Outdoor living spaces add tremendous value to your home, as well as your everyday enjoyment. A rustic stone patio or sleek modern deck can be the perfect gathering place for family and friends. Throw in some comfortable seating and perhaps a firepit, and you’ve got a real amenity.
The materials used for decks and patios vary as widely as home styles. They should be chosen with their intended use in mind. If the space will be used for dining, for example, it’s wise to choose a smooth, regular surface, like brick pavers or concrete for your patio. A more casual space might call for gravel or flagstones.
Here are some of the most popular materials for outdoor living spaces:
These days, you can choose between many different natural surfaces, as well as a range of composite and artificial decking materials that may extend the life and reduce the maintenance costs of your deck.
Option #1: Wood
The most common choice for wood deck materials is pressure-treated or “PT” lumber. This is inexpensive, and can easily make for a sturdy, attractive structure. On the other hand, PT is also highly susceptible to warping, cracking and splitting, so it has to be treated regularly for weather resistance. A deck made with PT lumber will last around 15 years, and the cost is around $1.32 per lineal foot.
An option for longer lasting wood decks would be redwood or cedar, which are naturally resistant to warping, cracking and pests. These woods are about three times as expensive as pressure treated lumber.
Tropical woods like ipe (pronounced e-pay), cambara, and ironwood, fall into the same price range. These are very dense and pest resistant and considered to be some of the most beautiful decking materials available. These are also relatively expensive, averaging $2.00 per foot, but they last for about 25 years.
Option #2: Composite
Composite wood is composed of wood fibers and recycled plastic, and comes in a wide range of colors and stains. It won’t warp, split or crack, and is an environmentally friendly option. It doesn’t need to be stained or painted, but should be scrubbed regularly to prevent mildew.
Your first consideration in choosing patio materials is what you’ll be using the patio for most. If you’re like most folks, the answer is “general outdoor entertaining.” This usually includes dining, which means you’ll want a solid, flat surface and should consider patio materials like brick, concrete, cast pavers, or flat stone like slate.
Uneven surfaces like fieldstone, pebbles, or gravel aren’t recommended (unless you want to make eating and sitting comfortably more challenging).
Understanding Outdoor Patio and Deck Maintenance
Like any other feature of your home, your deck or patio is only an asset if it’s properly maintained.
Even though pressure-treated lumber resists insects and decay, it’s still vulnerable to moisture and the sun’s rays. Eventually these forces will have your deck looking gray or grimy, so regular maintenance is necessary.
The first consideration in deck maintenance is a good cleaning. Deck cleaners come in bleach and non-bleach formulas. Either can remove surface and ground-in dirt. Bleach cleaners lighten the wood, while non-bleach ones gently remove dirt and grime without damaging the wood fibers or the wood’s natural color.
Here are some steps for cleaning a wood deck:
- Sweep away all the leaves and other debris.
- Gently rinse off the deck and the surrounding bushes and grass with a garden hose.
- Using a roller, sprayer or a bucket and brush, apply the cleaner, being sure to remember to wear gloves to protect your hands. Don’t forget vertical surfaces, like posts and railings.
- Let the cleaner set for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse, using a pressure washer to remove stubborn grime.
- After cleaning, allow the deck to dry for a few days and then make any needed repairs: drive in any protruding nails and replace boards if necessary.
- Finally, apply a protective stain or clear coat to bring new life to the deck.
- Cover all the surrounding areas with a cloth tarp
- Apply the wood finish according to directions
- Let it set for about 20 minutes to penetrate.
- Brush out any puddles to avoid shiny patches, and then apply a second coat.
Just like your deck, patios need regular attention to optimize usefulness and visual appeal. Check at least annually for needed repairs and cleaning. Some common patio problems are easy enough to solve with these steps:
Weathering and settling can cause pavers to be less level, and this requires some adjustment. Pull up the offending stones or bricks and re-level the bedding material (ideally crushed stone) before replacing them.
Dirty, Moldy, or Faded Pavers
Clean and seal pavers every 2 or 3 years, using an acid-based masonry detergent, then apply a sealant.
Weeds and Debris Between Pavers
Pressure wash the joints, clean the pavers, and sweep in polymeric joint sand, which solidifies with moisture, creating a solid and permanent bond.
A New Approach to Home Maintenance with Glasshouse
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