When it comes to exterior flooring, consider these top tips for cleaning and maintenance.
Exterior floors have their own unique cleaning and maintenance requirements, especially as they are exposed to varying, often extreme, climatic conditions such as heat and frost, not to mention direct sunlight and UV rays, rain and excessive amounts of wear and tear, be it from foot traffic, furniture or vehicles. For these reasons it is critical to identify the various exterior flooring types and be aware that each type has its own best maintenance programme.
Wooden decks receive constant abuse from the elements, but with periodic cleaning, maintenance and refinishing, they can be protected and kept looking their best. The first step involves cleaning the deck thoroughly. Many deck cleaners contain harsh chemicals, so it’s important to protect one’s skin and eyes. A pump garden sprayer is ideal for this application.
Apply deck cleaner to both vertical and horizontal surfaces of the deck and railings and allow the cleaner to sit for the recommended period of time. Thereafter, wash the deck down, ideally using a pressure washer which delivers a blast of water, but be careful not to overdo it. In turn a deck scrubber attachment makes cleaning large open areas easier.
After the deck has been cleaned, it’s time to perform any necessary repairs. Drive any protruding nails flush with the surface of the board or replace them with deck screws and replace any boards that are badly deteriorated. Use a sander to smooth rough spots, especially on railings, to prevent splinters.
Once the deck has dried thoroughly, refinish it with a tinted deck stain or clear sealer. A pump sprayer works well to apply stains and sealers because they are much thinner than paint. After spraying an area, go over it with a paintbrush while the sealer is still wet, to work it into the cracks and spread the finish out evenly.
The investment in both time and materials for the periodic cleaning and maintenance that a wooden deck requires is certainly worthwhile.
Composite decking may look and feel like wood, however, its maintenance and cleaning requirements are very different. Most manufacturers recommend that composite decking be washed down occasionally with soapy water and a soft-bristled brush to make sure it’s free of any dirt, leaves, etc. If dirt is left to stand for too long a period it can stain the deck and encourage the growth of mould, which makes it harder to clean.
It is important to note that while some products can be quickly and easily cleaned using high-pressure cleaners, this isn’t always recommended. Always follow the care instructions provided by the composite deck manufacturer before deciding on a course of action.
Wood composite decking is porous and staining can be a problem. If something like food or wine is dropped on the deck, be sure to clean it immediately with warm soapy water and a brush. For a spot stain that’s resulted from something that’s been allowed to sit on the deck for a while, first try to remove it with soapy water and a brush. If it’s a stain caused by a greasy substance, a degreasing agent may help. If that doesn’t work, it may be necessary to try a commercial deck cleaning agent.
Composite decking is far more malleable than wood. In manufacturing this is a definite advantage as the materials can be easily shaped. However, this pliability also makes this decking more susceptible to unwanted bending or buckling. Prolonged exposure to harsh sunlight, strong forces or high heat can cause the shape of the materials to change. One should approach this danger with a philosophy of prevention rather than cure: designers should position a deck away from the direction of the beating sun, or use types of shading to shield the deck from the sun’s harsh rays.
When it comes to mould, once again prevention is better than cure. If mould does appear on the deck, consult the relevant supplier about the kinds of treatments that can be used to deal with it. Most will recommend some type of composite deck cleaner or composite deck wash. In most cases these work best when applied to a dry deck, so that the agent that kills the mould attacks it right down to the root.
BLOCK PAVING & CONCRETE
Before even thinking about how to clean block paving, one will have to tackle the issue of weed growth. Weeds grow up through the sand joints, and in so doing they can disturb the sand, leaving the block paving vulnerable to movement and tipping. Many people will be tempted to use a weed killer; however, it may in fact be easier and more cost-effective to try and discourage the weeds from growing at all. To do this, the paving should be brushed regularly, which will dislodge any new growth and help keep the block paving looking clear.
