How to Protect Your Outdoor Furniture During Fall and Winter

If you’re like so many of us here in Chicagoland, you probably spent more time outdoors this summer than ever before. Since we couldn’t travel as much, many people went to great lengths to make their outdoor spaces, big and small, feel more like a comfortable, fun extension of home. That includes making a major investment in new patio furniture and outdoor decor, which have seen booming sales in recent months. 

Now, the leaves are turning red and gold and nighttime temperatures are making us feel just a little nostalgic for those warm summer evenings. 

Chicago winters can be brutal, and not just because of the icy cold or the biting winds off of Lake Michigan. Our legendary winters can blow snow, ice, and slushy rain onto your porch or balcony — and cause damage to all of the brand new patio furniture you invested in this year. What should you do with it now, as cold temperatures and precipitation swirl closer? Here are a few things to keep in mind for transitioning your patio furniture and outdoor decor from spring to winter:

Should You Leave Your Patio Furniture Outside?

Most patio furniture can be left outside – after all, it was made to be there! But the harsh winter weather conditions can take a toll on the finishes, leaving them looking less-than-new when nice weather comes back around

It’s best to put metal, wood, wicker, and fabric pieces in storage to keep them out of the elements. Most plastic furniture can stay outside, but be careful to watch the temperatures — if there is another Polar Vortex this year, you’ll want to bring those pieces inside to prevent them from cracking in the cold.

You can disassemble many of your pieces and store them in your garage or basement. But if you’re short on that extra storage space, there are also steps you can take to winterize your patio furniture to keep it safe all winter long. 

Just be sure to act during the fall — and take these simple steps before the weather in Chicago gets too cold and snowy to work outside! And remember that different types of furniture need different approaches. 

How to Protect Wood and Wicker Patio Furniture During The Winter

While wood furniture looks beautiful and natural outdoors, it can be one of the most difficult materials to maintain. Since wood is porous, it can easily absorb moisture, even if it never gets directly wet! When wood does get wet, it can warp or begin to rot, so it’s best to take preventative measures during the fall and winter to keep your wood furniture nice and dry. 

Apply a Coat of Sealant to Wood Furniture

Many manufacturers treat wood patio furniture with a sealant, but these can wear off over time. To protect your wood outdoor furniture during the cold weather months, the first best step is to apply a fresh coat of sealant. Check which type of wood your furniture is made from before purchasing a sealant. You may have to sand the furniture with a fine grain sandpaper to prep the surface before applying sealant.

Wipe Down Wicker Furniture and Apply a Coat of Varnish

Similar to wood, wicker is traditionally made from natural materials, although synthetics are more commonly used in modern pieces. If you have synthetic wicker furniture, you can essentially treat it like you would plastic furniture. Natural wicker furniture first needs to be cleaned after a long summer, because dirt and debris can get stuck between the woven strands. After cleaning, you can apply a thin coat of varnish to protect the furniture. If your piece is painted, consider adding a fresh coat of paint first. 

How to Protect Metal Patio Furniture During The Winter

Metal patio furniture looks sleek and modern and can add lots of character to an outdoor space. But metal’s biggest enemy is water. Unless you have kept your metal patio furniture covered all summer, you’ll already be able to see the effects of water on your outdoor metal furniture.

Remove Any Rust From Your Metal Furniture

The first thing you’ll need to do is check for any rust. This can look like the typical red or orange patches, but it can also look like bubbling of the paint on your metal pieces. You can use a mild abrasive to remove the rust – either a light paste of baking soda and water or a mildly abrasive pad. Then, apply an even coat of a rust-preventing spray formula to the exposed metal surfaces.

Protect All Outdoor Furniture with a Waterproof Cover

No matter how you prepare your furniture for winter, the best thing you can do to keep it safe from the cold and snow is to keep it covered. Many manufacturers make covers specifically to fit each piece of furniture. If you don’t have that option, you can just purchase a generic cover from a nearby hardware store, or online. You can also make your own with canvas, tarp, or other household materials.

Be sure to measure your furniture before purchasing a cover to make sure that it is big enough, but still snug so that it fits all the way around each piece. It won’t be helpful if it flies away with the wind!

Making The Most of Your Time At Home

No matter the season, your home is where your best memories happen. It’s the place you enjoy Chicago’s hot summers and hunker down through the cold winters. We understand, because Chicagoland has been our home since 1855.

Looking for new ideas to make the most of your indoor and outdoor spaces during fall and winter? Curious about what steps you can take to get your home ready to sell in the months ahead? Whatever your real estate goals may be, we get you — and we’re here to help make things easier, at every step of the way.