Notice that wear and tear on your wooden deck? That’s the type of damage outdoor wood decking, fencing and furniture are all susceptible to when you do not care for its maintenance. Changing seasons, the build-up of debris and dirt, broken posts, and mold can all wreak havoc on outdoor wood property. While the wood will last for 10-15 years, your property will eventually break down and decay.

Fortunately, there are a few tips you can follow to extend the life of your outdoor wood property and furniture pieces. Read on for maintenance guidance:

Note: The tips below apply to all types of woods, including redwood, pressure-treated, exotic hardwood and cedar decking and fencing.

1. Clean it regularly

The first step to prolonging the life of outdoor wood is a thorough cleaning. Mix warm water and mild dish soap together and start washing. Take proper care to avoid soaking the pieces. Cloth or soft paper towels should work well for wiping debris from the surface and drying residual moisture after washing. To prevent further damage from variations in temperature, clean the wood with a soft-bristled brush and an oil-based soap, and hose off when done.

2. Stain it

A lot of people consider wood staining to be a cosmetic measure. While staining is an effective way to give your outdoor wood a unique appearance, it also serves as a protective layer that will keep it from rotting—or at least slow the process. That being said, you’ll need to invest in an appropriate stain. An oil-based stain is the most popular stain type. The oil penetrates the material’s pores, where rotting takes place, and then seals them off from rot and water. Also, it protects the wood from UV rays of the sun, which can cause the furniture to turn grey, making it appear older than it actually is.

Note: Look after the rags you use for the procedure once you’re done staining. As a stain dries, a reaction occurs that warms up the molecules. During high temperatures, the heat can catch speed and cause the rag to ignite. This is rare but still a viable threat. To protect the rags from any accidental fires, wash them with water and put them in the shade to dry.

3. Cover it

This may seem simple, but covering your outdoor wood can help secure it from external elements. This may be harder with a deck or fence, but it’s viable for outdoor wooden furniture. Exposed wood can turn, twist, and bend in the elements, making it useless. If you don’t have a garage or shed to store the furniture in when you’re not using it, make sure to cover the top and bottom of the pieces with tarps. (Amazon has some great patio furniture covers.) Also, keep in mind what the weather is like for the next few months. If there are chances of rain and wind, it’s better to cover the furniture now than later.

4. Incorporate pressure-treated lumber

Ever wonder how docks and piers keep their integrity despite being lashed with wind and saltwater for decades? PTL (pressure-treated lumber). PTL is typically used for the most demanding structures but can also be incorporated in some outdoor wood property for homes. If you have a deck with damaged posts, for instance, you can go for PTL posts as a replacement. Pressure-treated lumber is treated with chemicals that deter everything from rainwater to debris. While it’s not suitable for every type of outdoor wood, it’s an ideal choice if you need wood that can withstand the harshest of conditions.

5. Invest in a water sealant

When the weather gets unpredictable, it’s critical to take some precautionary measures to shore up your outdoor wood. Use a water sealant to protect the wood from the rain while preserving the appearance of the material. Besides protecting your pieces from external moisture, sealants also help to clean up stains, dry damp wood inside the sealant, and preserve the material’s color. If you live in a particularly humid area or an area with heavy rains, a water sealant can really help extend the life of your wood.

6. Rotate the pieces

If you have a full set of patio table chairs but like to keep a couple on the front porch for show, consider rotating those out with other pieces that you keep covered so you can distribute the wear and tear evenly. Also, a lot of furniture comes with cushions. These cushions may fade or start to look dingy over time. If they are reversible (as many are), try flipping them to the other side from time to time.

Wood can look fresh and natural, and you can keep it looking nice over time with a few precautionary measures.