Walking around the backyard last weekend, I noticed the rusty spots on metal objects, ranging from trim on the utility building to flaking paint on a gate.
It's time to get out the steel wool and sandpaper and the paint to repair the ravages of winter. Sanding irregular objects like gates and lawn furniture is a horrible job if you don't have the right tools; one of the right tools is a flap sanding device like the 3M Flap Sander that fits in the chuck of your electric drill.
If you manipulate it properly, the flap sander can "feather" out rusty areas into good surfaces so you won't have to sand the whole item down to the bare metal. That is not practical unless the item is very small.
Before you sand or paint either steel or aluminum furniture, clean it thoroughly to expose problem areas. This applies to wood furniture, too. Use a soft brush and mild detergent, rinse with clear water and place the objects in the sun to dry thoroughly.
Folding furniture should be given an inspection and the folding joints should be sprayed liberally with WD-40 or a similar product.
According to the experts at 3M, the two main problems of wrought iron furniture are rust and welded joints that have separated. The only way you can determine for sure that the joints have separated is to sand away the rust and that's where the flap sander comes in handy.
Don't sand aluminum objects; use a special jelly or liquid aluminum cleaner to remove the pits and oxidation. Ask at your neighborhood hardware store about brands that do the best job. If you don't have a relationship with a hardware store, by all means get one going this spring. Once the aluminum is clean, coat it with car wax and buff until the surface is shiny.
Experts in refinishing steel or wrought iron furniture advise using a metal prime coat before applying the finish coat. I usually use paint in spray cans for most jobs and for anything used outdoors, I spend a little more to get the best paint available. Apply several thin coats to avoid runs and drips.
Superinsulation is a concept that is reaching California in the wake of soaring energy costs; it was pioneered in Canada and Sweden and is widely used in the upper Midwest where the climate demands such radical measures.
If you want to learn more about the techniques, including double-wall construction and proper ventilation, "The Superinsulated Home Book" by J. D. Ned Nisson and Gautam Dutt, illustrated by Michael Webb (John Wiley & Sons Inc., New York, $19.95) is a good source. You don't have to use all the techniques; even a few will cut your energy bills.