Written by Fran J. Donegan
As with the inside of your home, outdoor living areas need attention and care to keep them looking their best. While you may not need to dust or vacuum your deck and furniture, there are a few maintenance chores that will get the warm-weather living off to a good start.
Preparing Your Deck
Before you bring out your furniture, give the deck a good sweeping. Make sure you remove leaves and other debris from between the deck boards. Then, take a few minutes to inspect the deck.
Drive in any nails or screws that have popped above the surface. If the fastener won’t hold in its original position, drive in a new fastener nearby.
Inspect the deck’s framing if possible. Pay attention to intersections, such as where joists meet beams. Use a screwdriver or an awl to poke any suspect area. If the tool sinks into the wood easily, the wood could be rotting.
Examine where the deck attaches to the house. The point of attachment is called the ledger board, which should be installed with through bolts or lag screws designed for ledger attachment—not simply nailed—to the framing of the house. There should also be flashing that diverts water from the ledger.
If you do find problems, especially on supports or where the deck connects to the house, call in a professional to get them fixed right away.
You should always follow the directions on the label of the cleaner, but here are some general guidelines:
- Sprinkle some water on the deck before beginning. If the water is absorbed into the deck quickly, you may need to apply a waterproof sealer after cleaning.
- Cover surrounding plants with a plastic tarp.
- Give the deck a thorough sweeping.
- Mix the cleaner as directed and apply using a sprayer, or brush the solution onto the deck using a push broom.
- Most cleaners should remain on the deck for a few minutes to loosen dirt and stains. Keep the surface of the deck wet during that period.
- Go over the deck with a stiff broom. Use a scrub brush on the railings and stairs.
- Rinse as directed.
- If necessary, apply the sealer following the directions on the label after the deck has dried completely. This process that could take three or four days.
If the deck boards are beyond repair or you just want to upgrade the look of the deck, consider removing the decking and railings and installing new material over the old framing. Chances are the framing is made of pressure-treated lumber, no matter what the decking material. Most of the framing is covered and installed vertically so water can’t puddle on it. If it is in sound shape, it can serve as the foundation for any new decking material.
Freshen Up Your Furniture
As with decks, outdoor furniture can use a little maintenance after a long winter – even if you stored the furniture indoors.
Check all fasteners and tighten any that are loose.
Revive finishes if necessary and remove any rust from metal furniture. Use a primer that prevents rust before touching up the piece with paint. Give wood furniture a fresh stain or coat of paint.
Clean the furniture as recommended by the manufacturer. In general, it’s safe to wash everything using a mild soap and water. Don’t use any cleaner containing chlorine or an abrasive material unless the manufacturer says it won’t harm the furniture. Use a wood-safe product like Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean up wood furniture.
Protect the furniture depending on its material. Apply a thin coat of automobile wax to aluminum furniture to keep out moisture. An exterior varnish will protect wood from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun, and it will expand and contract with the wood to prevent cracking of the finish. Help prevent fabric cushions from fading by applying an outdoor fabric protector.
Outdoor parties usually mean sunscreen – which in turn means sunscreen spills. And if you have a pool or spa, there will be wet bathing suits laden with chlorine and other chemicals left out to dry. To keep furniture looking good all summer, clean up any spills or damp spots as soon as they happen. Give the furniture a rinse with clean water and allow cushions to dry thoroughly. Outdoor slipcovers will also help prolong the life of your furniture. Use them throughout the season during periods when the furniture is not in use so you’ll be ready when summer rolls around again.