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Deck out your patio

4 tips for the frugal backyardsman

As I sit looking out my back door at the early signs of spring, it occurs to me that I’ll soon get to dewinterize my patio and enjoy all the good weather spring has to offer.

It also occurs to me that sometime this year, we’re going to need new cushions for our deck furniture and a new table.

I’ve found, over the years, that patio accessories and maintenance can be costly. But, I’ve also learned how to save money and maximize enjoyment both by understanding how to properly maintain the space, and applying a little know-how when things wear out. So, let me offer some advice that may save you money and maximize your patio investment.

1. Approach staining your patio or deck as you would painting an inside room—You’d never paint a room in your home without cleaning, prepping and priming the walls. The same idea holds true with your patio or deck.

It always amazes me when I ask my neighbors why they’re staining their deck every year (and thus, spending extra money and time), and the answer is “because I have to.” What they’re really saying is the wood didn’t hold the stain from last year and now they have to restain.

Follow these three prep steps before you stain to break that annual cycle.

  1. Clean your deck or patio first with a good power washer. This will open up the fibers in the wood or thoroughly clean the concrete or stone on your patio.
  2. Follow up the cleaning with a quality soap scrub. Let the surface dry completely, then stain or seal. I recommend using a stiff bristled brush to help the stain or sealer really bond with the surface.
  3. Wait at least 24 hours to walk on it and you’re all set.

Proper preparation can help your stain and sealer last for three years or more.

2. Avoid deck furniture with oversized cushions—My wife and I learned a lesson about cushions the hard way. A few years ago, we bought beautiful “deep seating” furniture for our patio. It was well built and comfy. The cushions were beautiful, and as we found out, impossible to replace at a reasonable cost.

The chipmunks in our neighborhood apparently threw a rodent soiree in our backyard one evening and completely destroyed our cushions. We’ve spent two years looking for replacements, and have found only one company that makes them. They’re more expensive than the original furniture. Lesson learned.

3. Maximize your outdoor time with a good, big patio umbrella—The sun is hot. The shade is cooler. A big umbrella makes shade and increases the time you’ll want to be outside. Simple.

A couple years ago, we finally figured this out, and have been enjoying our patio more frequently ever since. I placed it so it would open up over our furniture and voilà! Instant relief from the sun.

We spent about $200 on our umbrella, but if you figure that we now use the patio twice as much, and the expected life span of the umbrella is five to 10 years, and the summer is five months long … it’s worth every penny.

4. Repair, rather than replace, your grill—It seems like every spring I find something new that’s wrong with my grill. One year it’s rusty grates. The next year, it’s a starter that won’t spark. The next year, the flame shields are full of holes. Every year I want to buy a new grill. Then, I remember that I’m looking at $500 for a good one.

A few years back I found grillpartssearch.com. I’ve been using it ever since, as it makes replacement parts easy to find and cheap. Replacing all the parts I mentioned above cost me a total of $52, and they should last at least five years. Give your grill a good cleaning every spring, replace any broken parts, and enjoy the summer.

Decking out your patio can be fun and lead to years of summer enjoyment. Following these few simple tips is a good start, but there are many more ways to deck out that patio on a budget.

Keep in mind, not all homeowners insurance covers decks and patios and the toys that go on them. You may need a special rider on your policy. I’d suggest checking with your carrier to make sure you’re fully covered.

Feel free to comment below and let us know all your patio savings tricks.