Blog by Beebe Cline

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Get It Done: Winterize Your Patio

There's nothing like a hurricane to remind us that we haven't properly prepped the patio and deck for inclement weather. For those of you lucky enough to have evaded Sandy's path, take this opportunity to get your outdoor spaces ready for the upcoming cold months. As the last of the leaves drop, it's time to make sure your outdoor furniture is preserved and safe. Some of these tasks actually can be fun projects that will keep you busy on winter weekends.
Take down the patio umbrellas. Give them a good wash. (Your dry cleaners may take them, or you can attack mildew with vinegar, warm water and a brush.) Make sure they are dry, then store in a dry spot for the winter.
Take care of awnings. Take down and clean any removable awnings, then store these in a dry place, too.
Assess, repair, replace and store outdoor furniture.
  • Check for any repairs you can take care of over the winter. If you need a winter project, you may want to re-stain or repaint at your leisure. I like to give my pieces a fresh coat during that first fluky warm weekend pre-spring. This way, my wonky stacking for storage doesn't ruin my work.
  • Determine whether any pieces are beyond repair; you may just get lucky and find a replacement at a deep discount this time of year.
  • Clean and store furniture you're saving for next year.
Take off outdoor furniture slipcovers, wash and store.
  • You don't have to keep the washer going all weekend; you can spread this washing around your family's laundry needs.
  • Check the condition of the covers and see whether any need replacing. A fun winter project can be finding a replacement fabric and/or sewing new covers yourself.
  • After the covers that you're keeping are washed, fold and store them in a dry place.
Bring in ceramic and terracotta pots and birdbath vessels. If you are storing them someplace cold like a shed or garage, empty them first so they don't crack during a freeze.
Cover or store your grill. Believe it or not, lots of hardy New Englanders, Minnesotans and other cold-weather types love to grill a big steak out in the snow, so my advice for the grill will vary. It's up to personal preference.
  • At the very least, invest in a good protective cover.
  • If you're not a cold-weather griller, you may store your grill in a shed or garage; be sure there have not been any hot coals in it for weeks. You cannot be too careful about hot ashes.
  • Check your original instructions/warranty for advice for your grill in snowy weather.
  • If your grill is powered by propane, do not leave that tank on the ground or store it indoors.
Make sure your favorite little statues or garden stones with labels on them are out of harm's way. This means the spot where a snowplow or snowblower may run them over or dump large piles of snow. You may want to have some fun using them indoors as unique centerpieces or as parts of holiday displays.

Show us your gnomes!
Prepare the fire pit.
  • Split some logs, stack them and store them in a nearby dry spot.
  • If you have a portable fire pit, give it a cleaning and make sure the cover is in good shape. (They tend to rust if left out in bad conditions.)
  • Stock up on graham crackers, marshmallows and Hershey bars. One of the good parts of winter patio prep is an impromptu s'mores night!
Feed the birds.
  • Buy your annual supply of birdseed.
  • Fill up those bird feeders.
  • Buy a guide to birds to enjoy with the kids, and let the bird watching ensue!
Drain and store your hoses.
  • Let all of the water run out of it, hold it up while giving it a shake, roll it up and store it.
  • Shut off the pipes that lead to the outdoor faucets. (By the way, my family calls this thing we shut off "the silcox," but I could only find one online reference that uses "silcox" — what do you call it?)
Prep your patio door.
  • Switch out screen doors for storm doors.
  • Make sure weather stripping is tight and prevents drafts.
  • Bring in the summery welcome mat and put out something more durable. Add another mat inside the door for snowy feet.

Learn more about the artist who created this screen door
Decorate. Don't let all this clearing out and storing depress you.
  • Dress up your freeze-proof pots, urns and window boxes for autumn with mums, pansies, kale and gourds, then switch them out for winter greens.
  • Have fun with winter statues, wreaths and evergreen trees.
  • Plan out the ways you'll spotlight them during winter's long, dark evenings.