Spring’s Work: Time to Clean

You made it through the winter, so now it’s time to enjoy the spring outdoors. An unwashed wooden deck is an invitation to mold and mildew, which can cause rot.

Start by removing debris from between deck boards or the patio stones using a putty knife. Once you have the space cleaned, thoroughly sweep the area. When you’re ready to clean using a solution, make sure you choose an appropriate cleanser for your building material.

  • Wood: Use a standard deck cleaner and follow its directions.
  • Composite: Use a cleaner specifically formulated for composite material. Attack grease and oil stains with a commercial degreaser and detergents.
  • Vinyl: You’ll only need to use warm water and a mild soap to remove mold, mildew, and dirt.

After you clean your deck, seal it. Your finish options include:

  • Clear sealer that lets the wood’s natural grain and color show through
  • Toner that adds a bit of color but fully reveals the grain and provides some protection against sunlight
  • Semi-transparent stain that tints the wood, but lets some grain show
  • Solid stain and opaque color that seal weathering damage and completely cover the grain

There are a few options for patios depending on how much of a cleaning is needed. For a thorough, hearty clean, you may want to power wash the surface. For a gentle cleaning, hose off the patio and scrub stains with a gentle household cleaner. A bleach solution is an effective cure for stubborn stains.

Remember to provide this deep clean before bringing out your deck or patio furniture.

Midsummer’s Work: Inspect and Repair

When the weather is warm and dry, it’s a good time to give your deck and patio a close inspection. Pay particular attention to any areas within 6 inches of the ground or close to sources of water, such as downspouts and planters.

Look for signs of rot. Begin by checking stairs. Also check each perimeter post. If you can push a screwdriver a quarter-inch or more into a suspect area, you probably have rot.

Inspect the ledger. Using a flashlight underneath your deck, pay special attention to the ledger — the piece of framing that attaches the deck to the house. Check remaining joists, posts, railings, and beams. Check all the hardware underneath, especially joist hangers, and replace any that are seriously rusted. Probe for signs of rot on the posts and joists.

Check grout.  Look at the grout in between stonework on your patio.  If any has come loose or disappeared altogether, repair it.

Fall’s Work: Preventive Measures

Fall is also a good time to wash and seal your deck and clean your patio if you didn’t get a chance to so in the spring. The point is to do it when temperatures are mild.

Otherwise, to keep your areas in good shape:

  • Trim nearby bushes and trees. They need to be at least 12 inches from the area to slow mold, moss, and rot.
  • Don’t let leaves and other debris pile up in corners.
  • Move planters, chairs, and tables occasionally to avoid discoloring the building material. Keep nearby gutters and downspouts in good repair.

Winter’s Work: Caring for Accessories

If you live in a cold climate that will keep you indoors for the winter, ensure your outdoor furniture is ready for you when the weather warms by storing it in a shed or garage if possible or if not, consider covering it. Soft goods, like pillow and rugs, should be brought indoors.  If you live in a warmer climate that will allow you to remain outdoors in the winter, enjoy!

Whether you have a deck or patio, you have likely discovered a love for your outdoor living space. Unlike your interior rooms, the outdoor areas are impacted daily by weather conditions and accordingly, need regular inspection and occasional maintenance.  A little investment of time each season will ensure your deck or patio is ready and waiting for a good time.

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