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5 October home improvement projects from Bob Vila

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 3:13 p.m. CDT
Autumn house

Source: reinhartrealtors.com

October is a month filled with simple pleasures: cooler temperatures, yard sales, leaf peeping, apple picking and every kid’s favorite holiday, Halloween. But, it’s also the time to tackle some fall home maintenance to make sure you — and your home — are prepared for the months ahead.

No. 1: Ready your home for winter

While the weather is still pleasant, check the foundation for cracks, and caulk around the areas where masonry meets siding, where pipes or wires enter the house, and around the windows and door frames to prevent heat from escaping (and humidity and moisture from entering). Next, take a look at the roof. Check for any loose, curled, or missing shingles because ice, rain, snow and wind, as well as rapidly changing temperatures and humidity, will only make problems worse. And, while you’re checking your roof, be sure to clean out the gutters and downspouts. Flush them with water, inspect joints and tighten brackets if necessary. Remember: Clogged gutters are one of the major causes of ice dams. Lastly, check for any signs of peeling, missing or blistering paint. Left uncorrected, peeling paint will cause the siding itself to deteriorate, leading to expensive repairs come spring.

Inside, it’s important to do everything you can to make certain that your home is weathertight and your furnace is operating at peak performance, particularly because the cost of heating accounts for nearly 50 percent of your home’s energy costs. Sealing drafts around windows and doors, and installing sufficient insulation — particularly in the attic, are two economical ways to keep your indoor temperatures and energy costs in line. Having your heating system checked by a licensed contractor is a smart fall habit, too. Heating systems, no matter the fuel, will work more efficiently, last longer and have fewer problems if properly serviced. At the very least, make certain to clean or replace filters.

This is also a good time to seal your driveway, give your outdoor deck and patio some TLC and prepare your yard equipment for winter storage. Click here for a complete fall home maintenance checklist.

No. 2: Keep on gardening

Although summer blooms have faded, there’s no reason not to have color throughout the fall. If you’re looking to plant something now, there are several options from pansies and mums to kale and ornamental grasses. Check with your local garden center or nursery to see which varieties are best for your region. If you have cool-season grass, an application of slow-release organic fertilizer will provide your lawn with the strength it needs to make it through winter. Yes, the weather has cooled and your grass is no longer suffering in the same way it did over the summer, but it still needs a good drink weekly to keep it moist. Keep mowing as well but lower the mowing height a bit — to about 2 inches — so you are cutting the grass a little shorter than usual. Do this until you notice growth has stopped, and the lawn has reached dormancy.

No. 3: Tackle a weekend project

Although some projects require a certain level of skill and expertise, many do not. If you have basic skills, some tool know-how and the ability to follow instructions, there are plenty of things you can do to improve both the look and comfort of your home this weekend. Whether it’s easy ways to boost your home’s curb appeal or simple ways to transform a piece of furniture, build a bookcase, enhance a hall/entryway or create clever kids’ room storage — you can find DIY weekend inspiration here. Be sure to check back every Friday, when new projects are published.

No. 4: Celebrate Halloween

Whether you carve, drill, etch, stencil or paint your pumpkin this Halloween, be sure to have fun experimenting with different concepts and techniques — and make it a family affair. Pumpkin carving can be a great way to familiarize kids with basic tools and safety. Of course, there is more to the holiday than pumpkins, so put your DIY skills to use decorating the house and yard with some ghoulish creations — from fake tombstones and gauzy spider webs to sheet-draped ghosts. Or, maybe just a scarecrow!

No. 5: Be fire-safe

October is Fire Safety Month, so this is the perfect time to make sure your home — and family — are safe. New homes are now required to be constructed with an interconnected alarm system but with Kidde’s radio-connected alarm, owners of homes built before 1993 can enjoy the same safety benefits. And, smoke detectors are essential. Regardless of whether they are hardwired, interconnected or battery-powered, you should have smoke detectors on every level of your home, particularly in the kitchen, hallways near bedrooms and basement. Purchasing a fire extinguisher is one of the best investments a homeowner can make. Should you ever need to use it, just remember the acronym PASS: Pull the pin to release the handle, aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire, squeeze the trigger, and sweep the discharge stream at the base of the fire. For more, consider these nine ways to boost your fire preparedness.

Related:

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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