Home Projects You Should Tackle this Fall
Fall is on the horizon; there’s a nip in the air, leaves are fluttering off the trees, and pop-up Halloween stores are springing up seemingly overnight. With the change of the season comes some home maintenance jobs every homeowner should consider doing. Furnace tuneups for when you need to turn on the heat, readying your yard for the cold months, repairing your exterior, and insulating your home for cooler temperatures are all things to take into consideration. Whether you are trying to save money by doing it yourself or hire the work out to save yourself some time and effort, there is a solution here for you — including essential products to make the work easier.
Prices and availability are subject to change.
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It would be much easier to let the leaves lie where they fall and form a protective shield on your lawn and flower beds, but that isn’t ideal. Leaves left to their own devices won’t insulate your grass and flower beds in the winter — they’ll hinder them. Your yard still needs sunlight to filter through, even in the cold months. Help prevent thinning of your grass and mulch up your leaves or rake them and bag them.
Get it done: If you don’t want to do the job yourself, consider hiring a yard care service. This type of lawn care service costs between $100 and $250 and includes trimming back flowers and shrubs and repairing brown grass spots from the hot summer months.
Check sites such as Thumbtack and TaskRabbit to find professional services and home improvement helpers in your area.
Related: 11 Tips for a Flourishing Indoor Garden
$40 from Amazon
Cut yard cleanup time in half and save your back by avoiding bending and scooping: The Amazing Rake acts as a traditional rake to gather leaves, and has a claw to make quick work of picking them up.
$30 from Amazon
A leaf gulp holds open a paper leaf bag and stakes into the ground to keep it in place so raked leaves can be dumped easily inside. A version for plastic lawn bags is also available.
Winterizing a lawn is different than a fall cleanup. If you live in colder climates, your grass needs a boost of nutrients to bolster its survival in the winter months. Aeration allows water and the valuable nutrients to penetrate the grass’ roots better and boost them for the winter.
Get it done: Hiring someone to fertilize your lawn will cost anywhere from $80 to $380 and should include aeration. To cut costs, you can do the aeration yourself by buying or renting an aerator. Rental prices start around $64 per four-hour window.
$31 from Amazon
This manual aerator works well with little effort, customer reviews say, especially if you water a lawn beforehand. If you’re the DIY type, this is even cheaper than renting an aerator or hiring someone to do the job for you.
$20 from Lowe’s
Don’t invest in another large tool that’ll take up storage space — get this handheld spreader, which customers say has smooth movements and an even spread. It comes already assembled for use in all seasons for fertilizing, seeding, and even ice melting.
Caked-on dirt and grime encourages the growth of mold and bacteria on the exterior of your home. To prevent this, it needs a good cleaning. Experts recommend pressure washing the outside of a home once a year, and the fall is an excellent time to do this. Not only will it reveal where paint needs to be touched up before winter hits, but it will reduce the chance of mold and bacteria accumulating over the wet months. Bonus: It will knock down the cobwebs and bugs that will want inside your house as the temperatures drop.
Get it done: You can pressure wash your house two ways: Buy a pressure washer or hire a professional to do the job. Prices to buy start around $200, while hiring out the work begins at around $350. The choice is up to you, but take it from anyone who has pressure washed their home — it can be addicting, and you’ll likely find yourself looking around your yard for more things to clean.
Related: What You Don’t Know About Mold Can Ruin Your Life
$369 from Home Depot
This pressure washer has a Honda engine, 35-foot hose, and a five-in-one nozzle, making it flexible in reach and in terms of the kinds of jobs it can do. It comes backed by a three-year warranty.
Your house’s siding, trim, and gutters should be touched up yearly; prime time to do it is early in the fall, when the days are cooler but not below 45 degrees. Bubbling, chipped, and cracked paint should be fixed before the winter months when moisture can seep in. This small upkeep will save you the cost of potential water damage and a lot of wear and tear to a home’s exterior.
Get it done: You can touch up paint yourself by following a few easy steps, or hire a painter for a few hours to knock it out. The national average of hiring a painter is $49 an hour, but depending on the painter and scope of the project, you could find someone as low as $38 or up to $60 per hour.
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$9.50 from Amazon
This simple but effective little tool gets to hard-to-reach spots — especially when paired with an extension rod ($42 from Amazon) to add 12 feet to your reach.
Just like with exterior paint, it’s essential to seal up cracked and exposed wood such as on a deck or fence. The wet and cold months can do a number on exposed wood, and for a minimal cost, you can prevent rotting spots.
Get it done: The cost to hire a painter to do this job is the same as exterior house painting: an average $49 per hour.
$40 from Amazon
This Deck Boss brush is designed to hold a lot of stain or sealer, whichever you are using, and lay it on smooth and thick no matter the surface. Customer reviews say it cuts staining time in half. The brush can also attach to any threaded extension rod for hard-to-get areas.
$44 from Amazon
Affix any threaded paint pad or deck stain applicator to this extension pole. It can extend your reach up to 8 feet, adjusting with the push of a button by 6-inch increments.
If you don’t have gutter guards, it’s recommended that you clean out gutters twice a year: in the spring to rid them of pollen, seeds, and other gunk; and in the fall when leaves and branches from nearby trees need to be removed. If you have gutter guards, the frequency of cleaning your gutters goes down to once every one to two years.
