If you’re lucky enough to have a deck, patio or outdoor gazebo, you know that this time of year it’s important to take the appropriate steps to prepare and protect it for winter. You want to extend its life for as long as possible so you can enjoy it for many more springs and summers to come. Here are a few helpful tips to add to your winter to-do list. Clean it up. Start by sweeping to remove all excess dirt and debris that may have gathered over the course of the year. Anything left behind – especially moss or fungus - could begin to stain or even cause structural damage. Remove and store furniture. If you have a place indoors to store your patio furniture, like a garage, that’s always your best bet. If not, move the furniture to a safe area where it can be stacked and stored, and then cover it with a heavy-duty tarp to protect it from the elements. Don’t forget to properly clean and store your patio umbrellas as well. Take down shade sails. If you’ve chosen to install shade sails over your deck or patio, it’s always best practice to remove them for the winter – especially if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow fall. If you choose not to remove your sails, it’s wise to clean them often and remove any buildup throughout the coming months. Winterize your misting system. Most misting systems are installed on or near a patio, gazebo or deck. If you happen to have one of these units, make sure you include winterizing it as part of your outdoor weather preparation. Strip and seal, if desired. For decks that are made of wood, you may want to take the extra step and strip the old finish so you can apply a fresh seal. This requires an investment of time and money, but it can greatly extend the life of your deck or patio so it may be well worth it. Your outdoor space provides you with a wonderful area to relax, entertain and spend time with friends and family. Protect your investment and ensure that it will be around for many seasons to come by taking the steps to properly winterize it. Enjoy the upcoming season and, for now….stay warm, my friends!