The UK summer has seen some pretty unpredictable weather, ranging from heat waves to full-on thunderstorms. As the weeks start to give way to impending autumn, the effects of the autumnal weather on outdoor surfaces such as play areas, garden paths, outdoor sports surfaces, natural stone areas, multi-use game areas etc. will only continue to have an impact.
While days are still long and sunshine is prevalent, it’s time to work out how to protect outdoor surfaces for autumn.
Caring for outdoor surfaces
Looking after different types of exteriors and materials can prolong their useful life considerably. It also keeps outdoor space and surfaces looking newer for longer.
Finally, keeping outdoor surfaces in good condition will be safer for those who use them because it minimizes accidents. This includes people, animals and vehicles. Different outdoor surfaces require different autumn preparation.
Concrete is porous, meaning that it can take in water. This can become a problem in sub-zero conditions, because the water will freeze and expand, cracking the concrete. If you can prevent water from getting inside in the first place, this will make a big difference. Applying a hydrophobic sealing coating, like a resin, oil or silicone-based product can really help. As can fixing any cracks that will allow too much water in at once.
Sheds, fencers, picnic tables and decking all fall foul of autumn and winter weather similarly. Give wood its best chance of survival by repairing any damaged or rotting areas now. Add protection by applying a waterproof seal to stop water from getting too far inside the wood. You can also use special stains, paints, preservers and oils to give extra layers of protection and give wood a pleasing finish.
Brickwork and masonry
Cold weather can stop building work in their tracks, so schedule any construction projects or repairs now. This is because the temperatures are higher than in autumn, so mortar won’t crack or freeze. Really cold weather can also stop bricks from setting properly, leading to problems later on. There is also less chance of rain in the summer months (although not zero chance, as we have been seeing recently).
Iron gates and railings
While iron is tough and highly durable, it can still benefit from some seasonal care ahead of autumn. The main thing to do is to give the iron a clean. Some types of dirt such as bird droppings and tree secretions can be acidic and cause chemical damage. Most dirt can be cleaned off with soap and water.
You can then apply a layer of wax for added protection for the outer surfaces of iron if you wish. You may need to scrub a bit harder for stubborn patches. Avoid using anything too sharp for this and be careful not to scratch the surface itself. Inspect all over for signs of rust. You can apply rust-resistant paint to help ward this off.
Painted signs and lines
Outdoor surfaces such as school playgrounds, car parks, sports pitches and roads can all have directional or recreational lines and signs painted on them. These fade over time, making them less effective as an aid to users. It can even be dangerous if warning signage becomes too faded to be easily seen. Again, use the lighter summer months to repaint or relocate painted signage in your campaign to protect outdoor surfaces for autumn.
You have plenty of time now to plan playground layouts before the grand return to school in September. This also applies to getting ready ahead of the return of commuter traffic after the summer holidays. Not to mention the need to protect outdoor surfaces for autumn ahead of the start of new seasons in autumn/winter sports like rugby or football.
Prepare now for frost and snow
Last, but by no means least, is the importance of planning ahead for frost and snow. It might be warm and sunny now (or there might be torrential summer rain…), but the frost and chilly temperatures will return. These can play havoc with exterior surfaces. Invisible ice and frost can also be very dangerous for people and animals walking on them. It can damage the underside of vehicles as well.
As a result, it is vital to have plenty of stocks of pet-safe ice melt. This is a safer, more environmentally-friendly way to get rid of laying ice and snow. You can apply it the night before to stop ice from forming and sprinkle it onto already frozen surfaces to speed up the melting process. Applying ice melt is also far cheaper than making repairs after frost damage. Be organised and order your stocks now before demand rises in autumn and winter.