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‘Seal the deal’ to preserve, protect natural surfaces

Protecting natural surfaces such as wood, stone, terra cotta, etc. will enhance their inherent beauty as well as extend their lifespan. Especially in this region, the intensity of desert sun and very hard water wreaks havoc on pavers, planters, decks and fences. Natural materials are porous, which make them vulnerable to water absorption/swelling, staining, and for wood, susceptible to rot, algae and insect infestation. Additionally, photo-degradation, the deterioration of surfaces due to ultraviolet radiation exposure, is a real issue here.

The ravages of sun may seem obvious, but why the concern over water damage in the desert? It’s not rainwater that can be problematic, but rather irrigation water — drip systems, sprinkler spray, runoff, etc. And it’s not simply the water, it’s the mineral content.

According to BCNV.org, “the average hardness of Boulder City’s water is approximately 17 grains per gallon (290 ppm).” To put that number in perspective, “very hard water” is classified as 180 or greater parts per million. These high amounts of calcium and magnesium cause limescale buildup that creates unsightly stains, a dull “etched” look, along with a myriad of plumbing issues. These and other chemicals/salts in water, combined with heat degrade and dissolve natural stone and concrete/masonry, causing pitting and spalling.

For all of these reasons, we need to seal the deal on exterior yard surfaces. Fall is a perfect time to take on these easy DIY projects that will procure beauty and protection in your yard for months to come.

Wood and unglazed pottery planters

You have double duty on planters since water can penetrate from the inside out and vice versa. For planters containing ornamentals, paint the inside with a rubberized paint. This flexible waterproofing sealer prevents water from degrading the clay or wood, which, for pottery, will show up on the outside of the planter as crumbling blemishes and white efflorescence (the migration of salt to the surface of a material). It will also help to keep water from evaporating as quickly, which means less watering.

Be prepared to really stir up this paint as the “rubber” settles and stiffens, so rigorous stirring is a must.

Seal the outside of your planter with a multisurface waterproofer. Exterior all-in-one stain and sealers are a good option if you’re looking to refresh or add color. Whatever product you decide to finish your planter with, be sure that the final coat is a waterproofer.

For herb and vegetable planters, use a nontoxic sealer especially designed for this type of application, like Garden-Seal. Sealers like this can be used on raised garden beds, clay pots as well as rose stem damage, tree repair and sealing damaged bark. It should be a sealant that has no VOCs and eco-friendly, with no risk of chemicals leaching into the soil and edible plants. Coat both the inside and outside of your planter with this product.

Always clean surfaces before sealing and follow all manufacturers’ instructions.

Wood fences and decks

When water stops beading on your wood deck or fence, that’s a good indicator it’s time to seal it. If the wood has paint, polyurethane or any sealed surface, sanding/scraping will be required first. Power washing may be necessary to remove stains or mold/algae growth.

Stain and/or seal with exterior grade products. Look for ones offering “UV protection” as well. Remember to always shake or stir well before use.

Natural stone, concrete, masonry pathways and pavers

Sweep or hose down surfaces first then apply a waterproofer designed for these natural surfaces. I use a natural bristle scrubber brush screwed to a handle and mop it on from a bucket. This brush head is inexpensive, durable and fits easily in and out of a bucket. I especially like products such as Thompson’s WaterSeal Multi Surface Waterproofer because it cleans up with soap and water.

Again, with any product, always follow manufacturers’ instructions and precautions.

Norma Vally is a seasoned veteran of home improvement; her career includes four seasons as host of Discovery Home Channel’s Emmy-nominated series “Toolbelt Diva.” A columnist and author, Vally splits her time in Southern Nevada, Los Angeles and New York City. Follow her on Facebook at Norma Vally “Toolbelt Diva” and visit her at www.NormaVally.com. Email Norma@NormaVally.com.

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