When the days get shorter and the nights get colder, don’t retreat indoors! With a little planning and simple touches here and there, your outdoor living areas can continue to be a favorite gathering spot during colder months. The following compilation of topics offer tips on making your outdoor spaces more usable this time of year, as well as winterizing do’s and don’ts that can help extend the lifespan of your fire features, appliances and hardscapes.
Outdoor Fireplace and Fire Pit Maintenance Tips
Outdoor fireplaces and fire pits are designed to last for the life of your home. However, as we begin to move into the outdoor fire season, it’s important to properly prepare and maintain these fire features to ensure safety and functionality, both this season and for many years to come.
Keep it Clean
Regular cleaning of your fire feature is important for both safety and functionality. For gas units, debris and spiderwebs can clog the burners and cause malfunctions. For wood-burning units, accumulation of water or leaves can cause sparks and floating embers that could become a fire hazard. Be sure to remove any old ashes, coals, and water, and blow out any debris and spiderwebs prior to lighting your fireplace or fire pit. It’s also a good idea to purchase doors for your fireplace or a cover for your fire pit. This will help reduce the amount of debris and water accumulation, in addition to keeping out snow and ice in colder climates.
Hardwood is Better
Although many people like to just gather any type of limbs from the yard for burning in an outdoor fireplace or fire pit, this can be a safety hazard. Green wood and softwoods, such as pine, can hold a lot of water, which will create a lot of smoke and sparks as it burns. This is particularly dangerous for fire pits, which are more open and allow sparks to shoot out in multiple directions. For cleaner and safer fires, stock up on dry hardwoods, like oak or maple. To keep the wood dry, do not store it directly on the ground where it can pull moisture from the earth, in addition to attracting critters like snakes and termites.
Gas Starter Retrofitting and Maintenance
All wood-burning fireplaces and fire pits are designed to allow for gas retrofitting — either with a gas starter system, or a full gas burner. Log igniters are particularly popular and typically last about 8 to 10 years before beginning to rust and requiring replacement. Remote controlled ignition systems are also popular. These can be designed for operation from inside of the house or from a mobile app. However, they often require additional maintenance, as wires and batteries can corrode due to exposure to the elements. For best long-term results, use a simple push-button igniter, similar to the ignition system on a standard gas grill. With fewer working parts, this simple system will typically last more seasons than a remote system
Winterizing Your Outdoor Living Spaces
Extreme weather can sometimes take a toll on your outdoor living spaces. Keep your outdoor living area looking as beautiful as the day it was installed with these tips and tricks for protecting your investment in harsh climates.
Beware Rapid Temperature Fluctuations
Kinwood hardscapes are constructed to withstand natural freeze/thaw cycles, and the refractory cement materials used to manufacture fireplaces, fire pits and brick ovens are designed to withstand very high temperatures. However, rapid shifts from one extreme to the other can still have an adverse effect, and there are simple ways to prevent damage.
- Keep brick oven and fireplace doors closed to prevent snow and ice from building up inside the unit.
- When not in use, cover grills and fire pit openings with covers to help prevent build-up and ensure proper working order.
- If snow or ice does build up on a fireplace, fire pit or brick oven, be careful to remove any loose snow or ice and warm the unit up and thaw it slowly.
Protect Your Outdoor Kitchen
It’s important to protect all of your pipes, appliances and equipment so that your outdoor kitchen is ready to use in the spring.
- Shut off water to your outdoor kitchen and drain all water lines to outdoor sinks, ice makers, refrigerators and kegerators. Leave the drain valves open.
- Turn off all of the power to appliances.
- Clean the inside of appliances and cabinets and wipe everything down to remove residual moisture.
- Do not cover outdoor refrigerators or ice makers, which could cause moisture to get trapped and cause electrical damage.
- Cover any sinks to prevent debris from settling in the basin. You may want to consider removing the faucet and storing it indoors.
- If counter tops are made of stone, consider applying a sealant to prevent leaf stains or cracks caused by freezing moisture.
Prevent Deicing Downfalls
Deicing agents can sometimes have a corrosive effect on paved surfaces. Although pavers are manufactured to be more resistant to salt absorption than asphalt or solid concrete surfaces, there are additional tips that can help ensure lasting beauty of your paver walkways, driveways and patios.
- Mix salts with sand prior to application.
- Don’t over-salt.
- Use salt for melting ice only, not snow removal.
- Once loose, remove ice to avoid salt buildup.
- Wash residue from pavers in the spring.
- Reseal pavers with protective sealants, every three to five years.