Part of being a homeowner is making sure your home is ready for all seasons, including winter. If you don't take certain measures to protect exterior elements of your home and property, the harsh winter season can cause damage or shorten the lifespan of some materials.
Exterior preparation takes a bit of work, but this guide can help you know where to start and what to do to keep your home safe and beautiful until spring comes.
1. Prep the Awning
Exterior patio spaces are perfect for outdoor parties and barbecues, but once the weather cools, it's time to pack up. If you have an installed awning or patio covering, remove the fabric or roll it back and secure it carefully. This keeps the awning from getting stretched, scraped, or discolored from ice, blazing winter sun, and snow. Vinyl awnings can become very stiff in the cold, so it's best to take awnings down before the first freeze to help protect them from cracking or fatigue.
2. Stow the furniture.
After removing and securing the fabric of the awning, pack up patio furniture to store in the shed, basement, or garage. If your furniture is fixed in place, remove the cushions. Soft cushions can fade or absorb moisture from snow, and mice can use them as nests if they are left out. Before storing cushions, clean them thoroughly with a mixture of mild soap and water. Mold and mildew spores can collect over the summer months, so giving the cushions a cleaning will help them store better over the winter and keep them fresh enough to use next year.
If you have fabric pieces that can't be removed, cover them heavy plastic or burlap. If you have a hammock in the patio area (or anywhere else on the property), take it down so it doesn't become a catcher for snow and leaves.
3. Clean surfaces.
The next thing you want to do is get all of your surfaces clean. For simple patios, this might be just wiping down a table and benches. However, more elaborate outdoor spaces have outdoor grilling stations and even open flame ovens. These should be thoroughly cleaned. If powered by gas, the lines should be disconnected and sealed. If you have a barbecue, remove the propane tank and store it in a dry place outdoors. Don't ever store a propane tank inside the house.
4. Clear away leaves and debris.
Falling leaves are dry at first, but with cold rain and snow, the leaves become slimy and they begin to leech pigments. These can actually penetrate porous concrete, stone, or brick patio areas and cause brown, green, and yellow stains. It's best to thoroughly remove all leaves as they fall. A leaf blower can help you stay on top of this chore.
5. Get the products you need for winter care.
If your patio is made from brick or concrete, stock up on concrete-friendly ice melt. Some salts can ruin the finish of a concrete or brick patio. You'll also want a decent snow shovel handy—if you can shovel the patio right away, ice won't have time to build up, so you'll need to use salt or ice melt less often.
6. Move plants inside.
If you have portable plants to adorn your patio, moving them inside can help them survive, especially if you have unexpectedly cold weather. If you only had annuals, take the time to discard the plants after the season is over and to rinse out the flower pots. Taking care of this chore now helps your patio to look cleaner over winter and gives you one less thing to worry about in the spring time.