How to care for your hardscape features
Give your backyard surfaces the attention they need to look great and last for the long haul.
Maintenance is key
Hardscaping features – decks, fences, sheds, and the like – are the big ticket items around your backyard, so it’s important to look after them. For a small investment of time and effort, you can keep them clean and in good condition, extending their life and so saving you money.
Revive your boards
Give timber decking a thorough clean and refinish once a year. Scrub well with a deck brush and a purpose-designed cleaning product. Once the boards are clean and dry, give them two or three coats of decking oil or exterior stain. Cut in around the deck’s perimeter and along the edges of the boards using a woodcare paintbrush, then use a lambswool applicator on the top.
Reclaim the deck
Decking boards that are secured with nails may lift or work loose over time. It’s best to prise out lifted nails using a claw hammer and replace them with screws. Choose heavier 12g stainless steel screws, ideally 65mm long, to ensure that the fasteners grip firmly into the joist.
If you have an old deck, especially one clad with softwood boards, the sub-frame might be structurally sound, even if the decking boards are on their last legs. Individual boards might be worth replacing if only a few are badly affected by rot but, if the damage is extensive, it might be a better option to reclad the entire deck.
“High-humidity tropical climates can lead to rot and mould growth, especially affecting cheaper pine decking boards that haven’t been well maintained,” says Elton King, head of sales at Ekodeck.
“A visual inspection will usually be enough to reveal potential problems with the sub-frame. If you see any rotted areas, cracks in the bearers or joists, or corroded fasteners, the sub-frame will need repair or rebuilding.”
Restore your pavers
To remove stubborn moss, algae and other growth from outdoor pavers, use a spray-on outdoor cleaner that you can connect to your hose. Leave it to soak in for 10 minutes, scrub with a stiff-bristled brush and then rinse it off with water. Once the paved area is completely dry, you can apply a sealer (check the product is suitable for your pavers) to help keep it looking pristine for longer.
If smaller, brick-sized pavers have become wobbly over time, it’s best to re-bed them. Lever up any loose ones, then sprinkle bedding sand over the area and screed it flat using a straightedge or spirit level. Tap the pavers back into place with a rubber mallet. To finish, brush bedding sand into the joints with a stiff-bristled broom.
Fix up your fence
The most popular types of timber fences are clad with a single layer or overlapping layers of vertical palings or pickets, with a small gap between them. A leaning fence with rotted or split rails or palings can be a safety issue and will likely need replacing. But a couple of loose or damaged palings or pickets can easily be replaced or reattached.
Palings are usually secured with nails, so will need levering off with a pry bar or wrecking bar. Pickets attached with screws will require a cordless drill or impact driver for removal.
Cut the new paling or picket to size and align it into place next to its neighbours. If you’re nailing it back on, offset the position of each nail by a few millimetres to ensure it’s hammered into solid timber instead of going back into the old nail holes.
Colorbond steel fences are tough and weather-resistant; generally, they’ll just need a regular scrub with a stiff-bristled brush to get rid of any cobwebs, leaf litter and other gunk. Stubborn dirt will usually wash off with ordinary dishwashing detergent, but rinse it down with the garden hose rather than a pressure washer; the high-intensity stream of water can potentially damage the finish and will be extremely noisy on the metal sheets.
The hinges on a steel chain-link gate can sometimes work loose over time, making the gate open crookedly and fail to latch properly. With the gate closed, align it so the gap on either side is even, and the top and bottom are flush with the rails of the fence, using bar clamps to hold it in place. Use a shifting spanner or socket wrench to tighten the bolts holding the hinge to the fence post. If you find any of the bolts are corroded or missing, replace them with galvanised or stainless-steel hardware.
Do you keep all your valuable gardening gear in the shed? If so, make sure the door locks properly and the structure is waterproof. Most sheds, whether timber, steel or plastic, are designed to withstand our harsh Aussie climate.
“Putting a stain on the exterior of a cedar shed will help seal it more effectively, but there is no need for additional waterproofing features. Cedar will absorb moisture however it will not leak into the shed,” says Brandon Thrush, a director at Stilla Group.
A classic timber shed is made from western red cedar cladding with a treated pine frame and Colorbond steel roof. It is termite-resistant and can be assembled on either a concrete slab or rebated purpose-built floor.
“If your shed is built on a concrete slab we recommend applying a bead of silicone around the bottom,” advises Brandon. “Cedar sheds can also be painted, but it’s best to apply an oil-based primer before finishing in your paint of choice.” Give the panels a light sand before staining or painting.
To prevent unwanted visitors making your shed their home, check for any holes, cracks or crevices and block them against mice or other small animals. Spiders will often find a way in and weave webs in any available nook or cranny, so surface spray or barrier spray might be the only solution against them, as well as cockroaches and other creepy crawlies.
Give grubby pavers a fresh new look
Follow our step-by-step on how to seal outdoor pavers.
Photo Credit: Gap Photos/Nicola Stocken, Getty Images and Cath Muscat