THE WASHINGTON POST – A cold drink on the porch sounds awfully enticing – until you open the door and are assaulted by a blast of muggy, oppressive air. High heat and humidity will make even the most nature-loving homeowner want to stay indoors, crank up the air conditioning and not emerge until the leaves change colour.
But what’s the point of having a patio if you can’t enjoy it during the summer? To help make even the most miserable August days a bit more bearable, we talked to some experts who shared their favourite tips, tricks and gadgets.
The first tip is the most obvious: Make it shadier. According to Anthony Wilder, principal of Anthony Wilder Design/Build, the easiest and cheapest way to block the sun is to hang a shade sail or canopy. “It’s a simple piece of canvas that you attach to your home and to a pole out in the grass,” he said. “And they’re affordable. You can pick one up at Ikea for a pittance.”
For an overhead shade solution that feels more organic, Wilder suggests building a simple arbor structure. “Wisteria, which can reach 30 feet after it’s established, provides great coverage,” he said. “Unlike a structure with a roof, there are no leaves in the winter, so you get sunlight and warmth streaming through when you need it; it’s a win-win.”
Making the air feel more comfortable is an ongoing challenge when humidity is a factor. Outdoor fans can help. For homeowners or renters with patios or decks, pedestal fans can be a godsend. Knobloch recommends the multi-directional variable speed oscillating fan. One more tip: If you’re tempted to turn on the fan before you head outside, don’t bother. Because fans don’t actually cool the air – instead they move air over your skin, which makes you feel cooler – it’s a waste to run them when you’re not there. Along with increasing your comfort level, fans offer an added perk: Their blowing air also makes it harder for mosquitoes to land on their prey.
Wilder also offers two low-cost, old-school tricks to keep cool that require little more than water and air. “Hang outdoor draperies on a porch and wet them down with a mist of water, then turn on a fan,” he said. “The air will automatically feel about 15 degrees cooler, which can make a significant difference on a hot day.”
DIY enthusiasts can take this heat-beating method a step further by creating a cooling system with products that can be found in the hardware store, including screw-in eye hooks and a drip or soaker hose. Wilder suggests screwing the hooks along the inside perimeter of a porch several inches above outdoor draperies. “Thread the drip hose, which has a ton of microneedle holes, through the rings of the hooks,” he said. “Let it gently drip water onto the canvas while a fan is running on the porch. It’s like a DIY air conditioner.”
Another way to ensure outdoor comfort is to guard against hot surfaces. Chances are you’ve walked barefoot across a deck or patio and regretted it. Painting the deck a light colour can be helpful, because lighter colours reflect the sun’s rays and darker hues hold the heat. But there’s one caveat: If that paint is oil-based, you may wind up with a hotter surface, even if it’s white.
“When oil-based paint is in the sun, it gets really hot, hotter than slate, because of its oil content. It’s best to avoid it,” Wilder said. For the same reason, teak, a popular material for outdoor furnishings and decking, shouldn’t sit in direct sunlight, because the wood also has a high oil content.
The easiest fix for a hot deck or patio? Throw down a light-coloured outdoor rug.