Our patio is a cozy haven to enjoy in three seasons—sometimes four—and a key investment in our landscape. It’s the foundation of our backyard oasis, the place where we enjoy all of the surrounding beauty. Yet while we’re often focused on our plants, we can easily overlook the place right beneath our feet. Fortunately, a patio is the most durable part of our yard and can last years without the slightest upkeep. But a few simple steps throughout the year, especially in the fall, can protect it from weathering and help retain its beauty for many years to come.
The way we treat our patio during the winter is often more damaging than winter weather itself.
How to Prepare a Patio for Winter
You can easily extend the life of your patio by making it a part of your fall clean-up. Here are the most important tasks:
Sweep away leaves and debris to prevent staining in winter.
Backfill any holes around your patio: look at the edges of your lawn or garden around your patio. Any spot where the soil has eroded is a place for water to pool, freeze, and potentially damage your patio. To avoid this, backfill any crevices with soil.
Ensure downspouts and drainage ways are clear: when snowmelt is free to flow off your hardscapes, there is less risk of erosion and a reduced need for salt and chipping away ice—two common techniques that can damage your surface.
Tips for Maintaining a Patio During the Winter
The way we treat our patio during the winter is often more damaging than winter weather itself. Fortunately, we can change our habits to better care for our hardscapes:
Use an alternative to salt: even if meltwater is properly draining away, our Illinois winters still give us icy pathways. Salt is usually the go-to solution, but it can dry out, erode, and damage paving stones–not to mention the surrounding grass and plants. To protect your surfaces, switch to sand, coffee grounds, sugar beet juice, a vinegar solution, or a calcium chloride-based de-icer.
Don’t de-ice more than you have to: while a calcium chloride de-icer is easier on your hardscapes than salt, it can still erode concrete and brick. So don’t overdo it when your patio gets slippery.
Choose a plastic shovel: a metal snow shovel can scratch your patio and wear away the sealants. It’s better to reach for a plastic shovel or snow blower.
Clean it on a warm day: take advantage of a warm winter day to clean your patio, even if it’s just a simple sweep with a broom. This simple upkeep prevents the buildup of de-icers, sand, or debris that might cause stains.
Tips for Summer Patio Maintenance
While many steps can save you wear in winter, basic care during the summer can extend the life of your patio year-round.
Deep clean: nothing refreshes the color of your patio like a proper cleaning. Power washing is always effective, but take care not to erode the sand around paver joints. You can also use a brush and cleaning solution, as long as it’s safe for the plants and animals in your yard.
Remove stains: leaf tannins, barbeque grease, and rusty patio furniture may stain your surfaces. A cleaning solution, brush, and muscle power often solves the problem. Rust stains can be removed with lemon juice or white vinegar.
Weed it: over time, plants may sprout in the cracks and joints of your patio. Before their roots lead to bigger cracks, dig them up and toss them on the compost pile.
Fill the joints with sand: whether from weeding, power washing, or natural erosion, the joints in your patio can lose sand over time. Refilling them keeps the stones in place and prevents weeds from returning. Generally, it’s best to weed first, then clean the surface, and re-sand your joints afterward. In that order, you won’t wash away the new sand that you’ve just applied.
Replace broken pavers: paving stones are strong and last for many years, but sometimes the shifting ground, erosion, roots, or extreme cold causes one to break. When this happens, you can replace it on your own or call a professional landscaper. It’s wise to keep a few spare stones on hand, storing them outside if possible. That way, you have replacements with the same age and weathering as your patio.
Reseal it: a sealant can protect hardscapes against UV rays, de-icers and keeps water and ice from penetrating cracks. It can be redone every 2-4 years, once you notice the patio losing its seal. Regular sealing helps to maintain color and strength over the years.
Clean it regularly: the secret to keeping your patio beautiful is to follow a regular maintenance schedule. Clearing away plants, blossoms, seedpods, dropped fruit, leaves, and a buildup of dirt saves you time and effort down the road.
By integrating patio maintenance into your seasonal routine, your outdoor haven can remain colorful and durable for many years. If you have more questions about patios, our professional landscaping service would be happy to help you!