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How Paul Lafrance Preps for Winter

Before Winter shows its fury, you need to get your deck and yard ready. Here’s how.

Although I absolutely love the changing seasons we enjoy in Canada, I have to admit, watching those last few leaves fall from the trees in the autumn do make me feel a deep sense of impending doom. Not only do I now have to go on a hunt for "actual" shoes (I hold on to my flip-flops as long as humanly possible), I also have to look at my backyard haven, shed a single tear, and then get it ready for the coming onslaught of snow and ice.

Thankfully, I used Trex composite decking for the vast majority of our outdoor living space, which means all it needs is a wash down with soap and water in the spring, and we’re good to go. That takes a HUGE weight off as Trex is as durable as a Sherman Tank! I don't even want to think of the old days when I used to strip, sand, and re-stain my deck floor. Ughhhh!!

Cushions take a little more work, but not much. You’ll need to brush them off thoroughly with a dry scrub brush, and clean off any marks with a cleaning solution recommended by the manufacturer. Make sure they’re completely dry before you store them away. We normally bring them all inside and have a living room full of cushions for a day or so. We store them in clear plastic bags (which can be reused) but don’t tie them up so the air can circulate. Even with modern day outdoor cushions that you can leave out in a rainstorm, don't test their resiliency with winter’s fury. Trust me, I've tried and ended up looking like a 98-pound weakling with Mother Nature kicking ice pellets in my face.

Although my Aussie friend uses his barbecue all year, I have to admit, that doesn’t happen at my house. My wife and I are wimps in the cold. (I was born in Wimbledon; I’m not sure what her excuse is.) That, and I'm the guy that gets distracted by butterflies and passing aircraft while working the grill, so most people "offer" to do it themselves. To make sure you’re still the Grill Master in the New Year, make sure you thoroughly clean your barbecue and then cover it with a tear-free cover. There's nothing like permanent grease stains on your once shiny barbecue to make your buddies mutter about you in a subdued, disapproving tone.

If you have water features in your yard that require a pump, turning off said pump does NOT mean you're ready for sub-zero temperatures. Unless you want to see your pump explode like a grenade from expanding frozen water inside it, may I suggest disconnecting the pump, draining it, and storing it instead. You wouldn't believe how many people forget to do this! It's typically the same people that forget to shut off the water to their exterior faucet and then are surprised when they come home in January to a new swimming pool in their basement.

A last word of advice: If you have a retractable awning, make sure you retract or remove it BEFORE the first snow dump. There’s nothing quite as awkward as having your neighbours watching you try to chip away inches of ice with a broom handle before you can put it away. Not that I would ever do anything that boneheaded...*ahem*...I'm just sayin.

Paul Lafrance, most commonly known as the “Deck Guru” both in the Reality TV macrocosm as well as in the average North American home, is also a musician, the CEO and founder of the international design company, Paul Lafrance Design, the father of four daughters, and has nearly completed his training as a Jedi Master.

He is the host of HGTV’s Decked Out, Disaster Decks, Custom Built, and Deck Wars as well as one of the judges on Canada’s Handyman Challenge, and moonlights as the head designer at Paul Lafrance Design. Since 1997, he’s been designing and installing everything from custom built homes, basement transformations, corporate facades and common areas, to complete backyard retreats.