Q. With winter coming, what can we do to protect our patio furniture from the elements?

A. If you don’t have a garage or basement to store it in, your furniture inevitably will suffer a bit in the winter. To minimize damage, give your table and chairs a good going-over before cold weather strikes.

If you have a wrought iron set, look for rust spots (even teeny ones) and scrub them off with a steel brush or steel wool pad. John West, co-owner of JW Landscapes (312-787-9974), suggests covering the spots with Rust-Oleum metal primer, available at most hardware stores. After it dries, repaint the spots with an indoor/ outdoor paint (Rust-Oleum makes that, too). Rust spots ignored now will get a lot uglier over the next few months.

Ditto for neglected moldy streaks or soft spots on teak furniture. Lightly sand those parts and treat with a teak sealant. West likes teak repair kits made by Gloster Furniture (available at Macy’s) and Brown Jordan (available at Alltypes Fireplace and Stove, 1215 W. Belmont Ave., 773-348-9111).

As for those clumsy blue plastic tarps so many people use? West cringes at the thought of sitting in a nice dining room and looking out the window at dirty, tarp-covered chairs. “What you want to avoid is moisture and heat and stuff being trapped,” he says. “Even though it’s really cold outside, it can get hot under there, and that speeds up rusting.” He recommends protecting your wood pieces with breathable covers made specifically for outdoor furniture, such as those made by Frontgate (frontgate.com), an Ohio-based company.

Have a design or renovation question? E-mail us at chicagohome@chicagomag.com. Sorry, we cannot take questions by phone, or guarantee individual responses