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Preserving Outdoor Rooms

So-called “outdoor rooms” are all the rage, but how do you take care of them? If you’re concerned that the deck or patio you enjoyed all summer won’t make it through the winter unscathed, or you’re noticing signs of wear such as deck discoloration or aging boards, take heart. Repairs don’t have to be difficult. Here are a few guidelines: Dealing with a deck Even when they look clean, decks should be inspected annually and, in the case of spills, spot-cleaned. Check with the deck manufacturer before choosing a cleaning solution, and if you plan to use a pressure washer ask the manufacturer or a home/hardware store clerk what pressure setting to us.3.3 e so that the deck gets cleaned but not damaged. When sun discolors wood, it’s causing more than aesthetic harm: it can make wood crack and warp if the deck wasn’t properly sealed. That’s why decks need to be refinished periodically—some as often as annually, depending upon their age and finish. Before refinishing a deck, you’ll need to remove splinters and protruding nails, sand surfaces, and replace any boards cracked more than half the depth of the board. After those preparations, wash the deck and let it dry, then use a sealant (which deters moisture-related problems such as mildew) or stain. Patio care Brick or concrete patios are straightforward. If cracks develop in concrete and they are less than a half inch in depth, you can use concrete-patching products available at home and garden stores to “spackle” the hole. If weeds grow through cracks in a brick patio, consider flame-weeding them or at least killing them with vinegar (a natural solution) or a weed killer. Brick and concrete patios benefit from periodic pressure washing, and if you plan to stain a brick or concrete patio, then pressure-washing and treating cracks is a must-do preliminary step. If bricks look dirty and running a hose doesn’t help, or if you plan to stain them with color, consider pressure-washing the patio. Preserve outdoor furniture Outdoor furniture is more resilient than indoor furnishing, but it does require care—and that care varies based on the furniture’s material. Wicker furniture can be cleaned with soap and water and treated with a paste wax to help it retain water resistance; wooden outdoor furniture, if varnished properly, can also be cleaned with soap and water. Fabric seat covers and cushions and hammocks can be washed on warm but should be hung to dry. Wash umbrella covers with a brush, mild soap, and cold water and oil (or wax, if wood) joints that hold the umbrella aloft. Metal furniture (aluminum, wrought iron) can be cleaned with soap and water.