Get it done: Of course, you can clean gutters yourself, if you have a tall enough ladder. If you choose to hire this job out, the national average cost is $157, varying on how big and how many stories your house is. Comparatively, initial gutter guard installation seems like an investment with costs starting around $1,500. And it is: They pay for themselves after several years of less frequent cleanings.
$30 from Amazon
Think of this as tongs for your gutter: Place it inside, pull the string, and the tongs close around debris so you can lift it out. The tool is lightweight, easy to use even on two-story homes, and customer reviews say you develop a knack quickly for using it (though it works faster on wet leaves, which are heavier and easier to grab). You’ll need an extension pole, unless you plan to use a ladder.
As you prep for winter, do a quick energy audit on your home. Test the windows to see if you feel a draft. If so, assess if you need to replace a window entirely or winterize it. Along with the energy audit, swap out screens for storm windows and storm doors. If you have basement windows, you can add window wells outside — either a plastic or metal strip that protects the windows from colder, harsher elements.
Get it done: If you’re the DIY type, Home Depot has a handy guide on how to weatherproof your windows and exterior doors. And those plastic window wells go for as little as $20.
$7 from Amazon
This 8 feet of weather stripping can be split in two, depending on your thickness needs, and is good for keeping cold drafts at bay on doors and windows — as well as keeping out smells and sound. Users say it’s easy to install and has strong adhesive that stays put.
$11 from Lowe’s
Cheap and easy to install, these plastic well covers are effective at keeping wind, snow, condensation buildup, and even critters out of basement windows during the cold months.
Much of a home’s energy can escape through insufficient insulation. It’s worth it in energy costs to check attics and crawl spaces to ensure proper coverage.
Get it done: You can buy insulation yourself and install it from around 64 cents to $1.19 per square foot, or roughly $145 to $200 for 500 square feet. If you prefer to hire this job out, you’re looking at about $300 to $500 for six hours of labor and the insulation supplies.
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$23.50 for 40 square feet from Lowe’s
“Batt” insulation comes with plastic or foil backing in a roll sized to fit between standard-size floorboards — just unroll it where you want it. Customer reviews says it’s a cinch to install and holds up well over the years. Just be sure to measure the space between floorboards and order the corresponding size carefully for easier installation.
An annual furnace tune-up is money well spent since it ensures the device is working safely and without wasting energy. A furnace that’s not operating correctly can emit dangerous amounts of clear and odorless carbon monoxide, which can be deadly. Beyond that, a furnace tune-up can catch small problems before they get out of hand quickly. While it might be tempting to just pocket that $100 service fee, don’t do it. More than half of furnace calls over no heat are a result of homeowners not getting proper tune-ups once a year.
Get it done: An annual furnace tuneup will run you between $100 and $200.
Related: The Best Furnace Brands
$21 from Home Depot
A good air filter makes a huge difference in the allergens and particles in the air you breathe; in Home Depot’s rating system, this Honeywell scores at the top. Measure the filter slot at home before buying to be sure to buy the right size, and change out filters every three months or earlier depending how dirty they get.
Related: 18 Ways to Create a Healthier Home
$120 from Best Buy
Even if you get regular furnace tuneups, you should still have a carbon monoxide detector — this one sends alerts to your phone, so you’ll know if there’s a problem even when you aren’t home. It also self-tests once a month and tells you if the battery is low. User reviews say installation is easy; one user said they were able to install eight in about 90 minutes.
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It is recommended that you clean your carpets beyond just vacuuming one to two times a year, but being able to throw open the windows to the fall and air out the house makes it the perfect time — the more air circulation you have, the better and faster they will dry. Plus, think of all the outdoor gunk you’ve tracked in and onto the carpets during the summer months: pollen, yard fertilizers, mud, grass clippings, and more.
Get it done: You can rent a carpet cleaner, buy your own to use as needed, or you can hire a company to clean carpets for you. The first two options will be the most cost-effective in the long run. Renting a carpet cleaner will cost you around $29 for a 24-hour rental, plus the cost of the fluid to use in it. Buying a carpet cleaner will start around $80. Hiring a company such as Sears to do it for you begins around $99 for three areas.
$125 from Amazon
Lightweight at 19 pounds, with a long, 8-foot hose and a heat force technology that encourages faster drying times, this Hoover vacuum checks all the boxes. Use it twice and it’s saved the price of hiring someone to clean your carpets once.
The beauty of a programmable thermostat is that you can cut energy costs by controlling the temperature in your house (lowering the temperature while you sleep or are away) without having to remember to change it daily — not to be confused with smart thermostats, which you can incorporate into your electronic smart home and control from a phone. Check with your utility company, too, since many offer rebates for this small upgrade.
Get it done: A programmable thermostat doesn’t have to be a significant expense. You can find a highly rated programmable thermostat for less than $40 and, if you have any DIY skills, it should be no problem to install yourself. You can typically have them installed for modest prices as well, with fees varying by location and company. In the long run, the cost you save on heating prices will far outweigh the initial setup cost. (Smart thermostats cost somewhat more, starting around $100.)
Related: 50 Money-Saving Energy Tips for Winter
$36 from Amazon
No need to pay a fortune for a programmable thermostat when you can get a good one for just over $30. The Lux, with its nicely lit, one-touch display, can easily handle one schedule for the weekdays and another for weekends. User reviews say it takes only about 20 minutes to install.
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