When it comes to cleaning, all that is really needed is some water and a mild soap. Whether to use hot water or cold depends on individual preference, and the type of soap. Using a brush, gently scrub the slabs with the soapy solution, and rinse with clean water. When used on concrete paving, cleaning products that contain acid aren’t a good idea. In addition, always test the solution on a small area of the paving first.
STONE & PEBBLE PAVING
4 steps to maintaining stone paving:
Step 1: Basic Cleaning
Regular cleaning of stone paver patios is recommended. This can be done in various ways, depending on how often the paving surface is used. A wet mop along with lukewarm water can be used for regular cleaning as it helps to remove fresh stains. If a stronger cleaning solution is needed, mix together plain water and some dishwasher soap.
Stone pavers are highly durable and can be scrubbed. A pressure washing system can be used occasionally, but try to keep the direction of the hose’s spray away from the seams. Afterwards, ensure that the surface is dried properly as moisture retention can weaken the grout/seams and tarnish the surface.
Step 2: Remove Weeds
Weeds often grow through the seams of stone paver surfaces. Weeds retain moisture and over a period of time induce surface cracking even on sturdy surfaces such as stone paving. To prevent this, be sure to remove weeds manually or follow the steps as highlighted above.
Step 3: Seal Paving
Sealing is recommended as the most effective way of guarding against chipping or dulling due to external weather conditions. The sealant maintains the brightness of the paving’s surface which only needs to be re-sealed every few years. Sealers for natural stone surfaces are specifically retailed for this purpose. Sealing, by forming a thin coating, also decreases the likelihood of the patio’s surface retaining stains.
Step 4: Repair Grout Lines
Landscape or patio paving often needs repeated grouting, particularly on patio surfaces that are heavily used. Re-grouting the seams is quite easy but be sure to remove all traces of any remaining grout as it can stain the paving’s surface. Grout-specific sealers are also available and are slightly different from the surface sealers discussed above. These are ideal when heavy footfall is expected and if the grout lines seem to be weathering repeatedly.
QUARTZ AGGREGATE PAVING
Seamless quartz flooring does not need to be resealed at all in its lifetime unless it is highly trafficked. In highly trafficked commercial environments, two coats of a Polyurethane sealer can be thinly applied to a clean floor to bring back the spark and the longevity of the floor. Cleaning and maintenance is the same as for an internal carpet and externally the floor can be washed down with a soft bristle broom, mild detergent and some warm water.
How often one needs to perform artificial grass maintenance tasks will depend on various situations, however, most synthetic lawns will need to be brushed with a broom once a week. Spraying down the grass fibres with a hose will remove dust and other small debris that has accumulated between washings.
A more thorough synthetic grass cleaning, performed on a monthly basis, will help to keep the lawn green, clean and inviting. To remove dust, dirt, leaves and other debris, a flexible lawn rake should be used first, thereafter a broom or brush with stiff bristles. But be sure not to choose one with steel bristles, which could damage the fake grass.
Cleaning the grass in this manner is also an effective way to maintain the upright position of each blade. Keep in mind that this level of maintenance may need to be increased if one has pets or during seasons when trees and shrubs lose their leaves or blooms. Should the artificial grass be directed in an undesirable position, simply groom the lawn by using a broom or handled brush to brush against the natural grain to encourage each blade of artificial grass to stand up properly. Regular grooming also prevents matting and keeps the lawn’s infill from compacting.
These maintenance and cleaning tips are by no means exhaustive but, when in doubt, it’s always best to turn to the professionals and follow their guidelines and instructions.
Acknowledgment and thanks go to the following websites for the information contained in this article: www.belgotex.co.za; www.bhg.com; www.build.com; www.cleanipedia.com; www.doityourself.com; www.installitdirect.com; www.naturalstonewarehouse.com; Seamless Flooring Systems (Jeremy Stewart); www.vandyckcarpets.com; www.woodfloorssa.co.za