Homeowners are increasingly turning their attention to hardscaping — those landscape elements that are made of hard materials such as brick, wood or stone — to transform their outdoor space. For those looking to maximize beauty while minimizing work, extensive hardscaping is an attractive solution. These beautiful and functional walkways, decks and patios don’t need to be mowed in the summer nor be replanted in the spring.
However, while it is true that hardscapes can be considered low maintenance, they are not “no maintenance.” This is especially the case during winter, when harsh weather and freezing temperatures can adversely affect your hardscaping.
Luckily, with just a little bit of effort, you can preserve your outdoor space for years to come.
Preparing and Maintaining Hardscapes for Winter
The key to properly maintaining winter hardscapes is preparing them before the harsh weather actually hits. Consider the mild temperatures of autumn. This is one of the most enjoyable times to do work outside, so what better time to do the majority of the preventative maintenance on your outdoor living spaces?
Here’s what to do:
1. Prep your furniture.
Despite being designed for the outdoors, patio furniture should be your first step when prepping for winter. Because outdoor furniture gets very little use in winter and because it will be exposed to the harsh winter weather, winter is tougher on your furniture than all other seasons combined.
With that in mind, you have one of two options when prepping outdoor furniture for the colder months. Many opt for covering their furniture. Depending on the quality of your outdoor furniture, it may have come with custom sized covers. If so, use them.
If you don’t have custom covers, don’t fret. Generic furniture covers come in a variety of sizes, and unless your furniture is a particularly odd shape or size, you can easily find a cover that will fit snuggly and do the job just as well as a custom one.
If your seating has fabric cushions, you should bring the cushions inside, even if the base of the furniture remains outside. If the fabric can be removed, this would be a great time to launder them as well, as the warmer months can cause mildew to form even if it isn’t visible.
The best way to protect your furniture is to bring it inside so it doesn’t fall victim to the winter weather. If you have an outdoor shed or copious garage or basement space, store your furniture there. But, if you don’t have that space or if your furniture is large, leave it outside and take the steps to protect it so you’ll be able to use it again when the weather warms.
2. Prep your outdoor kitchen.
Most homeowners have at least one classic outdoor cooking appliance — a grill. Outdoor cooking has only increased in popularity, though, and as such, many homeowners have increased the size of their outdoor kitchen to include brick ovens, wet bars and even refrigeration.
Whether you are still working with the basic round charcoal grill or you are firing homemade brick oven pizzas, you should always take care to protect your outdoor kitchen before the first snowfall, especially since the colder weather will likely cause you to do the majority of your cooking inside.
If you have a grill and you have the space to move it inside, by all means, do so. Simply add it to your list of furniture you bring in every fall.
However, whether your grill is too large to bring inside or you are the adventurous type who still likes to light up the charcoal even in sub-zero weather, many people are better off leaving their grill outside year round. If so, just make sure you have a good snug cover that will keep it protected.
If you have a more extensive outdoor kitchen, you also want to make sure to shut down and drain the water lines before they have the chance to freeze. Cover your sinks to ensure they do not collect debris or ice that could cause damage. You’ll also want to disconnect the electricity to any powered outdoor appliances. Finally, give all of your outdoor appliances a thorough cleaning.
Just keep in mind that unlike your sink, you do not want to cover any outdoor appliances that have electric components. A cover will actually cause moisture to collect on the wiring and could potentially damage your equipment.
If you have a stone countertop, make sure you use a specialty winter sealant to prevent unsightly leaf stains or cracking during the winter.