Sharing a meal or relaxing on a deck, patio or balcony can be the highlight of a summer day. And when the season changes, proper care can make your outdoor furniture last for summers to come. Whether you have a pricey patio set or something more modest, experts recommend some simple steps for upkeep and storage.

Often, outdoor furniture “is a bit of an investment, so it makes sense to put effort into protecting and maintaining what you have in your yard,” says Matt Blashaw, a licensed contractor and host of DIY Network’s “Yard Crashers.”

Look for cover

Ideally, it’s best to store any type of patio furniture indoors during harsh weather. If that’s not possible, Blashaw recommends weather-proof covers, or at least some simple poly/vinyl tarps secured with straps or weighted down.

“There are furniture covers of just about every shape and size available,” he says, adding that the newest ones are waterproof and UV-treated for excellent protection. Measure your pieces before you buy covers to ensure the right fit.

Don’t forget fire pits and chimeneas. There are elasticized covers made for them, too.

As for acrylic cushions and fabricsstore them inside. If you just don’t have the space, Blashaw recommends putting them in air-tight bags.

Careful cleaning

Before you store patio furniture, make sure it’s free of dirt and debris.

Many experts recommend regular cleaning of outdoor furniture, but it doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort.

Lowe’s Home Improvement spokeswoman Colleen Maiura tells customers to check the manufacturer’s directions before using any cleaning products. For most materials, however, you’ll just need soap and water, she says. Consider using a pressure washer on a low setting (1,200 to 1,350 pounds per square inch) to make the job go even more quickly.

“Monthly cleaning and maintenance can help the furniture maintain a good appearance and make your investment last longer,” she says.

For acrylic cushions, Maiura recommends spot cleaning with a sponge, mild soap and water. Make sure the cushions are completely dry before storing them.

While many outdoor cushions are mildew-resistant, you can use a solution of 1 cup bleach, 2 cups detergent and 1 gallon of water to clean. Spray it on, allow it to soak for 30 minutes, then scrub with a sponge or rag.

Fabric pieces such as hammocks and cloth chairs can be machine-washed on gentle. Stretch them back over the frame for the right fit, and to make sure the fabric is dry before storing indoors.

Must-do maintenance

Some additional maintenance can keep your set functional and looking fabulous.

For wood, you may need to oil or varnish it, depending on the type. For wicker, you may have to wax if it’s not water-resistant. Some metal frames require paint touch-ups, but most are made to be rust-resistant or rust-free. If your set is not, consider using paste wax or naval jelly for protection.

Check your manufacturer’s directions or website for details on what maintenance your outdoor furniture requires.

Wear out the warranty

Blashaw says one of the biggest mistakes homeowners make with outdoor furniture is throwing it out instead of making simple repairs with parts covered under warranty.

“Keep the receipt, and if the furniture does not hold up to the regular ‘wear and tear’ promise within the warranty period, contact the manufacturer and get yourself a brand new set,” he says.

Research the right style

If you’re in the market for a new patio set, consider what maintenance it will require. Do you have time to paint wrought iron, wax wicker or oil teak?

Inspect the furniture closely to make sure there aren’t big gaps in joints that would allow water to warp or rust the pieces, and that the hardware is capped to keep out moisture. Try out the cushions to see if they fit snugly and are comfortable.

According to Consumer Reports, you should check whether the seat height feels right for the table, making sure that armrests aren’t too high to pull chairs close, and that there’s plenty of leg room without feet getting caught up in the table base.

Blashaw notes that maintaining a budget-friendly patio set properly can save you from having to buy an expensive, weather-resistant one.

Online:

www.diynetwork.com/

www.lowes.com/

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