or algae. (Choose a cloudy, cool day for cleaning, to lessen stress on wood and rapid evaporation of cleaning solutions.) Avoid strong chemicals or power washing at high settings. Re-stain, if necessary. Either way, re-apply sealant annually, to protect wood from splitting and rotting.
- Patio Cleaning —For concrete, it may be enough to simply sweep it, and rinse it thoroughly with a garden hose. Use a degreaser around the grill area, as needed. Have a concrete overlay applied, if needed to refresh old concrete. For stone surfaces, use a detergent mixed with water to remove grime and mold and brighten the appearance. Do not scrub stone with a wire brush. Use a bristle brush made of natural or synthetic fibers.
Prepare Your Outdoor Furniture
Start by washing down furniture with a hose, to remove much of the accumulated dust and dirt from outdoor exposure during winter months. Use a dry cloth and a soft scrub brush to remove more dirt. For deeper cleaning, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, if you have them. If not, be careful with choices of chemicals. Some may be safe for plastics, but not for wood surfaces. Use these general guidelines:
- Fabric — Ideally, store outdoor pillows and cushions during winter, if possible, and use the manufacturer’s instructions for care. To avoid damaging fabrics, mix gentle dish soap with warm water for safe and effective cleaning. Air dry only.
- Wood — Furniture made from teak, wicker, or other wood may be more labor-intensive to clean. Dust and clean thoroughly at least twice each year. Use a cleaning solution made for outdoor wood furniture, or use gentle dish soap diluted in water. Wipe furniture with a soft cloth, working it into small areas. Use a toothbrush to clean grime spots.
- Plastic — Use an all-purpose cleaner and sponge to easily clean plastic surfaces. Replace badly damaged or weakened plastic furniture.
- Metal — If no rust is present on metal surfaces, mix a dish soap in water, and use a sponge or soft brush for cleaning. If rust is present, use sandpaper or steel wool to scrub rust off of oxidized surfaces. Then, prime and repaint, to restore an attractive appearance and protect the metal.
Restock Utensils and Supplies
Start your outdoor cooking season fully equipped this year. Prepare ahead of time, to make sure you have those items you may normally find yourself missing when you need them:
- Stock up on disposable plates, cups, utensils and paper products. Add some grilling tools to fill out your collection. Get a new meat thermometer, if your old one needs replacement.
- Upgrade your safety equipment, including fire extinguishers, heat-proof gloves, and safety gloves for cutting. Purchase some shields to protect food dishes from insects. Maybe even consider installing an outdoor refrigerator, to best protect food this year.
The Ideal Outdoor Living Space
With your outdoor entertaining space ready for the season, look around your yard and consider one or two other projects each year, to clean up or upgrade your backyard’s functionality and aesthetics to make your space even more inviting. Leveling out irregular areas, or adding landscaping and exterior lighting features provides both aesthetic and safety benefits.
You may also consider adding a few of the many comfort items that can make your deck or patio an ideal space for entertaining your guests throughout the season for outdoor cooking. There may be room for more abundant and comfortable outdoor seating and tables for drinks and snacks, or perhaps for an outdoor dining table and chairs. Add an umbrella or attached awning for shade, or a fire pit, deluxe barbeque grill, or maybe even a small bar.
There are so many great improvements and additions, many of them minor and inexpensive, that can upgrade your outdoor living environment and enhance the experience you and your guests will have at your home throughout this coming season for outdoor fun.