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Before the Party: How to Clean the Yard and Make Your Pool and Deck Safe

Is Your Backyard Ready for a Party?

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Outdoor entertaining should be easy, provided all the cleaning, preparations, safety and cosmetic repairs are made beforehand. If you don't know where to start, the thought of cleaning chores can be overwhelming. Give yourself at least a week beforehand to prepare for a backyard party, and follow this checklist to get your backyard in order and looking like a place where you and your gang love to hang.

The International Code Council (ICC) recommends checking outdoor areas for potential safety hazards early in the season. The ICC is a membership organizatgion dedicated to building safety and fire prevention. It develops the codes used to construct residential and commercial buildings, including homes and schools.

Like your mother and fifth-grade teacher always warned you, organization and planning will get you ahead of the game.

 

Step Back & Take It All In

Survey your yard, looking up, down and all around. Take in the hardscaping, the landscaping, the outdoor furnishings and toys. Some areas may be lovely, other parts not so much. Write a list you can refer to and check off after each task is completed. That way, the job won't be so undefeatable.

Trash the Junk

Anything that's been lying around in your yard broken and weathered for more than a season should be discarded or donated to a charity, preferably one that can take items right away. Things to purge:
  • Broken toys (trash), or toys that your children have outgrown (donation)
  • Empty or broken pots and planters
  • Garden tools that are broken, have missing handles, or are no longer worth cleaning and maintaining.
  • Broken hoses
  • Stuff from your house that got dragged outside and never made it back in again. If it's salvagable, bring it inside; if not, toss it.
  • Unfinished DIY projects. Just move your DIY future-masterpiece away from the main entertaining area and pack away the saws and hammers.

Repair Decks and Balconies

According to the ICC, balconies can collapse if they aren't properly constructed or if they are old. One common safety hazard: balconies can be nailed to structures rather than being attached with the correctr anchors or bolts. Nails are a bad idea for attaching balconies because they can become loose.

Other safety hazards to look for and fix:

  • Wood that is split or rotting
  • Loose or wobbly hand or guardrails
  • Loose, missing or rusting anchors, nails, screws or other hardware
  • Missing, damaged or loose support beams and planking
  • Weak end support of the balcony, joists or girders
  • A balcony that moves excessively when walked on
  • A balcony that sways or is unstable in any way

Paint Touch-Ups

No, this does not mean painting the deck 'Dark Chocolate Cherry' 24 hours before your pool party. If you have a few days prior to your event and the original paint on hand, make a few touch-ups where necessary. Iron or metal patio furniture can be spray-painted at least a couple of days beforehand. To do so, place the piece of garden furniture in a cardboard box with high sides, where it will be contained and decrease the likelihood of spray-painting your nearby hedges or doing an unplanned graffiti job on your fence.

Time for Some Serious Cleaning

If you've used a special cleaner for outdoor furniture and have been happy with the results, then go that route. Otherwise, any regular household cleaners should work, although the milder the better for the environment. You can also use a mixture of vinegar and water in a clean spray bottle.

Making Sure the Grill Area is Safe

Where your grill is placed is of vital importance. Grilling on or near a flammable surface or area can be a fire hazard, putting your family, guests and neighbors in danger. According to the ICC, the most common grilling hazards are open flames and heat generated in the grill base that can be transferred to wood decks, balconies or siding, and cause a fire.

Follow these grilling safety tips:

  • Place grill away from siding, deck railings, eaves and overhanging branches
  • Regularly remove grease or fat buildup
  • Check propane cylinder hoses for leaks before each use
  • Do not move grills while heated
  • Dispose of charcoal the right way, keeping ash containers outside and away from combustibles
  • Contact your local fire department for code requirements

Beautify Your Barbecue

Don't be surprised if a guest blurts out, "Uhh — just potato salad for me, thanks," when you hurl open the lid on your chrome grill, showing off a grate caked with greasy crud, the charred remains of last week's trout, and soot.

To avoid serving your guests gummy, trout-spiked Kobe beef burgers, make the effort to clean the grate beforehand. Here's how:

  • With the lid closed, preheat the grill for a few minutes until the grate is hot.
  • Don your bbq mitts and scrub the grate with a long-handled brass-bristled brush. No heat-proof mitts equals pain.
  • Make this quick cleanup a habit, and it won't become a dreaded last-minute chore.

Hose It Down

If you live in a drought-stricken region, get out the broom and sweep. Trying not to get too carried away by wasting water — wherever you may reside — give your deck, balcony, patio or other outdoor space a good thorough cleaning with the hose the day before or morning of the party. Better yet, use the broom and dust pan to sweep up all that you can, then follow up with a quick blast of the hose.

Swimming Pools

Check out the seven layers of pool safety for your in-ground or above-ground swimming pool. Even small inflatable kiddie pools must be protected. The International Building Code states that any pool with more than 2 feet of water must have a 4-foot fence or other barrier around it.

 

Quick Landscaping Fix-Ups

Hopefully, your landscaping and garden are in good shape, and everything is trimmed and healthy looking. To fill in some bare spots or add color and/or interest throughout the yard or on the patio, add fresh soil to some of those unbroken pots you have lying around and add a few colorful annuals, perennials, succulents or ornamental grasses currently in bloom. Every outdoors party needs some beautiful flowers and plants to look at and smell up-close.

And Now For the Fun Part: Decorate!

All those decorations you've been buying over the past few weeks can be let loose on your porch, patio, balcony, pool area, outdoor furniture set — you name it. Have fun and know that your efforts to quickly spruce-up your outdoors have paid off. Whatever the occasion, have a happy one!

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