(BPT) - Expanding livable space using decks and patios is a top home improvement trend, but today's homeowners aren't satisfied with limiting entertaining outdoors to the warmer months. With a few smart updates, they're creating spaces that make outdoor entertaining possible all year long. Breathe new life into your existing deck and create a space that can be used for entertaining year-round with a few expert tips.
'Winter doesn't mean retreating indoors when you have a well-maintained deck with features that keep guests comfortable,' says Mark Clement, host of MyFixitUpLife radio show, licensed contractor and contributor for Professional Deck Builder and DIY Network. 'Wood's natural beauty enhances outdoor entertaining all year long, meaning your deck is the ideal location for impressive entertaining, even when the weather turns chilly.'
Clement and the experts at the Softwood Lumber Board offer a few tips for maintaining a wood deck and creating an oasis for entertaining even during cooler weather:
1. Schedule an annual cleaning
Wood is a natural material with inherent qualities that blend well with the outdoor environment, but it's important to conduct regular maintenance. Cleaning solutions and wood brighteners are good options to restore the natural beauty of your wood deck. Be sure to read the container to make sure the cleaner is appropriate for the wood species used for your deck. There are generally three types of cleaners: chlorine bleach solutions kill mold and mildew, oxygen bleaches remove mildew and help restore weathered gray wood, and oxalic acid-based solutions are ideal brighteners when mildew is not a concern.
A simple garden hose with sprayer is best to rinse the cleaner from your deck. Some prefer to use a powerwasher which can be a good way to rid your deck of grime, and some machines even have reservoirs for holding mild detergents. When using a powersprayer on your wood deck, set it at the lowest pressure possible, around 500 psi.
2. Check surfaces, structure and fasteners
Even in more temperate regions, changes in temperature can stress wood and metal fasteners, so deck maintenance is important no matter where you live. Check for and replace wood that is cracked or warped, paying special attention to any areas that tend to remain damp or are regularly exposed to water. Check that deck railings are sound by giving them a solid push, there shouldn't be any give.
Checking your deck's hardware is important too - particularly the flashing. Flashing is the metal or plastic guard that directs water away from sensitive areas, usually where the deck and the house meet. Be sure to give all nails, screws and anchors a once-over too, and tighten or replace where necessary.
3. Arrange furniture thoughtfully and add touches of comfort
Patio furniture keeps guests comfortable so they linger longer. Furniture with seat cushions or other padding are warmer options on cold days. Remember, when preparing for year-long outdoor entertaining, it's important to arrange furniture to encourage conversation while maintaining the flow of traffic in and out of the house.
To stave off the chill, especially when entertaining in the evening after the sun has gone down, it's crucial to keep your outdoor space comfortable, warm and well-lit. Add throws to furniture for guests to use and incorporate a fire pit or chimnea to the space to keep guests toasty - these items also create a wonderful ambiance that beautifully contrasts the winter season. A few strings of lights or strategically placed lanterns make an outdoor area more attractive while adding an element of safety, so be sure to light railings and steps as necessary.
'Wood is a versatile and affordable material that, when used in a patio space, provides the perfect backdrop for an amazing outdoor space,' says Clement. 'With the right maintenance and a few thoughtful touches, a wood deck can serve as a gathering place for parties or a reprieve for a cozy night at home with loved ones any day throughout the year.'