May 30, 2014 at 1:00 am

The Handyman

Plan and prep for perfect outdoor parties

Don't assume this harsh winter killed off the bugs. Mosquito Bits can help control insects. (Summit Chemical)

This past weekend was the official start to the outdoor party season. But that Memorial Day barbecue was just the beginning, and with many more opportunities to entertain outdoors, it’s time to do some proper prior planning to prepare for the perfect summer parties.

Since most outdoor parties are held on the deck or patio, make sure they are ready by doing some basic maintenance and cleaning. Before you start any deck project, I recommend downloading my free e-book, “Deck Care Fast & Easy,” at the bottom of the home page on my website, www.masterhandyman.com. The book provides all the tips you need for cleaning, stripping or staining wood decks.

If you have a composite or PVC deck, in most cases all you need to do is clean it using a soft-bristled brush and the garden hose. Use products such as 30 Seconds Outdoor Cleaner or Concrobium Mold Stain Eraser.

To get your lawn furniture, seat cushions, umbrellas and awnings ready for your guests, use Simple Green and a soft-bristle nylon brush. For plastic resin furniture that has turned dull, use Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Clear Plastic Cleaner, www.meguiars.com. If you need to paint your plastic furniture, a new product by Krylon, www.krylon.com, called Fusion is made especially for it.

For rusty metal furniture, remove the rust with a wire brush, wash it with Contractors Solvent and finish with latex enamel paint.

Make sure your outdoor lighting has new LED bulbs, and if you have decorative solar lights around the yard, make sure you put in new batteries and clean the photocells so they will turn on the light at night.

Get the grill looking good and ready to use. Inside use a portable vacuum or compressed air to clean out any debris you missed from last-year’s grilling season. And remember, spiders like to live inside the Venturi tube that attaches to your burner, which can cause it to clog. Use a special Venturi brush or compressed air to clean it out.

Cover the top of the grill grates with aluminum foil and then heat up the grill for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and clean the grates with a wire brush.

Next use an all-purpose cleaner on the exterior. If you need to paint, use a high-heat grill paint from Rust-Oleum, www.rustoleum.com, or Krylon. Remember that a properly fitted grill cover will help keep it clean.

Now turn your attention to mosquitoes, which can ruin any outdoor party. Don’t assume this harsh winter killed off the mosquito population. “Given the amount of snow and rain we’ve had, we are due for a bumper crop of spring mosquitoes, especially in low-lying areas where they breed,” said Michigan State University entomologist Howard Russell.

He said the best way to minimize the mosquitoes around your home is to get rid of any standing water on your property. That includes low lying areas of the yard, gutters, planter trays, old tires, tarps and even the dog’s bowl.

If you have ponds, fountains or marshy areas in your yard, try using Mosquito Bits and Mosquito Dunks by Summit Chemical, www.summitchemical.com, to kill mosquito larvae. In addition, an electric oscillating fan rated for outdoor use will help knock down flying insects.

Memorial Day was just a dress rehearsal for the real outdoor party season. So take some time this weekend to prep your outdoor entertainment area to ensure your guests are comfortable and thoroughly enjoy your next barbecue. That is something you can brag about.

If you would like to suggest a question for this column, e-mail askglenn@masterhandyman.com. If you want to talk to Glenn Haege, call his “Handyman Show” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536, between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The “Handyman Show” can be heard on more than 130 radio stations nationwide.