21 Projects to Consider Before Thanksgiving

Make the holiday season even happier by completing these important home improvement projects before Thanksgiving.

Exterior Paint

Fall offers plenty of days that are warm enough to work with exterior paint, and a touch-up can help prolong the life of your siding and trim. A fresh coat of paint or sealer on any surface that potentially will be covered with snow, such as wood floors or stairs, also is a wise idea. Sooner is better to contact a local painter, as many paints aren't recommended for application on days when the temperature dips below 45-50 degrees F.

Finish the Basement

Whether your region brings ice and snow or clouds and rain during winter, chances are your outdoor living space will spend a good portion of the season out of commission. If your time indoors leaves you feeling a little crowded, look to your basement for room to roam. Finishing a basement is a great way to extend your living space and also gives a higher return on investment than many other home projects. Whether you're planning on selling your home come springtime or you just need more space to live, consider finishing your basement.

Fix Major Home Appliances

From turkey dinners to Christmas cookies, the holiday season is a busy time for most kitchens. Clothes washers and dryers often pull an extra shift or two during the holidays as well. If your appliances aren't working -- or aren't working as well as they should -- call an appliance-repair professional before the holidays arrive. A trained professional can diagnose and repair a problem in a major appliance for far less than the cost of replacement.

Fall Lawn Care

To ensure your lawn's health and beauty come spring, complete several important yardwork projects in the fall. Raking leaves and aerating will prevent your lawn and garden beds from suffocating, while fertilizing and winterizing grass, trees, and shrubs will allow your greenery to enter its winter slumber comfortably and properly nourished. Professional lawn-care services make quick work of these projects, freeing up your time for family, friends, and football.

Plan for Holiday Lights

Holiday lights begin to appear on homes across America every year almost immediately following (and sometimes even before) Thanksgiving. If you plan to decorate your home yourself, develop a plan and start looking for deals on lights and other outdoor holiday paraphernalia early. If you're planning to hire assistance, make sure you contact a professional for quotes as soon as possible. Either way, allow time to make arrangements and install lights as early as you can to maximize the number of days you'll have to enjoy them.

Seal Gaps and Add Insulation

Nothing makes a home more uncomfortable during the winter than a nagging, chilly draft. Consider a home energy audit that includes a review of your home's caulking and weather stripping. An energy auditor also will likely look inside your attic. If the insulation is at or below the level of the joists, you might be able to keep your home warmer by adding more insulation. A depth of 10-14 inches is generally considered optimal, and you can supplement with a variety of types of insulation to achieve that depth.

Power Washing

Having your home's exterior and windows power washed won't just make your home look sharp, it also will prevent the growth of mold and mildew that feed on grime. If you're not comfortable deciding whether your home's exterior can handle the pressure exerted by the various pressure-washing nozzles available, hire a professional to do the work.

Hire Cleaning Help

If you're like most people, the final months of the year are long on to-do items and short on time. Hiring a cleaning professional will allow you to focus on more important tasks and keep your home looking its best for holiday visitors. Whether you schedule a one-time visit or routine cleanings, the stress and effort you'll save are likely well worth the monetary investment.

Fireplace Repair

Proper inspection of a fireplace is vital to ensuring its safe operation -- even if it is rarely used. An experienced chimney sweep will check wood fireplaces for flammable buildup (known as creosote) and chimney blockages such as bird nests. A chimney or fireplace professional also should check for these red flags: improperly functioning dampers, damaged brickwork and masonry, and missing or damaged flue caps (the screen covering the top of the chimney).

Tune Up the Furnace

The furnace is literally the heart of most American homes during cold winter months. Without it, comfortable life indoors would come to a grinding halt. Occasional maintenance from a trained professional can keep your furnace running effectively and efficiently, and it will prevent potentially catastrophic damage to your home from burst or frozen pipes.

Prepare for Snow Removal

Get bids from snow-removal professionals in your area before that first flake falls. Keeping your walks free of ice and snow is a vital part of wintertime safety, but venturing outside with a snow shovel in the dead of winter is an unpleasant task for most. Snow-removal services are usually equipped with professional gear to make quick work of a homeowner's hand-shovel job.

Repair or Replace Siding

When deciduous trees and bushes have shed their leaves and yards and landscaping are covered by snow, shoddy spots on your home's exterior are pulled into the limelight. If your home's siding needs repair or replacement, hire a siding pro to complete the work before the harsh days of winter magnify any exterior blemishes. Some new siding even comes with added insulation, which can help bundle up your home for winter.

Replace Windows

Do you feel a chill next to certain windows in your home during winter? Have you noticed condensation or frost on these windows? Glass with multiple panes, spacers, or filler gasses (such as argon or krypton) will likely solve these problems. A professional can swap out your problem windows with more-efficient models that will increase your comfort level while decreasing your heating bills.

Install a Home Security System

If you're looking for peace of mind this holiday season, consider enlisting the help of a home security company. A home security system will help protect against intruders, and many systems can monitor for signs of fire. Security companies will often install basic systems free of charge, provided you sign a monitoring contract.

Roof Repair

The cold of winter can aggravate even the smallest of roof leaks. Any leaks in a home's roof should be fixed in advance of the first snowfall. Your best bet is to hire an experienced, professional crew that can accurately assess leaks and fix problems quickly and safely.

Clean Carpets

Fall is the perfect time to clean your carpets -- the humid days of summer have passed, but the below-freezing days of winter have yet to arrive. It's the best time to open windows for ventilation, which should speed the drying process. And let a professional wrangle the bulky cleaning equipment -- with a house full of wet carpet, you' can get outdoors and enjoy the few remaining warm days.

Clean, Repair, and Protect Gutters

Your home's gutters divert thousands of gallons of water each year. To keep the water flowing smoothly away from your house instead of into it, inspect and clean your roof's drainage system. Better still, protect your gutters with mesh guards to keep leaves and other debris from causing blockages in the first place. Hire a pro to complete this project, or be prepared to spend a damp and dirty day climbing up and down the ladder.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats save money without sacrificing comfort by using less energy to heat and cool your home while you're away or asleep. More accurate and convenient to use than manual thermostats, programmable thermostats don't contain toxic mercury found in traditional models. Hiring a pro to install a programmable thermostat is generally inexpensive, but this project is within the abilities of most DIYers.

Repair Driveways and Walks

Small cracks and gaps in a driveway or walkway can quickly expand during winter's freezing temperatures. Cracked concrete and disintegrating asphalt also can create treacherous conditions for pedestrians. Hire a pro to ensure these cracks are fixed properly and won't return or get worse.

Winterize Faucets and Sprinklers

Most exterior plumbing in areas with temperatures below freezing must be winterized to prevent freezing and bursting. If you want professional help, contact a plumber, who can make quick work of winterizing exterior faucets (known as hose bibs). Winterizing more complex plumbing, such as sprinkler systems or water features, is always best left to a professional.

Plan Ahead

If you've been dreaming of a new home or a home improvement project such as an addition or major landscaping, fall is an excellent time to reach out to architects or engineers to draft plans. Starting now will allow time to revise the plans without having to rush the contactor bidding process to start work when the ground thaws. Plus, you'll have one more reason to look forward to spring!

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